“For those who don’t have a land for agriculture, like me, I’m grateful that God has gifted me the sea, and it’s become my source of livelihood. The ocean is rich. It’s really, really, rich. Thank God, it’s always been fruitful,” stated fisherwoman and protection movement leader, Maimunah.
Fighting against their local government, the fisherwomen on Indonesia’s Madura Island are protesting against environmental conversion. There has been a plan proposed to convert the stretch of their coastline into salt fields for farming. The plan can jeopardize not only the marine ecosystem but also the sustainability of the farming industry already in place. Jobs and resources could be on the line if this plan goes into effect. These fisherwomen also believe that the development of these salt ponds has exacerbated the flooding in that area in recent years.
Back in 2009, the local government granted land titles across 180 acres along the Tapakerbau hamlet coast in Gersik Putih, all of which have become salt farms. The remaining 20 hectares are the plots of land the women and others of Maimunah are fighting to preserve. Efforts have been in place since 2013, but even 10 years later there is still strong dispute over the future of this land. Many acres of the designated region is the sea, and according to the protestors, the government can not put a land title on the ocean. Protestors have demanded the government to publish the permits, and an environmental and social analysis of the predicted project, but the government has not complied.
The village head of Gersik Putih, Muhab, took office in 2013 and has now stated that the government has offered compensation to the local fishers in the form of land titles. But the village’s budget could not afford to purchase these titles, so the government’s plan was to split the funding between Muhab’s office and investors. Muhab has also argued that the salt ponds would in fact reduce flooding as they would prove to be barriers between the sea and the houses.
In opposition to the protestors, experts have stated their support in the government’s plan to boost the aquaculture sector of their economy, but have also stated that there needs to be guaranteed sustainable environmental planning. Usually, the production of any kind of aquatic farm in Indonesia entails the removal of mangroves, which absorb large amounts of carbon, and stops the areas from land degradation.
Public Engagement and Action Manager of the NGO Greenpeace Indonesia, Khalisah Khalid, stated that large-scale developmental projects usually pose threats on ecological, economic, social or cultural factors. This plan would have the investors control the land, while the citizens would become laborers leaving them out of resource access. Also, this specific economic model would further impoverish women, and leave them out of the development agenda. The fisherwomen are not only fighting for their environment and land, but for their livelihood.