The agrarian reform policy carried out by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration had to also focus on sea resource management in coastal areas, a marine expert said in a public lecture on Thursday.
His biggest weapon to tackle socio-economic inequalities, Jokowi’s agrarian reform policy basically revolves around resolving land conflicts and redistributing land to small-scale farmers.
However, Dedi Supriadi Adhuri, senior marine researcher with the Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI), argued that comprehensive agrarian reform was not only meant to address problems on land, because the country’s legal system in fact includes the sea among agrarian resources.
The 1960 Agrarian Law, Indonesia’s legal umbrella on agrarian policy created by Sukarno’s administration, stipulates natural resources on land, in water and in the sky are agrarian resources that have to be harnessed for the prosperity of the public.
Expanding the policy to coastal areas, Dedi said, would be the key to improving the livelihood of small-scale fishermen, who he said had been basically “neglected” in the decision-making process by “authorities on the land.”
“We often associate fishermen with poverty. A study conducted by the BPS [Central Statistics Agency] finds that citizens living in coastal areas contribute to around 25 percent of poverty in Indonesia,” Dedi said in his lecture held at the LIPI in South Jakarta.
Fishermen indeed play an important role in food security, Dedi said, basing this on the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s 2015 data showing that Indonesian fish catches amounted to 6 million tons valued at Rp 108.5 trillion.
“Some 80 percent of the catches in 2015 supplied our domestic demand for fish,” Dedi said.
The key for the government to improving the livelihood of coastal people, Dedi said, was to implement the marine tenure system.
Marine tenure is a set of rights and obligations in marine and coastal areas that regulates which parties are allowed to harness which resources, the way to do it and who has the right to transfer to other parties.
“Like in other common pool resources, the tenure system in marine and coastal environments would decide whether the management of resources would be successful or not,” Dedi said.
The role of marine tenure can be found in coastal regions in which citizens are still basing their activities on customary rules, such as in Papua, Maluku and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara, as well as in Aceh.
What separated marine tenure from land tenure, Dedi said, was that there were no boundaries stipulated on paper, because of the openness of water areas.
“But locals know how to measure their fishing area. For instance, in Kei Islands [Maluku], indigenous fishermen implement a customary-based sea zoning regulation,” Dedi said.
The government, Dedi said, had to embody the marine tenure practice found in various regions in Indonesia, suggesting there had to be a review of fishery regulations to know whether they supported or contradicted the local-based coastal area development.
Reza Shah Pahlevi, the director of fisheries management at the Fisheries and Maritime Ministry, said the government had recently set up offices in each Fisheries Management Area (WPP) with a total of 11 in the country, through which local communities could participate in the decision-making process related to coastal area management.
“The government acknowledges it has to use a collaborative approach to improve fisheries management,” Reza said.