Hard Habits to Break: Investigating Coastal Resource Utilisations and Management Systems in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This research investigates the paradox that many coastal communities in developing countries are resource rich but income poor. Another aspect of this paradox is the belief that local communities possess traditional knowledge that respects nature. This belief contrasts the fact that major tropical coastal ecosystems, namely coral reefs and mangroves, are being destroyed at rapid and increasing rates, in many cases by the people whose livelihoods depend on them.
These paradoxical circumstances lead to a central question: if the sustainability of coastal resources is vital for the livelihood of local communities, why are these resources being degraded, often to the point of complete destruction? This study explores the motives and consequences of destructive methods of coastal resource utilisation and examines the potential for sustainable livelihoods based on coastal resources currently under threat from destructive use patterns. The analysis is based on a field study conducted in 2006 and 2008 in eleven sites around the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. This area is characterised by great biodiversity, including one of the highest marine biodiversities in the Asia-Pacific region.
Coral and mangrove ecosystem resource use was found to be driven by different processes and activities; hence the destructive practices impacting both ecosystems were also different. Blast and poison fishing were the most widespread destructive resource use methods found for coral reefs whereas large-scale habitat conversion was responsible for mangrove ecosystem reduction. In the field both resources were found to be under enormous anthropogenic pressures, with published data suggesting that only 5.8% of Indonesian coral reefs are currently in excellent condition and only 38% of mangrove cover remaining in Sulawesi relative to that of 25 years ago. The dynamics of these coastal resources, and of their destruction, are classic examples of the ’tragedy of the commons’.
Research findings further indicate that formal institutions tasked with managing these resources have not been able to promote their effective conservation. An array of competing demands and conflicting interests, coupled with inefficient institutional arrangements and under-investment, have rendered inadequate many resource management efforts, including the externally-imposed concepts, allowing destructive patterns of resource utilization to persist. Local communities are disempowered when confronted with (1) the intricate network of destructive-fishing actors targeting coral reefs, or (2) large company-government bureaucracy collusions allowing mangrove conversion. The existence of this collusive network must be considered in any effort to address problems of effective management.
Empirical insights suggest that conservation at local level has to face the challenges of market-driven resource extraction at a global scale. Only when a coastal community manages to overcome the dilemma in managing common-pool resource, conservation measures can be implemented and a degree of sustainability attained. Findings from this research have important implications for the discourses on coastal resource policy and research. This research advances the discussions to the area where the core of conflict of interests among stakeholders took place, and yet has rarely been addressed previously. The synthesis from this study provides a strong basis to understand the nature of asymmetric relations amongst the resource stakeholders, and therefore will help in generating effective policies for a fairer coastal resource management regime.