Josa Lukman – Indonesia has around 3.36 million hectares of mangrove ecosystem, and the largest mangrove in the world. Of the lot, approximately 1.5 million hectares of Indonesian mangroves are located in the Papua and West Papua provinces. Unfortunately, around 6 percent of Papuan mangroves have suffered from ecological degradation, including the mangrove forest in Klamana, Sorong, West Papua.
According to Demianus Werbete, the head of the Klamana Forest Farmers' Group, one of the reasons for damaged mangroves is locals taking the surrounding coral.
"The locals' livelihoods are dependent on the coral reefs. They know that this harms the environment, but since they need to put food on the table, they have no other option but to keep taking the coral," he said.
Overexploitation of coral reefs can result in higher waves crashing onto the beach, while the ecosystem can be disrupted as marine biota will migrate to other areas.
Mangrove rehabilitation programs can rectify the issue, which is the case for Klamana. The Mangrove and Peatland Restoration Agency (BRGM) is currently running a program to plant mangroves in an area of 50 hectares, involving about 40 local residents.
"We would like to thank the government for their help in changing the locals' mindset, as the mangrove forest can become an additional source of income to supplement the local economy," Werbete said.
Ina Roselina Sikirit, the head of the Protected Forest Management Unit (KPHL) II in Sorong, West Papua, said the mangrove rehabilitation program could support the local economy in line with the national economic recovery (PEN) plans during the pandemic.
"We synergize by planting mangroves and making crab cages. We have a lot of crabs here, and it's also sustainable as they live around the mangrove roots. At the same time, mangrove forests can also be turned into a tourist location, where tourists can purchase mangrove crabs," she said.
Recovered mangroves will increase not only crabs but also fish and prawn since mangroves function as a nursery for these marine biota species. This will be greatly advantageous for the community as a source of protein and additional source of income.
"This allows locals to stop taking the coral as they will have an additional source of income," said Sikirit.
BRGM secretary Ayu Dwi Utari explained the additional source of income was the mangrove rehabilitation program's long-term goal.
"Trust and believe that if we take care of the mangrove, the marine biota will be improved, which will in turn positively affect the locals' income. As the President has also stated, the mangrove rehabilitation will also prevent the effects of climate change," she concluded.