The Impact of COVID19 on poor and vulnerable people is severe. Also in Demak, Northern Java, where the Building with Nature Indonesia project works with the coastal community to halt coastal erosion, rehabilitate mangroves and revive local livelihoods, villagers have been hard hit as the pandemic strongly affects their project activities, their livelihoods and social order of the community.
All project activities on hold
During the pandemic, the majority of assisted villages have closed and restricted outside access to their villages. All Building with Nature activities, such as group meetings and monitoring of hybrid engineering structures, activities in greenbelt ponds and mixed mangrove aquaculture ponds are put on hold. The social restrictions also caused tenuous situations between residents, where community concerns about the spread of COVID-19 made residents reluctant to give allegiance when a neighbour died in one of the villages.
Local economy collapses
The COVID-19 pandemic also increased the unemployment rate in the district, as many Timbulsloko villagers working as factory workers were laid off. Fishermen and fish farmers, although they are still able to carry out their work routines individually, have difficulty in marketing their catches and harvests due to the absence of collectors entering the village and due to the inactive market of fish buyers. And even if there are traders who collect the harvest, the prices have dropped with 28-67% compared to normal conditions. Farmers also experience difficulty to get fish or shrimp seeds as many hatcheries are closed. According to the report of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Association (KNTI) as of April 9, 2020, many fishermen in Demak are no longer at sea, as they are suffering losses and difficulties to get fuel supplies. While fishermen choose to stop fishing activities, fish pond farmers choose to delay harvesting their crops even though they cannot predict how long the COVID-19 outbreak will last.
While we hope that the communities can soon pick up their lives and restore the harmony between communities, we are strengthened by the realisation how the Building with Nature approach is supporting green recovery in the area by restoring environmental conditions, reviving livelihoods and the creation of other multiple benefits including food security. This is not only essential in recovery from COVID19, but also to enhance the villager’s resilience during annual hazards and the long-known impacts of climate change.
Written by Yus Noor and EKo Budi PRiyanto, Wetlands International Indonesia
More information on Building with Nature Indonesia: www.indonesia.buildingwithnature.nl
Building with Nature Indonesia is a programme by Wetlands International, EcoShape, the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing (PU), supported by supported by the Dutch Sustainable Water Fund and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
Photo by Cynthia Boll