Prioritising elements of the community action plan

Located at the southernmost tip of Indonesia, Rote Ndao district is home to a wide range of marine and fishery resources. However, as demonstrated by recent impacts, this area is also especially vulnerable to climate change. To address these issues, the ATSEA-2 Programme is working to develop a clearer understanding of vulnerabilities and formulate an effective response to climate change at the local level.

The district of Rote Ndao has a sea area of 2,376 km2, with 330 km of coastline and 107 islands, of which eight are inhabited. Coastal communities in Rote Ndao depend on fisheries and the marine sector for their livelihoods and food. Resources range from capture fisheries (pelagic and demersal fish) and aquaculture (seaweed farming and shellfish culture). In 2019, the total productivity of the marine sector was equal to 3,529 tonnes, with a further 15,746 tonnes of seaweed produced (Indonesia Central Statistics Agency, 2020). Unfortunately, seaweed production has decreased over the last 10 years, due to changes in the climate and marine environment.

Based on studies of climate data in Rote Ndao from 1967 to 2005, it can be seen that air temperatures are prone to fluctuation. Future projections based on this data suggest that, between 2020 and 2049, annual rainfall in Rote Ndao could decrease by more than 15 percent. This would result in conflict over water, pastures and farmland. To mitigate these risks and plan for the future, the ATSEA-2 Programme has developed a five-step process, including guidelines for the creation of effective and relevant climate change adaptations. The ultimate aim of these actions is to support sustainable habitats, conserve species, and safeguard livelihoods for the people of the region.

The five-step guide was developed by Dr. Johanna Johnson from C2O.  It provides a clearer understanding of the sources of vulnerability and outlines necessary responses to climate change at the local level, which includes the establishment of local assessments, prioritising adaptation actions, and moving forward to implementation. In September 2021, the guidance was tested in Oeseli Village, which is the southernmost village in Rote Ndao District. Tasked with implementing Dr. Joanna’s Guidelines, seven field researchers spent four days and nights in Oeseli Village, establishing a rapport with local people, chatting, listening and observing the Oeseli communities’ daily lives. The Guide includes a process for developing a Community Action Plan, using a participatory approach that seeks to integrate regional climate change vulnerability with local issues affecting habitats and species. It also sets out to identify appropriate adaptation actions to address local pressures that undermine ecological conditions, thereby improving resilience to climate change.

Results demonstrated that Oeseli communities are aware of the effects of climate change on their marine and coastal resources. For example, they reported increasingly unpredictable weather, with wind and waves affecting their capacity to fish; a change in rainfall that has resulted in crop failures; and waves and storms that destroy their seaweed farming infrastructure. In 2021, Rote Ndao was hit by a powerful cyclone, called Seroja, which uprooted trees and damaged homes. The cyclone enveloped the entire island, bringing up to 360 mm of rainfall per day and wind speeds of up to 150 km/h, according to BMKG (Indonesia Meteorological Services). Climate change has added another layer of pressure to the many stressors that already exist in Oeseli.

Based on participatory assessments, the Oeseli community identified eight main issues for their coastal and marine resources:

  1. Ikan su sedikit” – The quantity of fish caught is decreasing, especially for high-value species, such as black teatfish, lobster and red snapper.
  2. Rumput laut noe” – quantity and quality of seaweed is decreasing, until families that rely heavily on seaweed have to find alternative livelihoods.
  3. People do not associate value with mangroves and seagrass, despite them providing critical habitats for many fisheries species that are targeted for food and income.
  4. Coral reefs have been destroyed by dynamite fishing, reducing available habitats for target fisheries species.
  5. Overuse of potassium and locally made fish poisons by fishers.
  6. Turtles are being hunted discreetly despite protection laws.
  7. People will not report their relatives for illegal activities, such as dynamite fishing, fish poisoning or harvesting turtles, to avoid retaliation.
  8. There is increasing interest in eco-tourism in Rote Ndao.

The Rote Ndao District Government, the National Marine Conservation Area Office of Kupang (BKKPN, Balai Kawasan Konservasi Perairan Nasional), and the community held a meeting in early November 2021, during which stakeholders agreed to conduct five socialisation sessions and six training sessions based on the community action plan for the coming year. During the discussion, they were asked what they wanted to see at the end of the action plan. Subsequently, a total of 10 practical and realistic goals were agreed upon: increasing the quantity and quality of seaweed, mangrove rehabilitation, sustainable fishing, eco-tourism, creating a reef nursery, conserving sea turtles, establishing a marine conservation law in the village, increasing community incomes, and establishing Oeseli Village as a model village for climate change adaptation.

This demonstrates that the local community of Oeseli Village will prioritise adaptation to climate change by developing eco-tourism in the village, enacting village laws prohibiting fish poisoning, and producing an awareness video to protect sea turtles. Villagers preferred these priority adaptations based on intersecting issues, enforcement and innovation. Eco-tourism is viewed as a chance for both conservation and alternative income. Although enacting village law was regarded as moderately difficult, people emphasised the importance of law enforcement in ensuring leadership, sharing power and responsibilities, and protecting habitats and species. The third adaptation is to value youth participation, which is frequently overlooked in other action plans.

A total of 12 people joined the offline focus group discussions (FGD), which included members of the Fisheries Service, BKKPN, Culture and Tourism Office, Reefcheck Indonesia Foundation, Women’s Empowerment Service, Regional Planning, Research and Development Agency, and the Assistant to the Regency Secretariat. The online meeting was also attended by members of the ATSEA-2 National Coordinating Units of Indonesia. Results of the case study are expected to offer a valuable input for the implementation of ATSEA-2 Programme activities, especially with regards to the framework for Integrated Coastal Management (ICM).

Since its inception in 2019, the ATSEA-2 Programme has been working to promote sustainable development in the ATS region and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants through a combination of restoration, conservation and sustainable management of marine-coastal ecosystems. In 2021, in collaboration with C2O Consulting, ATSEA-2 conducted a climate change vulnerability assessment in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region. The vulnerability assessment process identified highly vulnerable habitats and species in the ATS region and five sub-regions, as well as key drivers of vulnerability. While the assessment is focused on the ATS marine ecosystem and the scale of results are at the regional and sub-regional level, they can be used to inform local climate change assessments through the application of local processes, outlined in the supplementary Guide for Decision-Makers.

(By Vivekananda Gitandjali)