The landscape in Cinta Raja village is mostly wetlands such as mangrove forest, fishponds, and rice fields, with high potential for the habitat of waterbirds. These birds have a role as pest controller in the community’s farm, such as Egret alba and Lesser Adjutant. During harvest season in March, birds like Oriental pratincole visit the rice fields to breed. This is very helpful for the farmers to control the population of insects and grasshoppers. While at fishponds, these birds are indicating that fishes and shrimps suffer from disease. Many other birds also have role in the village, which give mutual benefits to human and plants.
When these birds decrease in the wild, high population of pests (such as mouse and snails) will harm the rice fields and farmers will have to spend more energy in dealing with the problem. Therefore, the birds should be protected, not only the endangered ones. The protection should include areas they use for breeding or feeding to ensure the coexist. By maintaining their existence in the wild, we can reach the balance in so many levels of ecosystem.
This kind of information has encouraged the local communities to pay more attention to the birds. Beside an understanding that some of the species are protected by law. The project brought this kind of knowledge and understanding to the community and district government. An increased interest and commitment in learning about birds, monitoring their presence in the village, and implementing the village regulation will protect the bird species and deliver benefits to community’s food production (rice fields and fishponds).
Protecting the birds also means maintaining the mangrove forest as their habitat. This of course will have an impact in absorbing the greenhouse gas as part of climate change mitigation. An intact mangrove forest will also help local communities and an overall district from climate risks, such as storms and sea level rise. In long run, continuous data collection will help us see the migrating pattern of migratory birds, which closely relate to climate change pattern in their home countries.
KSLH-Aceh of project in Cinta Raja offers not only knowledge but also alternative income to local community through bird watching tourism. Beside running bird based eco-tourism as an alternative livelihood, local community could also develop additional opportunities such as opening cafe, providing tour guide services, and offering boat rental services. The village, especially village leaders, already had awareness to protect the birds and support bird monitoring initiative. A bird club has also been established to involve young citizens in bird watching and protection, and potentially have them functioning as ecotourism guides. The local community has been trained to start community-based monitoring e.g. of poaching activities. On a different level, the village leaders, district government, and related agencies have developed a village regulation to protect the birds along with the habitat and regulate the eco-tourism activity. This regulation will allow the community to receive fees based on the standards and forbit any illegal activities damaging the mangrove forest and the birds. Through the increased awareness, an alternative livelihood, and a regulation we expect them to stop poaching birds and destroying mangrove forests.
There are 3 components of theory of change in which local community was involved during this project implementation. First, in the lobby and advocacy to develop a village regulation, which we received appreciation from district government. The regulation was made through a participatory approach. The village leaders and women representatives had full access and control on the content of the regulation. The village and the district government believe it can give a big impact to the village.
Second, they were fully involved in raising awareness where we held forum group discussions with village and sub-district leaders, local society, and other CSOs to discuss potentials of Cinta Raja village. As a result, they are aware of disadvantages if they poach birds and understood why they should protect the birds. It was shown by their enthusiasm in starting the bird-watching tourism. The head of village has also allocated a specific village budget for this initiative; the community group were given an instruction to conduct patrol and warn poachers, supported by the village budget.
Third, local community have been actively involved in bird monitoring (data collection). They were trained and formed a group of youth who are capable on using the monitoring tools. In these 3 components we involved approximately 25 local people including village officials, local youth, CSO, and government.
Changed behavior and practice could be observed from behavior and participation of the village leaders, CSO, women, and district government which reflects their awareness in protecting the birds and its habitat. The youth that participated in the monitoring and capacity development, who are also part of the village-owned enterprises (BUMG), has shown strong interest in observing the birds. After the trainings, they have been monitoring and bringing visitors on their own. They also raised awareness of other community who hunt birds in their village. The picture below shows the head of BUMG who stopped poachers to warn and inform about the village regulation.
Head of village has also been very enthusiastic to promote their village as a bird tourism area. With the prepared BUMG, given skills and knowledge, and budget from the village, they are optimist that this initiative could have significant impacts in the future. The village regulation is being followed up by the leader; he instructed to conduct regular patrol to stop poaching activities. The village regulation and the statement of village leader and district government is provided at the end of this report.
The location of this pilot is a mangrove forest. Knowledge and information about bird protection will lead to mangrove protection as well. Mangrove forests play an important role in the protection of coastal areas such as fortifications to curb the rate of coastal abrasion and withstand waves of sea. This will reduce the impact of climate change received by community. It is also expected that bird watching activities can reduce mangrove logging, hopefully even more significant when it provides alternative livelihood to local community. Engagement with the government is also part of a lobby process to reduce land conversion. In this area, the issue of food/water security is closely related to climate change as most people depend on fishery in coastal area.
To date, the local communities have learned how to live side by side with the birds, using the same area. It is proven by harvest patterns at fishponds. They now harvest fish and shrimps in the evening; because during day times, birds are using their fishponds to find food. Local communities in Cinta Raja village also see birds as an indicator that fishes or shrimps in their fishponds suffer from disease, such as Egreta and Heron. When the community find these birds in their fishponds, they will immediately harvest even though the fish or shrimps are not ready.
Protecting the birds means ensuring the balance in community’s livelihood and maintaining the mangrove forest as their habitat. Which will affect the food system within the community and ensure the existence of mangrove forest as both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Having an intact mangrove forest will improve the community’s resilience in dealing with climate change impacts. Of course, the effect will be more significant when upscaled to many other villages.