1. Introduction. I propose to carry out an ethnographic study of marine resource use and management in two coastal communities in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. This study will focus on local knowledge of the coral reef environment upon which local fishers rely for both food and cash income. It will answer important questions about how the reef and its resources are conceptualized and utilized by community members. It will also seek to uncover how the degradation of the reef environment from over-exploitation and destructive fishing practices by both local and outside fishers is understood at the local community level.
This study expands upon earlier fieldwork on indigenous knowledge and practice among deep-water navigators residing on the island of Balobaloang, a small island village in South Sulawesi (Ammarell 1995a, 1995b, 1999, 2002). Over time, residents of the island have become increasingly vocal about the deterioration of the surrounding reef and the economic resources it provides, especially the fish upon which villagers depend for daily subsistence. I propose to return to South Sulawesi to continue to map and identify the reef and its resources, focusing on local conceptions of the marine environment and its degradation. This will provide essential information for a larger project, the goal of which is to enable members of coastal and marine communities in South Sulawesi in their search for ways to maintain sustainable livelihoods through sustainable resource management in an expanding globalized market economy.
This study of knowledge and practice in Indonesian fishing communities is grounded in several traditions of inquiry, including those of ethnoecology, cognitive anthropology, and applied anthropology. Its interdisciplinary approach combines anthropological attention to cultural context with the detailed knowledge of natural science necessary to both elicit and interpret empirical data. It will provide two case studies. The first case study is concerned with the change in cognitive systems associated with the introduction of new and often destructive technologies used in the exploitation of marine resources and the resultant increased competition for these resources due to increasing market demands. The second case study concerns the role of indigenous knowledge and practice in participatory, bottom-up development projects. These studies will contribute to regional and global efforts in conservation and environmental justice.
2. Study Areas: Fishing Knowledge and Practice in South Sulawesi. Concentrated human populations along coastal areas in Sulawesi, as well as in other parts of Indonesia, have resulted in the overexploitation and degradation of marine resources. These rapidly growing populations threaten and stress the coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grasses which support an enormous array of fish, mammal, bird, reptile, and invertebrate species. The development of these marine resources has made a significant contribution to the local and national economies. However, this development occurs at considerable environmental and human cost. This, in turn, reduces income and quality of life for the coastal populations. Two sites, both under pressure due to over-exploitation of marine resources, have been selected for this project.
The Sabalana Archipelago, located 100 miles SSW of Makassar, is made up of thirty islands spread across two coral reefs; together these reefs occupy an area of nearly 700 square kilometers. The various communities who occupy these islands rely upon combinations of fishing and inter-island shipping and trade for their livelihoods. The island of Balobaloang where I have carried out ethnographic research since 1988, is populated by ethnic Bugis who make a living aboard trading ships and rely upon fish for subsistence. The neighboring islands of Sabaru and Sumanga’ are populated by ethnic Makassar who are primarily commercial fishers and are blamed for much of the bombing and resource depletion by the people of Balobaloang. Complex kin networks link these communities, and destructive fishing practices by members of each community as well as more remote islands have reduced fish populations.
The Spermonde Archipelago includes a large number of islands located on the western shelf of South Sulawesi and near major population centers. Marine resources in the Spermonde Archipelago have long been under severe pressure due to over-exploitation. Barrang Lompo, one of the larger islands and a site for this study, is located very close to the mainland and has a population of about 3000. If not committed to destructive fishing methods, the fishers of Barrang Lompo, like those of Balobaloang, must travel increasing distances to reach productive fishing grounds. In addition, marketing is generally handled through a system called Ponggawa-Sawi ‘boss-client’, in which fish catches are bought up by private merchants who also extend credit and provide explosives and cyanide to fishers. With few alternatives for making a living and indebted to these bosses, increasing poverty has become a permanent condition among members of the coastal communities of these islands.
While many of the marine species found along the coast of South Sulawesi have been catalogued by biologists (e.g. Nontji 1987; Whitten, Mustafa, and Henderson 1987) and local fishing technologies have been recorded (Matthes, B.F. 1874), there are very few ethnographic studies of particular South Sulawesi coastal and marine communities that focus on local knowledge of marine environment and use of its resources (e.g., Broch 1985).
3. Theoretical Framework. As Dove has so succinctly pointed out, “Successful development, however defined, is most likely to be achieved if... traditional knowledge is both appreciated and utilized” (1985:384). “Ethnoecology,” according to Brosius, is the study of the ways in which members of indigenous communities “organize and classify their knowledge of the environment and environmental processes” (Brosius et al., 1986:187-8). Ethnoecological studies in a variety of local communities has provided us with significant insights as to the variety of ways in which local populations, operating within socially-constructed systems of knowledge and values, have adapted to their natural environments. Moreover, these studies have revealed how changes in the natural environment inform and are informed by perceptions, resource use, and social organization. In Southeast Asia, important work has been carried out in the study of indigenous foraging and cultivation systems (e.g., Conklin 1954, 1957; Freeman 1955; Frake 1962; Geertz 1963; Geddes 1976; Condominas 1977; Bulmer 1978; Kunstadter, Chapman and Sabhasri 1978; Dove 1985; Brosius 1990). While there are several ethnoecological studies of coastal and marine communities in other parts of Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific (see Broch 1998; Firth 1975 (1966); Hviding 1992; Johannes 1977; Lapian and Kazufumi 1966; Lowe 2000; Zerner 2002), little work has thus far been carried out in South Sulawesi.
