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Fish Offer New Lease of Life After Tsunami

INDONESIA - The deadly tsunami disaster on December, 2004 did not only devastate hundreds of thousands of lives and houses across Aceh Jaya, but also had changed the natural landscape and ecosystem of the region. With the old industries in ruins, locals turned elsewhere.

Vast areas of land and clusters of rice fields turned into large ponds and swamp areas changed into small lakes, wrote Martin Vane, Caritas Czech Republic. The new territorial waters could be advantageous however, holding economic potential for the villagers in aquatic livelihoods in the aftermath of the tsunami.

For Gusniwan, his conditions changed after Caritas Czech Republic gave him and hundreds of other local fishermen a keramba, a fish cage each on December 2007. Further, to enhance the livelihood initiative, the organization also distributed to each beneficiary 1,000 Nila, or fish fingerling, a freshwater fish often raised for food.

"During the first harvest season, I got 400 kilos and I earned 4.2 million rupiahs ($420)," Gusniwan said, happily. Raising fish in a cage has become an alternative livelihood method and it is also more profitable for Gusniwan and other fishermen on the Aceh Jaya coast.

Another fisherman who received the fish cage and fingerlings from Caritas, named Bustami, has his keramba at Tui Karueng village. He has been working his harvest but has not had as high of yields as Gusniwan, with only 100 kilograms from the first harvest.

Raising caged fish requires new skills and learning the sophicated methods that differ from the knowledge of traditional fishing. Another aspect of raising caged fish is the importance of good fingerling stocks at the beginning of the process. So far, the fingerlings have been supplied from Banda Aceh or other regions in Aceh which is time consuming and often some of the fingerlings do not survive the long distance transport. The fingerling's fed is also sourced from outside Aceh Jaya, proving a number of trials for this potentially more sustainable livelihood and difficulties for the fishermen.

"That is why we agreed to establish and develop a cooperative for fishermen," says Tengku Amiruddin , from Teunom sub district and the Chairman of KNJA. The cooperative of fishermen, established on July 2008, is called Koperasi Nelayan Jaring Apung (KNJA) and comprises fishermen who already have keramba in various villages in the Aceh Jaya district. Here, the fishermen could employ, organize and manage their livelihoods autonomously; an impacting community enterprise. The cooperative model provides many benefits for its members including having withstood economic crises during that of Indonesia in 1997. Caritas Czech Republic has given support through capacity building and financial aid in order to develop healthy enterprise management for KNJA.

"We had arranged several trainings and capacity building programs for the executive boards and management staff. It is necessary because the cooperative is a new kind of enterprise for them," remarks Said Ridha, a Caritas field officer for the aquaculture livelihood program who assists the fishermen.

The cooperative is thriving, with 100 registered members from various sub districts in Aceh Jaya from Teunom to Lhok Krut. Each of the members pays initial dues and now the cooperative's assets have reached around IDR 2 billion ($200,000 USD). KNJA staff focuses on assisting the fishermen's keramba rehabilitation and arranging fish-feed producing workshops for the members. In the next few months, Caritas will provide a hatchery for the cooperative to produce fingerlings in Aceh Jaya for the cooperative members

The success is seen in the numbers. "We just sold about four tons of the fishermen's fishes to Meulaboh (Aceh Barat district) at competitive rates, 12,000 rupiahs (around US$ 1.2) per kilogram," said Amuddin, KNJA marketing staff.. The cooperative hopes to collaborate with the government to promote the freshwater fish they are raising and create more demand for their product. "We're optimistic because it is profitable for the fishermen."

the Fish Site Editor

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