Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Wayan Patut was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The increase of coastal development and illegal fishing practices has wreaked havoc in the marine environment of Indonesia. For local communities who rely on fishing as their main source of livelihood, this has meant a drastic decrease in income. In most cases, the citizen sector has responded to the crisis by spearheading conservation efforts that do not take into account the livelihoods of the local residents. Wayan Patut is demonstrating that the affected communities can earn a living through new enterprises that will also give them a role in marine conservation efforts.
The New Idea
Wayan is creating local marine enterprises that draw on coastal resources, including the cultivation of coral and raising of high-value fish. He is building community-owned businesses that allow people to earn a living and, at the same time, get deeply involved in the long term rehabilitation of coastal areas. This is Indonesia’s first model of coral reef rehabilitation with real economic incentives for local communities. With support from environmental experts and citizen organizations, Wayan and his community are rebuilding their coral reefs, initiating sustainable fisheries and developing community-organized enterprises. Through Wayan’s model, local fisher people are slowly becoming key actors in developing their communities and preserving the surrounding environment.Wayan Patut wants to change the way coral reef rehabilitation is approached. He is helping his community and others beyond Bali to convert desperate, destructive practices into actions which help rebuild and preserve their marine environments, and which provide new sources of income to participants. To spread this new model Wayan is working directly with fisher communities in other areas of Indonesia and lobbying local government officials. He sees the potential for collaboration among community groups as they build knowledge and sophisticated expertise in fulfilling the demands of a growing market without endangering the coastal environment.
In Bali, as well as other parts of Indonesia, fisher people have been forced out of their fertile fishing grounds by large beachfront projects aimed to promote tourism. Serangan Island off the southeast coast of Bali is an example of such developments. The environment of Serangan was devastated by a massive beach reclamation project carried out in the mid-1990s as part of a planned resort. The island was expanded from 112 hectares to three times its original size. The local people whose land had been seized were pushed into a corner of the island. The coral reefs surrounding the island were seriously damaged. These reefs supported the rich marine life and served as a source of livelihood for 70 percent of the community who were fishers. With the loss of this natural resource, fishers’ incomes decreased on average from US$10 per day to US$.50 per day.When people in coastal communities, such as those in Serangan, face the loss of the resources supporting their livelihoods, they resort to desperate measures. Economic pressures lead traditional fishers to adopt quick gain practices like fishing with cyanide and potassium bombing that further destroy the coral reef and upset the balance of the coastal ecosystem. In their desperation to survive, people will even begin to mine the remaining live coral reef to sell for building materials. The environmental destruction caused by reclamation on Serangan eventually led to conflicts within the communities. In areas like Serangan throughout Indonesia, environmental organizations tend to focus more on the coral reef than the people and their livelihoods. Due to low levels of education and lack of access to information, homegrown solutions are rare. But externally developed solutions are less likely to be trusted and accepted by the local communities. Unless both the livelihood and the environmental issues are addressed, the people will continue to suffer from poverty and the marine environment will never recover.
Wayan has established a cooperatively owned company that allows fisher communities to trade in entirely new industries. The fisher groups are cultivating and transplanting coral for ecological and commercial purposes which require completely different skills from the basic fishing they used to do. Besides developing the technical skills required, members of the company also arrange for certification and the permits to extract and export sub-coral. In this way, they are developing a new relationship with the government and are becoming part of the formal economy. One of Wayan’s first steps was to introduce coral rehabilitation to the children in his community whose fathers were involved in mining coral. In the after-school study group he established, the children learned through hands-on experience about coral. The young people were directly involved in cultivating coral from seedlings and producing growth media to hold the new plants for transplantation. Wayan planted this media containing successfully cultivated coral in specific areas destroyed by these children’s parents. The parents, moved by their children’s efforts, became involved in rebuilding rather than destroying the coral.Once these parents became involved, Wayan was able to convince more adults in the community to take part in forming the fishers’ cooperative group, Karya Segara. As a member of the community himself, Wayan understands that these people have to fulfill their immediate needs and that conservation efforts tend to only provide benefits in the long term. He was able to obtain a small grant from the Director of the Bali Environmental Impact Bureau. The Director felt a sense of responsibility to the people of Serangan for having granted permission to the development project which had ruined so much of their natural environment. This seed money was used as incentive in the form of awards for conservation actions, basic food supplies to distribute amongst group members, and credit to help supply urgent fisher needs. Today, with the help of experts, the community group continues to improve their skills in propagating hard coral and farming sub coral. Through public events that feature the sinking of the coral-embedded media, the fisher’s group of Serangan has attracted interest from government officials, citizen organizations and the public. They received a donation of diving equipment and 2,000 coral seedlings from the Minister of Marine & Fisheries. They have since cultivated these 2,000 seedlings to over 15,000. The Minister is also lending support to promote their model of successful reef rehabilitation to other regions in Indonesia. Wayan is working with the fisher communities in nine provinces to help them develop similar activities. The cooperatively owned company markets sub coral to international buyers through a website and direct contacts. The members share in the work as well as the profits, and have already enhanced their incomes. Wayan is helping the fisher groups expand to other products such as seaweed, virgin coconut oil, ornamental fish as well as specialty fish and seafood raised in environmentally sustainable methods. Group members have also been supported to become licensed divers engaged in clean ups and coral monitoring while some also earn income by guiding tourists interested in seeing the work up close. They are sharing their skills with other fisher communities. On land provided by the traditional village, the fisher cooperative is building a Reef Information Center to share its work with a wider audience.
Wayan Patut was born and raised on Serangan Island off of Bali. As a child he remembers being able to pay his school fees by swimming close to the reef and selling the ornamental fish he could easily collect. His family had very limited resources and, as the eldest son with five younger sisters, Patut held a lot of responsibilities for their care especially after his mother lost her eyesight. After completing elementary school, he dropped out in order to raise seaweed to help support the family. He realized, however, that he would never make enough money through this activity, so he returned to junior high school. A top student, he was encouraged to continue to high school where he studied economics. He had to walk over seven kilometers and time his trip to the low tide so he could save on the cost of a boat trip from his island. In school, he excelled in mathematics and accounting as well as athletics. Upon graduation an uncle offered him the chance to attend university in Jakarta, but Wayan chose to work instead to gain experience.When he returned to his island he worked at the village cooperative as the accounts manager where he was proud to apply many of the lesions he had learned in school. Throughout this period, Wayan began opposing the Bali Turtle Island Development reclamation project. He established a youth movement to voice the villagers concerns with the evictions from their lands and the broken promises for jobs. Wayan succeeded in bringing the community together against a common enemy, but was unable to stop the reclamation and the subsequent environmental devastation. Wayan grasped the economic implications of this environmental destruction on the livelihoods of his fellow fishers. He began experimenting with new forms of environmentally friendly activities that had potential to provide alternative sources of income. Having successfully led environmental initiatives in his own community, Wayan Patut has been invited to represent traditional fisher people in various international forums. In recognition of his leadership skills, Patut has been offered jobs in numerous prominent citizen organizations, but has turned them down because he wants to continue to work at the grassroots level, linking fisher communities in various regions so they can share skills and experiences. His vision for Serangan is for the people to take ownership over their environment and ultimately over their futures.