The restoration of blue carbon ecosystems is not just about ecological function recovery. The government must ensure that communities participate and benefit from restoration practices.
“Mangroves are just as important as seaweed, shrimp, crabs, and milkfish,” Subhan began his presentation at the “Strengthening Blue Carbon Ecosystem Governance” seminar. He continued, “Mangroves supply oxygen and food for shrimp and milkfish, which are the livelihood sources for the farmers.”
Subhan is a farmer in the Mahakam River delta, Salo Sombala, East Kalimantan. In the past, he cleared mangroves as part of an effort to establish shrimp farming. “Initially, our income was substantial. But over time, it decreased. That’s when I realized that the destruction [of the mangrove ecosystem] we were doing was wrong,” said Subhan.
In 2019, “we started replanting mangroves as a group and implementing sustainable cultivation practices,” he said. That same year, he and fellow members of his farming group formed the Salo Sombala Environmental-Friendly Forest Farming Group, with Subhan as its leader.
On one hectare of land, they planted 800 mangroves while simultaneously cultivating two tons of seaweed, 10 thousand tiger prawns, and 2,000 milkfish. “We are striving to educate farmers about the benefits of integrating mangroves and polyculture farming in the same area,” Subhan explained.
The practice initiated by Subhan is called silvofishery. In silvofishery, cultivators combine the ecological and economic functions of the mangrove ecosystem without needing to remove the presence of mangroves from the area. “By integrating the ecological and economic functions of mangroves, we hope that the once barren ponds can become green and vibrant again,” Subhan said.
The efforts undertaken by Subhan and fellow farmers in the Mahakam River delta are in line with the statement of Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Principal Scientist, Prof. Daniel Murdiyarso.
In blue carbon restoration, “the government needs to ensure that communities participate and gain benefits, both economically and environmentally, to support their livelihoods,” said Daniel during his presentation at the launch seminar of the IOJI study, “Blue Carbon Ecosystem as Critical Natural Capital: Blue Carbon Ecosystem Governance in Indonesia.”
Community participation and benefits align with at least four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): eradicating poverty (SDG 1), ending hunger (SDG 2), ensuring good health and well-being (SDG 3), and promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16).
Regarding the environment, strengthening or restoring blue carbon ecosystems corresponds to addressing climate change (SDG 13) and life below water (SDG 15). To achieve at least these six SDGs, “restoration must be based on scientific principles and supported by strong governance,” Daniel emphasized.
Narrowing Down to the Provincial Level
Nani Hendiarti, Deputy for Environmental and Forestry Management Coordination at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment (Kemenko Marves), stated that blue carbon governance in Indonesia is an “ecosystem-based management.” Due to its ecosystem-based nature, governance cannot focus solely on mangroves, but should encompass all coastal biodiversity.
“When it seems that mangroves are being prioritized, it’s because mangroves are ‘more ready’ for attention. The mangrove database is better than that of seagrass,” Nani explained. She mentioned that the government has also prepared a roadmap for mangrove forest governance to accelerate sustainable management.
Among the six elements of the roadmap presented by Nani, one of them is the public-private partnership program.
“Investment in our public-private partnership program for mangrove forests also contributes to the rehabilitation of 75 thousand hectares of mangroves in four provinces of Indonesia,” said Andre Rodriguez de Aquino, Lead Environmental Specialist at the World Bank and a member of the Mangrove for Coastal Resilience (M4CR) initiative.
M4CR is a collaborative project between the World Bank, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), and the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment (Kemenko Marves) aimed at restoring mangrove ecosystems along Indonesia’s coast. The M4CR program operates in North Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Riau Islands, and North Sumatra. Andre predicts that M4CR’s efforts in these four provinces will reduce nearly 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq).
Although the figures represent a significant potential for national-scale management, Andre doesn’t deny the complex nature of blue carbon ecosystem governance in Indonesia. “We’re not talking about a project in a single 1,000-hectare area. In Indonesia, there are 600,000 hectares of mangrove forests spread across various provinces,” Andre stated.
Since these areas fall under provincial jurisdictions, “the involvement of local governments is necessary in formulating regulations related to blue carbon,” Andre emphasized. This reminder aligns with Daniel’s statement: “Blue carbon governance cannot be limited to the national scale. More than that, the development of blue carbon ecosystem governance must also involve local governments.”