Wakatobi, Indonesia, January 8, 2015 – A few years ago, Sudirman was a fisherman in Wakatobi, Sulawesi. He did not bring home enough income, so he took on part-time jobs.
Today, Sudirman owns a small ecotourism business, providing diving equipment and underwater guided tours for tourists. Life for him and his family is now much better.
“There were times before when we weren’t sure if we had enough food to eat. Now I can afford my children’s education needs, and more,” he said proudly.
Sudirman’s turn of fortune owes much to the rehabilitation of the coral reefs in Wakatobi—and that rehabilitation was carried out with support from Coremap, a World Bank-supported project which helps restore coral reefs in the country while also helping improve livelihoods of local communities.
Coral reef coverage increasing
Active in 358 coastal communities across Indonesia, Coremap’s main beneficiaries are families highly dependent on small-scale reef fishing for their livelihood. Like Sudirman, many said that their earnings from fishing were not enough to meet basic needs. In addition, many of them used destructive and illegal fishing methods such as cyanide and explosives to increase fish catches. This has now changed.
“Many fishermen here used dynamite to catch fish,” said Hendriawan, a fisherman. “They don’t do it anymore because they are now aware about the dangers of damaging the coral reefs.”
Coremap has helped improve coral reef rehabilitation by establishing fishing and protection zones, empowering fishermen to monitor the coral reefs, and raising community awareness, including classes in public schools.
Improving livelihoods of coastal communities
Coremap has also changed the local economy.
“Before Coremap started, the people in my village mostly relied on fishing for income. Now I also see handicraft, souvenirs and culinary businesses opening up,” said Sudirman.
The project has helped coastal communities find new ways to earn income using resources available in their areas. By providing revolving funds and training for business operations, many are now able to diversify their livelihood sources. A survey shows that the income of community members who received the revolving funds improved by around 20% on average.
“The women in our village have long wanted to start small businesses, but we didn’t know how. Now, we have learned new skills on how to start a home business,” said Hanarfah, who runs a food product business.
Realizing that their new source of income greatly depends on the coral reefs, community members now feel a greater urgency to better protect the reefs.
“My job used to be coral reef mining, where I take coral reefs from the sea to be sold,” said Sartinah, who now produces crackers made from fish. “But I’ve stopped. Now the conservation of the coral reefs is very important for me. If the coral reefs are gone, there will be no fish, no tourists, and I cannot make my products.”
Community members have even set up groups to collect funds that will be used to help reef rehabilitation efforts.
“My friends and I realize that we can now earn more income because the coral reefs have returned. So we put aside at least 10% of our profits to fund activities to protect the reefs,” said Sudirman.
Despite the increase of income, for most members of the communities the new livelihood opportunities serve as an important supplemental income, rather than an opportunity to abandon fishing altogether.
Coremap’s third phase, which started in February 2014, will scale up support for the alternative livelihoods. Under this phase, support will include the production of infrastructure and market access to increase sales of products and services made by the community members.