Fishermen in the community of Les, in Bali, used poison cyanide to stun and catch the ornamental fish that supplied their livelihood. But, after 15 years of this environmentally damaging practice, the local coral reef was left severely bleached.
“When we used potassium cyanide, we ended up killing many fish, many smaller fish were killed in the process due to overdoses,” said Nengah Arsana, a fisherman from Bali.
UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the Small Grants Programme, by working with local partners and the people of Les developed joint solutions to rehabilitate the coral reef ecosystem in a way that would allow locals to carry on with their traditional life and fishing.
In partnership with local non-governmental organizations Yayasan Bahtera Nusantara and Telapak, villagers were taught how to preserve the coral reef. Twelve community organizers taught their fellow fishermen how to catch ornamental fish without using the cyanide, by using nets. Another 100 men, women and children were trained in simple coral transplantation and biological monitoring. They transplanted 34 species of coral – from donor coral – into a new reef created from rubble and porous cement.
After four years, the coral reef coverage increased from 23 per cent to 40 per cent.
“The fish and reef are in much better condition now,” said Luh Nariasih, Nengah Arsana’s wife, and she added: “Incomes for our household are also good.”
The UNDP and the GEF Small Grants Programme also helped its local partner-grantees to establish a community-owned trading company. The fishermen and traders in the company were trained in fish handling and packaging, and were able to obtain trading and transportation permits to export ornamental fish. The company then started selling its products in Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Israel. Soon families in Les were making steady incomes, of up to USD 230 per month.
The successful fusion of environmental, social and trade intervention has made the Les project a model for communities around the world. Only in Indonesia, several provinces, including regions in Bali, West Java, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and Papua, have replicated policies and practices from Les.