The Arafura and Timor Seas area is filled with wildlife, including important mangroves that are 25% of the world’s total and have 45 different types. These mangroves are essential for many sea animals and protect coasts from erosion and climate change. They also support the livelihoods of people living nearby, showing the strong connection between human well-being and healthy natural habitats.

The Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase II (ATSEA-2) Project works together with various stakeholders to support communities on protecting this area’s nature by using strategies that care for the environment while helping coastal communities thrive. It encourages working together to make mangroves stronger and supports activities like planting mangroves and fishing sustainably. This approach aims to balance human needs with the health of marine life, as practised in Daiama Village, Rote Ndao District, Indonesia.

Mama Novi showcases the mangrove seeds that are soon to be ground into a rich and sustainable coffee blend

In June 2023, the ATSEA-2 team witnessed this narrative firsthand, observing the village’s commitment to environmental sustainability and economic resilience. This story is championed by local leaders like Novika Tupu (Mama Novi) and Steven Mesah (Om Steven), who are at the forefront of Daiama’s innovative mangrove conservation efforts.

Dale Esa, translating to “unified heart,” perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the community group led by Mama Novi. This group is the driving force behind the Mangrove Coffee Project, an initiative that seamlessly blends traditional skills with contemporary conservation methods. By doing so, Dale Esa not only aims to diversify Daiama’s economy but also enhances the ecological value of mangroves beyond their protective roles. “This project could revolutionise our village’s economy and broaden awareness of the importance of mangroves,” the community believes, showcasing the transformative potential of the Mangrove Coffee Project on Daiama’s landscape.

This endeavour highlights the untapped economic potential of mangroves, a revelation made possible through the comprehensive training provided by the ATSEA-2 project. With BPOM certification on the horizon, Mama Novi states, “The ATSEA-2 training has been crucial in revealing the economic opportunities mangroves offer our community. We’re eager for the certification, anticipating a significant boost in our community’s income.”

Om Steven in Daiama Village, on the land earmarked for new mangrove planting

Om Steven complements Mama Novi’s economic initiatives with a strong environmental stewardship, leading the “Mulut Seribu” community surveillance group (Kelompok Masyarakat Pengawas/Pokmaswas). His effort in planting over 13,000 mangrove seedlings underline a profound commitment to the health of marine ecosystems. “Meaningful environmental action has been catalysed by government support and targeted training,” reflects Om Steven, highlighting the importance of community vigilance and sustainable practices in conservation efforts.

The collaboration between Mama Novi and Om Steven represents a powerful model of community leadership that marries economic innovation with environmental conservation. Their collective efforts not only showcase the economic value of mangroves but also underscore the critical role of community-led environmental protection. The ATSEA-2 project supports Daiama Village by providing training, facilitating dialogues with government bodies, and promoting alternative livelihoods, ensuring the longevity and impact of the village’s conservation work. This approach illustrates the project’s commitment to empowering communities for sustainable futures.

Empowering Communities for a Sustainable Future

Daiama’s journey from traditional livelihoods to pioneering initiatives like the Mangrove Coffee Project is a testament to the power of community-led conservation. Highlighted by the ATSEA-2 project, Daiama’s experience offers valuable insights into how integrated efforts can support global environmental objectives and improve community well-being.

Daiama Village’s transition showcases the significant impact of empowering local communities through conservation. By accessing essential resources and fostering open dialogue, Daiama exemplifies effective community-led action in achieving sustainable environmental outcomes, ensuring the mangroves’ longevity and the community’s prosperity.

By Stella Yovita Arya Puteri