Mangrove tinctures linked to Indonesia’s conservation efforts
By Harry Jacques / Thomson Reuters Foundation, PEDEKIK, Indonesia
In a rural office on the island of Bengkalis, off the northeast coast of Sumatra, Mayasari, 30, passes a mask dyed with tree sap through an antique sewing machine.
The day before, Mayasari, who bears a name, and a dozen other women in the village of Pedekik learned how to make a hand sanitizer with an extract from the mangroves that line the coast.
“Al Hamdulillah [praise be to god] – if it comes from nature in Bengkalis, then it’s great, ”said Mayasari.
The Bengkalis training is the first government program to tackle the double blow of COVID-19 and climate change among communities living in the mangroves in Indonesia.
The masks made by the Pedekik women’s group are sold for 2,000 rupees (US $ 0.14) each, providing a new source of income for members.
Besides this program in Riau province, others are also underway in South Sumatra and South Kalimantan, to demonstrate to communities the practical value of keeping their mangroves standing.
Indonesia – the world’s largest archipelagic country and largest home of humid forests – has around 3.3 million hectares of mangroves across its rivers, basins and shores, an area larger than Belgium.
These mangrove ecosystems provide vital services to local communities, from food to protection against storm surges.
Mangroves also play a disproportionate role in sequestering the world’s warming carbon dioxide emissions, storing a third of the world’s coastal carbon stock and about five times more per hectare than the forests of the Indonesian highlands.
However, a 2015 study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that about 40 percent of Indonesia’s mangroves had disappeared in the previous three decades.
They are often pulled up to make way for shrimp ponds and other small businesses, such as charcoal production, which provide economic security for millions of people but account for most of the mangrove losses.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo last year broadened the mandate of the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency to include ambitious plans to restore 600,000 hectares of damaged mangrove forests by 2024.
“A goal of this magnitude has not been attempted anywhere else in the world,” said Daniel Friess, mangrove researcher and associate professor at the National University of Singapore.
Previous government efforts had only rehabilitated about 10,000 hectares per year, said Muhammad Ilman, director of the oceans program at Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara, a Jakarta-based conservation group.
About 90 percent of the budget allocated this year to the Indonesian Peatlands and Mangroves Restoration Agency (BRGM) was for planting seedlings, but a small amount has been earmarked to foster a change in the way communities perceive the mangrove forests.
Mayasari first learned to weave local batik and tenun textiles at the age of nine. Today, she makes 4m of traditional fabric every few weeks, earning around US $ 150 per month.
Yet the single mother, with two children to go to school, only makes a small profit as she has to buy expensive and unhealthy chemical dyes.
This year, the Mangrove agency began working with Achmad Nur Hasim, an Indonesian designer who supplied tenun fabric to French fashion label Christian Dior.
Achmad said 90 percent of traditional textiles in Sumatra are dyed using synthetics.
He hopes weavers in Pedekik and elsewhere will instead adopt natural dyes derived from the sap and fruits of local trees, supporting broader efforts to conserve mangroves.
Mayasari said she could find the jengkol tree used for darker shades, pinang for orange and bixa for red just outside her house.
Women’s group Bengkalis this month won a public vote for the best collection of hand-woven clothing during Tenun Fashion Week in Malaysia, which showcased the work of 45 women’s weaving communities across the South East Asia.
The oil extracted from mangroves is also used to make a hand sanitizer patented by a university in the city of Semarang, on the island of Java, and accredited by the Indonesian Ministry of Industry.
Extending the mandate of the peat agency to include mangrove restoration involves extending fieldwork from seven to 13 of the archipelago’s 34 provinces.
The adaptation of mangrove species to the landscape depends on complex local factors, such as tides, salinity and sediment levels, the forest scientists said.
“The key distinction is between planting and restoration,” said Friess. “It is not restoration if [the planting] failed.”
In February, the BRGM estimated that restoring 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024 could cost 18.4 trillion rupees.
Only around 1.5 trillion rupees was initially allocated for this purpose this year, seven times the agency’s budget for peat restoration.
However, the government subsequently reduced its mangrove restoration target for this year from 150,000 hectares to 33,000 as spending was reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, although it plans to open new ones. mangrove funding programs.
Indonesia’s finance ministry did not respond to questions about the program.
Government spending to tackle climate change was only a third of the 266 trillion rupees needed each year, Indonesia’s finance minister said this year.
“The challenge is to make a better program with very limited funding,” said Dermawati Sihite, an environmental lawyer who heads community work for BRGM.
One of the main reasons to stop the destruction of Indonesian mangroves is to ensure that the heating carbon they store stays in their biomass and the soil in which they grow.
Research shows that global warming also increases risks to mangrove ecosystems. A 2016 study published in the journal Wetlands Ecology and Management said coastal mangroves in Indonesia and elsewhere could face flooding from rising sea levels within 35 years without stronger action to combat against climate change.
This would threaten the food security of residents of Bengkalis, like Hidayati, a mother of three who earns 100,000 rupees a day by picking clams in the mangroves a short drive from Pedekik.
Hidayati said the loss of mangroves would deplete fish and shellfish that meet local household protein needs, due to prohibitive meat prices.
“If the mangroves are gone, the fish will have nowhere to feed,” said one fisherman, after untangling a barramundi from a net in the Bengkalis Strait cutting through mainland Sumatra.
The loss of mangroves in Indonesia also reflects regional economic drivers, from tin mining on Bangka Island to aquaculture on the Java coast, investigators said.
Erosion and subsidence are already damaging the coastline of Bengkalis.
Here, as in other peatland areas, hundreds of mangrove trunks, each costing Rs 3,000, are stacked in a trellis under the houses to prevent buildings on the peat from sagging.
A local entrepreneur said he didn’t know of any other way to consolidate the foundation at an affordable price.
“Restoring or rehabilitating mangroves requires careful planning,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, senior scientist at CIFOR. “There is no one size fits all. “
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