Review— Final Report: Study on Participatory Planning in Small Islands of Makassar

Hamamoto Satoko

Final Report: Study on Participatory Planning in Small Islands of Makassar
Laporan Akhir: Studi Perencanaan Partispatif Pulau-Pulau Kecil Di Kota Makassar
Proyek Penelitian dan Pengembangan Daerah tahun anggaran 2000 SPK No.2/SPKKS/PPD/VI/2000
Makassar / YASINDO-Pemerintah Kota Makassar / 2000

Recently, people from developed countries have become more sensitive to environmental issues affecting the developing areas of the world. These public concerns have grown as a result of increased media coverage linking environmental degradation and the depletion of natural resources to human development and exploitation.

This trend is important in initially informing the general public about the current state of our natural environment. But viewed in the long term, it may not be enough to merely provide general information on these commonly shared issues. For example, environmental reports on dynamite- and poison-fishing in the waters surrounding tropical coral reefs in the Makassar Straits enlighten us about the ecological damage they cause. But how many of these reports also deal with the socio-economic background of these practices? It is easy to be an environmentalist, but more difficult to understand the social needs underlying ecological destruction and to propose alternative subsistence activities. In any case, meaningful discussion about the sustainable use of maritime resources cannot be limited to those concerned with environmental issues; the fisherfolk must also be part of the conversation.

For many years, the comparative remoteness of many Indonesian islands has hindered participatory approaches to development and resource management alike. The Supermonde Archipelago area in the Makassar Straits is one such string of islands. Some school teachers and public health officers—averse to the poor living conditions, part-time supply of electricity, and fresh water shortages—have even run away from their duties. It is not an overstatement to say that these remote fishing communities have received little attention from the government. In light of official indifference, people in the Supermonde Archipelago have sought ways to raise their living standards by themselves. Given the distance of the state, these ways have included banned fishing practices.

In the late 1990s, the political situation in rural areas began to change. Implementation of Indonesia’s Local Autonomy policy (Otonomi Daerah) brought about cooperation between local NGOs and regional administrative offices of the government. The reseach undertaken for this report is a result of such collaboration. With funding from the Makassar City budget, the local NGO YASINDO conducted a large-scale survey in 1999 on ten small coral islands belonging to the Ujung Tanah sub-district of Makassar City. The islands’ populations range from approximately 1,700 to 3,700.

Since most YASINDO researchers could speak the dialect of the islands, they had better access to the local population than administrative officers would and conducted in-depth participatory observation and interviews with fishing community residents. The study’s purpose was to ascertain whether fishing communities could facilitate local development while realizing sustainable resource management and environmental conservation. It also meant to review the current condition of the maritime environment and the socio-economic background of fishing communities.

Research on the environmental destruction of coral reefs in this area has been going on since the early 1980s, and it is widely known that poison fishing and dynamite fishing destroy coral reef habitats. Most of the fish caught are of high value and are exported to neighboring countries, helping the local economy. It is natural, therefore, that criticism of fishing practices has come mainly from the viewpoint of environmental conservation. But until now there has been little information about why the people of the Makassar Straits are involved in such destructive practices.

The final report of the feasibility study contains some such basic information on the socio-economic background of these communities whose subsistence activities are all fishing-related. Unfortunately, the report reveals little of the research’s important findings, as the data remain rough and unrefined. Neither does the report include a detailed discussion of maritime resource management and banned fishing practices. In other words, it does not provide the fishing communities’ riposte to the environmentalists.

Nevertheless, it is significant that the NGO members used a holistic approach to the feasibility research, combining the general community studies approach of sociology and anthropology with an ecological approach. The research was conducted with considerable cooperation from the local populations, who were interviewed extensively on their traditional knowledge of the maritime environment. This last point is particularly important when discussions shift to finding alternative subsistence fishing activities. The NGO has achieved a close relationship with the local population that will be crucial for future participation in development and environmental management. Therefore, the study itself contributes a great deal toward grasping the motivations behind exploitative resource activities.

Hamamoto Satoko
The author is a JSPS Research Fellow at CSEAS, Kyoto University.