In the tranquil waters of Pangpang Bay in Banyuwangi on the island of Java, Indonesia, the powerful work that mangroves do can easily be seen. As the bay’s mangroves flourish, locals’ nets brim with fish – a testament to nature’s gift to people.
In this serene setting, Pak Hendro, a dedicated mangrove activist, recounts the history of these vital ecosystems – from periods of degradation to inspiring accounts of conservation. Ibu Ririn, a fisher’s wife, describes how the catch from these waters is not just food but a celebration of life on their family table.
This story extends beyond the local community, highlighting a little known fact about mangroves. Often recognized for their role in climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, these forests are also crucial for food security and nutrition. Indonesia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s mangroves, but these have undergone deforestation and degradation. The impacts of these challenges on local food security has been largely invisible: mangroves are nurturing grounds for a plethora of aquatic life, with many creatures serving as vital links in the food chain – and as key sources of diverse micronutrients for local residents.
Under the Restoring Coastal Landscapes for Adaptation and Integrated Mitigation (ReCLAIM) project – supported by the Lucille-Packard Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with Brawijaya University, Diponegoro University, 17 Agustus Banyuwangi University, and the Blue Forest Foundation – the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) embarked on a study on the hidden benefits of mangroves. It explored mangroves’ impacts on the livelihoods, food security, and nutrition of the Banyuwangi and Demak communities in Java. The findings reveal the significant contribution of mangrove-sourced aquatic life to the well-being of these communities.
In parallel, CIFOR-ICRAF researchers and their partners have provided scientific evidence on the tangible benefits of mangroves to food security and nutrition in Indonesia. Through the creation of a dataset that combined fish consumption data from coastal households all over the Indonesian archipelago with spatial data on mangroves and aquaculture location and extent, the scientists discovered an interesting pattern: coastal households near dense mangroves enjoyed a significantly higher consumption of fresh fish and other aquatic animals than coastal households that did not live near mangroves. This study, encompassing thousands of villages and over 100,000 households, underscores the vital role of mangroves not just in environmental stewardship but as a cornerstone of community nutrition and health.
Enriched by scientific evidence from CIFOR-ICRAF and its partners, this story underscores the need for conservation and restoration of mangroves – not just as an environmental imperative, but also as a means to secure nutritious food for local communities. It’s a great example of a ‘nature based solution’ to human food security and a reminder of the delicate balance we must maintain for the health and wellbeing of future generations.