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New agreement reached on mangrove restoration and community-based business models in South Sumatra

Mangroves, along with peatlands, are one of the planet’s greatest natural carbon sinks, also providing ecosystem services that keep us cool, protecting coastlines from erosion and rising sea levels, and providing seafood and other material for home use and sale. However, like most natural ecosystems, mangroves are in decline globally and there is now a race to restore them, driven partly by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The Province of South Sumatra in Indonesia is no exception to both degradation and restoration trends. Most of the province’s mangroves are in Banyuasin District. Loss of mangrove forests in the Musi River Catchment has been assessed at 63% from 1985 to 2020, driven by conversion to commodity production and settlements, and continues albeit at a slower rate than previously. The Government of the Banyuasin District, has been working hard to reverse this trend by supporting research into restoration and alternative land uses that encompass healthy mangrove ecosystems.

To support the Government and people in Banyuasin District, the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), Center of Excellence for Peatland Conservation and Productivity Improvement at Sriwijaya University and the South Sumatra Watershed Forum are working together to increase knowledge of effective, alternative livelihoods in mangrove ecosystems through a project, Action Research to Enhance Mangrove Restoration and Community-Based Business Model in Banyuasin District, South Sumatra.

Herry Purnomo, senior scientist and deputy director of CIFOR-ICRAF’s Indonesia programme, said that “the Government of Banyuasin and Bank Sumsel Babel, a regional development financial institution, signed a memorandum of understanding on 29 July 2022. The MOU sets out the parameters of all parties in undertaking participatory action research to develop locally accepted and sustainable business models.”

The businesses developed under the model are intended to support communities by generating incomes from restoration of mangroves. The project team will work also to strengthen local policies for restoration and contribute to national and global agendas on mangrove restoration. Supported by Temasek Foundation, Singapore, the research will be underway until November 2025.

“The objectives are to develop, and implement, restoration of mangroves along with community-based business models that people want, are ecologically feasible, deliver benefits for the communities and contribute to knowledge about creating sustainable mangrove socio-ecological systems in Indonesia and beyond,’ said Herry Purnomo, that leads the CIFOR-ICRAF and partner for this project.

The research into restoration and business development will be focused in selected locations on five villages in the Sungsang area of Banyuasin II Sub-district: Sungsang 1, Sungsang 2, Sungsang 3, Sungsang 4 and Marga Sungsang. The potential locations include a riverbank and village-owned land, potential village forest, ecotourism and integrated village forest program and another area for restoration as substitution for the establishment of a port nearby. These locations will be discussed later with community and other stakeholders, in participatory processes.

“We are working on the baseline study now,” said Purnomo, “looking at the socio-economic conditions, institutions, commodities, value chains and biophysics while planting of mangrove seedlings has already started in some areas, along with establishment of a mangrove nursery in Sungsang IV.”

The team has already identified with communities the best places for restoration and is now examining the local situation more closely so as to better understand appropriate businesses and other matters.

“Temasek Foundation is the non-profit arm of Temasek investment. We focus on collaborative actions with communities to build a sustainable future,” Li Lang Heng of Temasek Foundation. “We hope the mangrove restoration will improve ecological and community conditions. We are grateful for all the support from the Government, researchers, non-profits and businesses.”

International Day of Mangroves was on 26 July and the point was well made around the world that although mangroves cover only a small area of the planet’s surface, they provide a significant contribution to sequestration of carbon, protection of coastlines, aquatic habitats and communities’ livelihoods.

“Our role at CIFOR-ICRAF is to develop pilots based on community wishes that can be applied by the communities beyond the life of a project,” said Robert Nasi, managing director of CIFOR-ICRAF. “We have carried out international research led by Daniel Murdiyarso and this will inform the work in Banyuasin, providing the basis for expanding the results from the small area of research throughout South Sumatra and the rest of Indonesia.”

H. Askolani Jasi, head of the District Government of Banyuasin, speaking at the signing ceremony held at the campus of CIFOR-ICRAF and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Bogor, West Java, noted that the District Government had been working for a long time on restoration, with a focus on ensuring community benefits.

“Working together with Bank Sumsel Babel, CIFOR-ICRAF and others, we are looking forward to progress beyond just a ceremonial signing of an MOU,” he said. “The mangroves are important for the people and also for the wildlife: crocodiles nest in them and there are still Sumatran tigers living in the forests.”

Linda Hairani of Bank Sumsel Babel, said that the bank’s aim was to finance the development of the area.

“We are very thankful for the partners working to support development of Banyuasin while also restoring the environment,” she said.

The project has several objectives: enhanced mangrove restoration in the research area; generation of sustainable incomes for communities derived from mangrove restoration and utilization; enhanced sequestration of greenhouse gases; mainstream an action plan for sustainable mangroves in the province; engage with policy makers at all level for well-implemented and appropriate policies, regulations, frameworks and incentives; and establish a platform for national, regional and international interests to promote new ways of working with communities for expansion of scale.

“We are happy to be working together with the partners,” said Myrna Asnawati Safitri, deputy for Education and Socialization, Participation and Partnership at the Peatland and Mangrove Restoration Agency of the Government of Indonesia. “With direction from the President of Indonesia, we are focused on rehabilitation of degraded mangroves, totalling around 600,000 hectares, with participation of the people, for the people. Our approach encompasses three main activities: recovery of degraded mangroves; maintenance of those in good condition; and improvement of biophysical condition of existing systems along with the socio-economics.”

There are 3.5 million hectares of mangroves in Indonesia, about 23% of the world’s total, with 93 true mangrove species, according to data from the World Bank.


Contact: Sonya Dyah Kusumadewi; s.dyah@cgiar.org

Read also: https://www.cifor-icraf.org/community-business-mangrove/