Recent work in cognitive anthropology suggests ways in which variation and change, less tractable in earlier ethno-linguistic approaches, can be analyzed (Hutchins 1995; Keller and Keller 1996; Lave 1988). Practice models allow the ethnographer to explore not only what people can say about what they know, but also, as Hutchins puts it, “how they go about knowing what they know and ... the contribution of the (natural and human) environments in which the knowing is accomplished” (1995:xii). In this way human cognition itself comes to be seen as a cultural and social process, one which is socially constituted, distributed, and contested. Such an approach promises more incisive analyses of the changing patterns of resource utilization among local fishers, as well as their perceptions of their changing environment.
Research on sustainable development in Southeast Asia and elsewhere strongly suggests that community involvement at every level of project development is important (Parnwell and Bryant 1996; Braganza 1996; Hirsch 1990; Poffenberger 1990; Sage 1996; King 1999). In emerging market economies of Southeast Asia and elsewhere, conservation is often overridden by demands for short-term profits, while chronic poverty and environmental degradation appear to feedback on one another in a continuous downward spiral. Balancing conservation of the resource with the basic economic needs of local people who regularly depend upon the resource as well as with outside business and governmental interests is highly complex and may initially appear to be intractable. A commitment to environmental justice, based upon what one study refers to as ‘sustainable livelihood” (Sage 1996) begins with an understanding of the importance of the integrity of the ecosystem and protection of the environment, the well-being of members of local communities, and participatory, bottom-up community-based strategies that respect local knowledge and traditional practices. These studies suggest that to the extent they are so empowered, local people will realize the benefits of changes which they have helped to develop and will work to maintain sustainability for themselves and their progeny.
4. Questions Addressed.
a. What are the marine resources known to and exploited by local fishers and other stakeholders? Which species of flora and fauna are known to local fishers? How are these species named and categorized? On the island of Balobaloang, where I have conducted preliminary research on this subject, local fishers have so far named and identified 70 species of flora and fauna known to inhabit the reef, nearly all having economic value. I will continue to elicit and record the local names and categories of marine life and identify them according to international scientific taxonomies at both research sites.
b. How do local fishers and others mentally map the surrounding reef? Using sketch maps drawn by local fishers and pre-drawn basemaps of the coastal and marine environment, I will ask fishers and others to locate familiar habitats such as the coral reef itself, islands, seagrass beds, mangroves, beaches, etc., relying on their own categories and terminology.
c. Which habitats do they exploit? What species of flora and fauna are utilized? How are these species located, harvested, and utilized? Working with these sketch maps and base maps, I will elicit information from local fishers and other stakeholders about each of the marine habitats described as well as their resources.
d. How is the exploitation of the reef and its resources being affected by the introduction of new fishing technologies and how are these changes understood by local fishers and other community members? What do they see as problems and prospects for the long-term exploitation of the reef and its resources? Again referring to the sketch and base maps, I will elicit concerns about such issues as blast fishing, use of poisons, commercial fishing, and pollution, attending to local constructions of these issues.
e. How do local knowledge and practice actively inform and influence the direction of the larger development project and how are they transformed by the project? As the larger project is implemented, I will participate in and record conversations between project personnel, local fishers, government officials, and other stakeholders, attending to the ways in which local knowledge and practice is incorporated into and transformed by participation in the project.
5. Methodology. Fieldwork will be carried out within several villages in the Sabalana and Spermonde Archipelagos of South Sulawesi and aboard fishing boats of those villages. Information will be gathered through participant-observation: living in the communities for one year and working alongside local fishers. Community members will be asked to map the reef environment, locating and identifying flora and fauna in the local languages of Bugis and Makassar as well in Indonesian. Discussions and interviews concerning the use and degradation of the reef will be recorded, and local concerns will be identified (Walters 1988).
South Sulawesi was chosen for two reasons: 1) There have been no such studies focusing on South Sulawesi, and 2) The co-investigators are already thoroughly familiar with one or the other of the two sites proposed. The two sites, comparable in many ways, have been chosen for this study based upon their differing proximities to the mainland, population sizes, and rates of ecological degradation.
