From Fishing to Crab Farming in Indonesia

Lisa Siregar Jakarta Globe 18 Sep 12;

Shifts in the weather have changed the lives of today’s fishermen in Bali.

They no longer can predict the best days to sail and catch fish. Maybe it’s because of climate change — Balinese fishermen leave it to scientists to figure out the reasons — but nonetheless, they need an immediate alternative to be able to maintain a steady income.

And some might have found one.

Fishermen have turned to farming mangrove crabs in the mangrove forests in their neighborhoods.

For the fishermen at Wana Sari, in the south of Denpasar, it was not easy to change from fishing to crab farming. Not only did the lack of know-how present a problem, but the farm also requires Rp 25 million to Rp 35 million ($2,600 to $3,700) to start. They need at least 10 fishing nets for a farm, each costing about Rp 2.5 million. They also need to build a proper cage for each crab to grow. It comes as no surprise that of more than 100 fishermen in the area, only 45 were willing to change their line of work.

It was only in March of last year that they began to establish these crab farms. The fishermen organized themselves into groups and all chipped in to build a farm. There are now five groups, and each owns a hectare of crab farm in the mangrove forest in Wana Sari.

“We sell these crabs alive to Jakarta and Singapore, and buyers usually buy a minimum of 200 kilograms,” said Made Sumasa, the head of the fishermen’s association at Wana Sari.

It takes between 20 and 30 days for a crab to grow. The fishermen usually buy a ton of seeds for each group, which results in about 500 kilograms of crabs.

The first time they sold crabs, which was last year, they made a profit of 30 percent. So Made and his friends decided to maintain their crab farm.

It soon become clear that crab farming is more promising because there is no risk of going home empty handed, unlike fishing. Made said they need to plant more mangroves to make sure that the crabs have the perfect habitat.

Should anyone want to build a new crab farm, there is no need to worry about the lack of space, said Yudha Wayan, another fisherman at Wana Sari. There are more than 1,300 hectares of land in the forest in Ngurah Rai.

“We live very close to the road, so there’s no distribution problem. But we were all purely fishermen, so we lack the proper knowledge on how to grow these crabs,” he said.

The fishermen-cum-crab farmers recently received donations and workshops from Pertamina. The energy company donated Rp 5 million to each group and put them in contact with a beneficiary of its corporate social responsibility program in Probolinggo, East Java. They will share their knowledge of crab harvesting, and making sweet jelly (dodol) and syrup with mangrove fruit as the main ingredient.

Pertamina also recently agreed to contribute to the government’s Grow a Billion Trees program. Afandi, a manager at Pertamina, said that the company plans to plant 100 million trees by 2015.

Speaking in front of 100 high school students before a mangrove-planting event in Serangan, Bali, on Thursday, Afandi said that mangrove trees are useful in a variety of ways.

“We know that Pertamina’s products contribute gas emissions, so we decided to [plant] more trees,” he said.

He added that although mangroves do not produce oxygen, the plant is useful for fishermen on the island because they can grow crabs in the forest and make food from its fruits.

“It’s very important to pick up only the fruit and not the wood,” Afandi added.

The company has been planting mangroves since 2008. The numbers grew from 1,000 to 10,000 trees in four years, and it is hopeful of reaching its eventual goal. To teach fishermen at Wanasari, Pertamina works with Bali’s University of Udayana.

Budi Waluya, a representative from the conservation association, said that mangroves are very easy to plant and grow. The trick is to plant only mangroves that have grown at least one meter high.

“[The tree] lives on muddy ground,” said Budi, adding that the areas in Serangan and Wana Sari are good for mangroves.

Made said that mangroves helped his people survive a food crisis during the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963, and through the political crisis in 1965.

“It is proven that we can survive by consuming mangrove, so we should [grow] more,” he said.

Fishermen at Wana Sari agree. To sustain their occupation, these fishermen have also began to consider eco-tourism. They have built a 150-meter trekking route into the forest where tourists can see a small warung and enjoy grilled crabs.

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