Tsunami, fisheries and 10 years of research partnership in Indonesia

Tuesday, 17 February, 2009

A celebration has been held to mark the involvement of UNSW researchers in a 10-year partnership on sustainable, brackish-water aquaculture in Indonesia.

Funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia, the partnership has also involved the Research Institute for Coastal Aquaculture (RICA) and Gadjah Mada University.

The celebration took place on 28 January 2009 in South Sulawesi and was attended by stakeholders from various government organisations and shrimp-farming communities.

Dr Jesmond Sammut, the Australian Project leader of the ACIAR-funded work said: "The event was held to celebrate the success of the partnership model and to highlight the achievement of the various projects, including considerable contributions to the reconstruction efforts in Aceh.

"During the past 10 years we have built significant research capacity to support the restoration of thousands of hectares of formerly abandoned or degraded shrimp and fish farms. The projects have also developed site-selection criteria and planning tools to help farmers and government agencies to target development in suitable areas thereby minimising environmental and social impacts.

"In 2005, we began work in Aceh where over 20,000 ha of shrimp and fish farms were damaged by the tsunami. The success of our previous research in South Sulawesi enabled us to quickly transfer effective technologies to Aceh.

"With ACIAR's help, we initiated a technical capacity-building program four months after the tsunami to help fisheries agencies involved in the reconstruction programs to apply best management practices."

Many fisheries staff and resources were lost during the tsunami, and the team initially focussed on building a core research and extension team that could then train other staff and farmers spread across Aceh.

This included field and laboratory training in soil management, pond engineering and alternative aquaculture systems.

"We also mapped over 470,000 ha of problem soil types, including sandy and acid-producing soils that could impact on the reconstruction of aquaculture ponds and the rehabilitation of farming areas," Dr Sammut said.

"Our sister project, the Aceh Aquaculture Rehabilitation Project (funded by AusAID and ACIAR), constructed new laboratories at the local aquaculture centre and has been working with us through the establishment of demonstration farms and the implementation of extension programs."

 "Our projects have helped farming communities, NGOs, research institutes and extension agencies in the provinces of South Sulawesi, South East Sulawesi, Aceh, Lampung and parts of Java.  In 1998 we established a national soil testing laboratory and coastal mapping centre in South Sulawesi to support aquaculture management in Indonesia.  The facilities created by the ACIAR project, with support from the Government of Indonesia, have continued to expand and now provide research services to many other projects."

Dr Akhmad Mustafa, local Project leader and UNSW graduate said: "The ACIAR projects have enabled the Government of Indonesia to strategically plan coastal development and to remediate formerly disused or degraded aquaculture ponds. The capacity building of the research institutes, technical implementation units and extension services has underpinned the Government's programs to revitalise the industry and protect the coastal environment from over development."

Dr Jes Sammut, +61 2 9385 8281 in Australia or
Dr Akhmad Mustafa, +62 411 371 544 in Indonesia.