Tambak’ is the common Indonesian name for a brackish water fish pond, classically supporting a polyculture of milkfish (Chanos chanos) and brackish water shrimp. There is historical evidence of 400 year old tambak in South Sulawesi, naturally constructed in the lower meanders of river estuaries. Not until 1964, in response to increasing demand from Japan for shrimp (a result of post-World War II affluence) did large-scale expansion and intensification of culture occur in tambak. In 1984/85, the Indonesian central government developed policies to ramp up expansion and intensification, through the INTAM program, which targeted twelve provinces in Indonesia. Much of the increase in tambak coverage took place in mangrove forests, as both mangroves and tambak require tidal flooding and adequate drainage.
Dozens of villages in South Sulawesi are rediscovering traditional farming methods that improve their diets as well as their families’ finances. Through coastal field schools offered by Blue Forests, villagers are learning to make organic fertilizer and cultivate organic vegetable gardens. Blue Forests also offers field schools for organic shrimp farming, as conventional shrimp farms are a huge detriment to coastal ecosystems including mangroves.
While successful examples of large-scale (5 000-10 000 ha) ecological wetland/mangrove rehabilitation projects exist worldwide, mangrove rehabilitation efforts in Indonesia, both large and small, have mainly failed. The majority of projects (both government programs and non-government initiatives) have oversimplified the technical processes of mangrove rehabilitation, favouring the direct planting of a restricted subset of mangrove species (from the family Rhizophoracea), commonly in the lower half of the intertidal system (from Mean Sea Level down to Lowest Atmospheric Tide) where mangroves, by and large, do not naturally grow.
About an hour into the boat ride from Takalar City (population, 10,000)in South Sulawesi, we begin to see empty plastic bottles floating on the surface of the sea—thousands of them. These are not the younger kin of the great garbage flotilla purportedly washed together in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.