Building upon my earlier research and the connections which I have established with local families, I intend to initiate my new study on Balobaloang and the adjacent islands of Sumanga’ and Subaru, surveying sample households about their reliance on marine resources and their perception of reef degeneration. Although large areas of the surrounding reef have already been severely damaged by blast fishing, because the populations of these islands numbers only in the hundreds and many islanders rely on coconut silvaculture and interisland trade for their livelihoods, much of the reef may still be in good shape. Once this study is underway, I will begin a parallel study on several of the islands of the Spermonde Archipelago, including the island of Barrang Lompo. Situated 12 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Makassar, one of the islands, Barrang Lompo, is the site of Hasanuddin University’s Center for Coral Reef Studies. I will work closely with a local anthropologist and others at the Center.
Before entering into interviews, I will spend time in the villages, along the coasts, and in fishing boats simply listening to local fishers and other stakeholders discuss the coastal area and their livelihoods. As a participant/observer, I intend to join several skilled local fishers both on shore and at sea as they carry out their trade over the course of a full year. Seasonally changing wind, weather, and migratory patterns inform the activity of fishers, while periods of especially high winds confine them to shore. Because the populations under study include subsistence as well as commercial fishers, I plan to fish and study with representatives of each category.
Previous experience indicates that detailed descriptions of features of the marine environment, such as local names and categories of marine species, their habitats, and uses, are best arrived at through direct questioning of fishers aboard their boats and on land, both individually and in group discussions. On the other hand, the ways in which marine resources are located and harvested may be less tractable. In these cases, indirect questioning, overheard conversation, and observation may play a more important role. Recalling that expert knowledge is often represented and communicated in simpler, more concrete terms than those in which they are actually conceived by the expert (e.g. Ammarell 1999; Frake 1994), learning how resources are located will involve the use of sketch maps, elicitation of meanings of directional terms and natural features of the seascape, joining in conversations among groups of fishers, as well as working under the supervision of local fishers. Finally, methods for harvesting marine resources may be seen as proprietary or incriminating. For example, individual fishers may be reluctant to admit to using destructive technologies such as blast fishing or cyanide poisoning to harvest fish. In this case, it may be necessary to ask a number of villagers if such practices are carried out by unidentified “others,” their frequency, and associated costs and profits.
Although I can carry out conversations with fishermen in Indonesian, the strong linguistic component of folk classification demands that interviews be carried out in the local languages of Bugis and Makassar. In addition, valuable information would be lost without the ability to understand overheard conversation among fishers and other villagers. I also have a working knowledge of Bugis and plan to learn some Makassar; I will rely on a trained field assistant when working among Makassar speakers. Together, we will tape, transcribe, translate and discuss interviews and develop new research questions and strategies.
6. Significance. This study is part of a larger interdisciplinary and international project whose purpose it is to find ways to enable members of coastal and marine communities in South Sulawesi as they search for ways to maintain sustainable livelihoods through sustainable resource management. Other members of the project team from Ohio University and Hasanuddin University will undertake specialized research in the areas of political ecology and coral reef ecology. Taken together, these studies will contribute to a larger participatory coastal resource assessment. Once underway, we expect to seek additional funding for a multi-year project which will, in the long-term, will enable and empower community members, often with little formal education and living below the poverty line, to monitor the health of the reef and its resources, to advocate for their communities with government officials and marketers of marine products, to develop alternative and diverse ways of making a living, and to share “best practices” with members of other regional coastal and marine communities.
This ethnographic study will form the foundation for the rest of this project. Before team members can begin to discuss the sustainable management of marine resources with community members, a thorough assessment of the resources as they are locally conceptualized must be completed. Thus, the results of this study will provide crucial ethnographic and ethnoscientific information with which team members, local stakeholders, and government officials will be able to identify and begin to resolve marine resource management problems.
7. Research Contacts and Affiliations. Important contacts have already been established between myself and other researchers and between our respective institutions. A memo of understanding will be signed in December, 2002, linking the Center for Coral Reef Studies at Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia, and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Ohio University. This document will serve to officially recognize and lend support to a joint effort to promote general scientific cooperation in research, education, and training in the fields of integrated coastal and marine management.
For the duration of the project, I will be in consultation with members of the project team from both institutions and with members of the Lembaga Maritim Nusantara (Archiphelagic Maritime Institute), an NGO located in Makassar, whose activities include socio-economic assessment, research on indigenous knowledge and practice, and development of community-based enterprises associated with sustainable use of coastal and maritime resources. Colleagues at Hasanuddin University include Dr. Iqbal Djawad, Head of Aquatic Animal Physiology Laboratory and Lecturer in Marine Science and Fisheries and Drs. Munsi Lampe, Lecturer, Anthropology Department, Hasanuddin University.
Required research permits will be secured from the Lembaga Ilmu Pengatahuan Indonesia ‘Indonesian Academy of Science’ and professional papers and reports that result from this research will credit the cooperation and contributions of faculty at Hasanuddin University, and copies will be sent to both the University and to the Academy.
Upon returning to the U.S. at the end of my sabbatical year, I intend to design a new seminar based upon the results of this project. Such a course will attract undergraduate majors in anthropology, international studies and environmental biology and graduate students in environmental studies and Southeast Asian studies. From this seminar, I hope to recruit students to carry out research in Sulawesi as part of the larger, long-term project.