BALI, Indonesia (28 April, 2011)_Local communities on Nusa Penida and Lembongan in Bali are fighting back to save their wetlands by implementing local laws to protect their rapidly disappearing mangrove population.
The movement began following a devastating incident in 1975 when seawater levels rose and destroyed many of the existing mangrove forests on the islands. The community have since banded together to protect this fragile ecosystem.
“We worked together, beginning with planting the mangroves at the edge of the island beach,” says Wayan Sukirta, head of a local community group.
Traditional laws (awig-awig in the local language) have been implemented to forbid mangrove felling, as well as employing a Pencalang (traditional Balinese security guard) to monitor the area and protect it from possible intruders. The penalty for destroying wetlands is to clean the temple for 11 days and forfeit five kilos of rice to the community group.
Forestry conservation regulations stipulated in traditional laws are not a new matter for the Indonesian community, and often succeed better than nationally implemented regulations. Ancestral communities conserve forests because of the direct importance of the ecosystem for their livelihoods. Traditional knowledge as a system of environmental protection is an important component which must receive more attention from scientists.
“Researchers must begin to shift their attention from social research such as traditional law and culture and not exclusively distribute the focus of their research on the environment,” says Mathen Welly from the Coral Triangle Centre (CTC). This not-for-profit organisation focuses on developing community capacity on behalf of conservation and is committed to placing social research regarding traditional knowledge and practices in their communication program.
Abdon Nababan, Secretary-General of the Archipelago Traditional Community Alliance (AMAN), in a seminar on REDD mediation some time ago also emphasised that communities must not become merely a data point. Approaches to the community must be made because they have a right to obtain information on what is happening in their own district before deciding to agree with a new system.
The social science approach is one way to embrace inspiration in the community and through this approach, communicating changes to forest conservation regulations will more effectively filter through to a local level. The balance between technical and social research will hopefully give rise to a harmonic, conflict-avoiding system of forest management in conjunction with the community.
This article is taken from notes from the Nusa Penida Coral Triangle Centre, an activity in the training of environmental journalists which CIFOR organised in conjunction with SIEJ and Internews, Bali, 9-11 April 2011.