Rote Ndao, on Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province’s southern coast is home to close to 150,000 people, many of whom earn their livelihoods as fishers. The twin-disasters of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the April 2021 Seroja cyclone has impacted the community, with women facing the brunt of the impact. A recent survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme has revealed the complete picture and plans are currently being developed to improve the lives of the women in the community.

The Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI) survey, conducted by UNDP’s Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase II (ATSEA-2) Programme with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is aimed to gather information on the challenges faced by the communities of Rote Ndao, Merauke and the Aru Islands.

A facilitator in a gender workshop. Image credit: UNDP Indonesia for the ATSEA-2 Programme

Approximately 1.3 million people in Indonesia are expected to be pushed into poverty due to the Covid-19 pandemic (Suryahadi et al, 2020). At the local level, the survey also revealed the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on households in the region. One respondent, who works as a fisher noted that their daily income had decreased significantly over 50 percent, from IDR 100,000 (USD 7) to IDR 40,000. In addition, because of the pandemic, fewer people have been able to catch and sell fish. The respondent also commented that, because they had to care for a relative who had fallen ill, their ability to work was also limited.

According to the results of the survey, all respondents’ incomes had been affected, to some degree, by the Covid-19 pandemic in Rote Ndao. Participants noted that their earnings suffered a drop of around 50 percent to 70 percent since the pandemic began. Loss of livelihood has impacted incomes and invariably caused respondents to feel less economically secure. However, respondents in Rote Ndao noted that they were assisted by their husbands and/or other household members. This is mainly because of the kinship system in rural areas. However, the burden still falls on women, who may experience higher rates of stress and anxiety.

Such disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis makes it imperative for the ATSEA-2 Programme to navigate a rapidly shifting and increasingly challenging situation. With the decrease of income-generating activities, farmers and fishers need a comprehensive and diverse set of skills to reduce post-harvest losses. Activities should place an emphasis on training for home-based small businesses run by women, along with capacity building for gender empowerment and community welfare in the district through seaweed. This includes improved market access for seaweed farmers, particularly for seaweed growing and/or processing enterprises run by women.

ATSEA-2 is committed to safeguarding the livelihoods and prosperity of coastal people, particularly in transboundary areas, through the implementation of sustainable integrated concepts. Since its inception in 2019, the 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.

(Nathazha Bostanova Eunike Sipasulta)

This article was published on UNDP Indonesia and IW:Learn website.