“The initiative has awakened us from sleep, made us see the real facts of natural resources in our village that have been declining. We still eat fish every day although the size is not too big, but how about our children and grandchildren in the coming years? Will they be able to eat fish or not? We have agreed to establish fish banks in our village, so we can catch and eat fish every day, because we are the people of Pasahari, if we do not eat vegetables for one day, it is ok, but if we do not eat fish only for one day, we could die”, says Eda Atuany, one of the female community leaders of Pasahari village, in Seram Island, Maluku Province.
Like other villages in the island, Pasahari is a customary village where the natural resources are managed under a locally-designed set of rules and regulations known as “sasi.” Unfortunately, due to vast development and demands, it has affected the condition of local resources. Some of the people are no longer practicing the traditions that have been taught by their elders to preserve their resources through sasi practices.
In an effort to revitalize the traditional values of sasi in preserving natural resources in the villages in Seram Island, Indonesia Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) with support from USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced Project (USAID SEA) has been working to establish locally-managed marine areas in several targeted villages. Sasi will be strengthened under village regulations governing the management of terrestrial, coastal and marine resources. Through participatory process, map of community traditional fishing grounds was developed to inform the village regulations. Such model has been successfully implemented by Indonesia LMMA in a number of communities in Biak and Jayapura Districts, Papua, in Hatta Island in Banda, and Tanimbar Kei Islands in Southeast Moluccas.
Under the USAID SEA Project, starting in September 2017, Indonesia LMMA has been working to implement the model in Seram Island, Maluku Province that covers two districts, namely Central Maluku District (North Seram and North East Seram Kobi sub-districts), and West Seram District (West Seram and Huamual Belakang sub-districts). In total, there are 20 villages (in Maluku, a village is called negeri) will be facilitated by Indonesia LMMA to establish their locally managed marine areas. Currently, introduction and socialization of the program have started in Central Maluku District, in five villages and one hamlet in North Seram Sub district, they are Rumah Sokat, Malaku, Pasahari, Siatale, Wahai and Parigi. And one negeri in North East Seram Kobi Sub-district, covering Kobi. Active involvement of the community members was tremendous in Pasahari village.
After two meetings, the communities immediately decided that the estuary area of Kali Sek to Faong in the west side of the village will be designated as the village protected area. They intended to establish a ‘fish bank’ in the area. They realize that the marine resources are now depleting as the number and size of their catch are getting fewer and smaller.
The communities have also realized the need to protect their land resources. Coconut, nutmeg, chocolate and deer are some of the land resources. However, most of the resources lie within the Manusela National Park. On the other hand, there are some parts of the land that have been controlled by private companies for shrimp processing, palm oil and cocoa plantations. This condition has encouraged Pasahari communities to start putting their efforts in maintaining the sustainability of their resources both at sea and on land.
As the full consensus was successfully reached to manage village marine resources, this is the first time in the history, the people of Pasahari implemented sasi to protect marine resources. Typically, sasi in Pasahari is for land resources only, such as limited harvest period for coconut at certain times by each household for their own benefit, or by the church or through customary ceremonies.
The Village Head (also called Raja), Saniri Negeri, woman and youth leaders, together with communities involved in the meeting have agreed and decided to draft the Village Regulation on Natural Resources Management in the customary village of Pasahari. With this regulation in place, the community has high hopes that it will bring solution to reduce destructive practices such as using poisonous roots for fishing, breath apparatus (compressor), cutting mangroves and sea pollution by shrimp processing company. Currently, the Pasahari community is discussing important elements that will be included in the village regulation of land, coastal and marine natural resources management. The community rights and obligations, the dos and don’ts, sanctions applied in case of violation of the regulation will be laid out in the village regulation.
The active role of Raja Pasahari; Muhammad Husein Pasahari and Raha Saniri village, Daniel Atuan has made great contribution for this significant progress. Both community leaders encouraged the community members from two big “soa”/clans namely Pasahari and Atuan to actively participate in the discussion and decision making processes.
Their strong commitment is apparently stemmed from their understanding of the benefits from establishing and managing the locally-managed marine area. They believe that the initiative is essential to ensure that their next generation would still be able to benefit from the natural resources. Additionally the documentation of village boundaries and traditional fishing grounds laid out in the village regulation is believed to be an important knowledge asset that could be passed on to the next generation.