Tomini Bay, or Teluk Tomini as it is known in Bahasa, is one of the largest bays in Indonesia, covering close to 60,000 km2. It is located at the heart of the Coral Triangle region and is home to an extraordinary wealth of species, particularly in the marine environment. In 2008, the region was declared a priority development area by the Indonesian government, with the aim of driving economic growth in the Bay. The government also recognised the need to conserve the rich natural resources of Tomini Bay in order to provide direct and sustainable benefits to the coastal communities.
However, the environment of Tomini Bay was already in decline – deforestation in the surrounding mountains has led to increased sedimentation, mangroves have been cleared for the construction of brackish-water ‘tambak’ ponds or felled for housing and fuel wood, and coral reefs have been damaged by destructive fishing methods. And this environmental degradation has begun to impact on the livelihoods of the coastal communities.
The Tomini Bay Sustainable Coastal Livelihoods and Management (SUSCLAM) project was set up to improve the management of coastal and marine resources of the Bay and improve the livelihoods of the people found in the area. The project works at village, district and provincial level and uses sustainable mangrove management as an entry point for their work with the people of Tomini Bay. SUSCLAM promotes the conservation of the remaining mangrove areas, rehabilitation programmes (particularly of ‘tambak’ ponds), environmental education, sustainable livelihoods for men and women, improved infrastructure and the provision of local legislation to prevent further mangrove degradation.
After five years of implementation, SUSCLAM has learnt many valuable lessons about resource management in the region. My role in Sulawesi was to document these ‘lessons learned’, enabling SUSCLAM to share their knowledge with other organisations working in Indonesia and beyond. Over the course of three weeks, I visited Bolmong Selatan, Gorontalo and Central Sulawesi provinces, staying in villages and working with local partner organisations JAPESDA and YASALU to document the work of SUSCLAM.
The conservation of mangroves is a complex and difficult problem; there are many indirect pressures, degraded mangrove areas quickly change and become unsuitable for rehabilitation and above all, the people of the coastal communities around Teluk Tomini rely on the natural resources found around them to make a living. Like many conservation projects, the key to success lies with these people. By working with the villagers, and the local and provincial authorities, SUSCLAM is working towards a sustainable and long-term solution to mangrove conservation throughout Tomini Bay.
Men preparing Roa fish for smoking, Bangga, Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Roa fishery is dependent on the presence of coastal mangroves, and yet mangrove wood was the fuel of choice when the fish are smoked.
Tourists exploring a mangrove area run by a village-managed ecotourism business, Sausu Peore, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Alternative livelihoods such as ecotourism have been supported by SUSCLAM throughout the Teluk Tomini region.
View the complete gallery of images here.