Helping fishing communities in Indonesia cope with climate change

Yasinta is part of Majelis Nelayan Bersatu, a fisherfolk association that fights for the rights of fishing communities around the Indonesian city of Kupan. Yasinta has no doubts about it: the problems fisherfolk face every day are the direct consequence of a changing climate.

“Nowadays, it’s extremely difficult to take the boats out to sea. The winds are unpredictable and the waves are sky high. The unpredictability of the weather is totally linked to the climate crisis.”

Tropical cyclone Seroja

In April 2021, Indonesia and East Timor were hit by the tropical cyclone Seroja. Nearly three hundred people lost their lives and tens of thousands of houses were destroyed. The fishing community of Kupang also fell victim to the storm. “Fisherfolk lost their boats and fishing materials. Us too. We were no longer fisherfolk, but victims. We had to start all over again,” Yasinta said. According to Indonesia’s national metrological institute, the BMGK, cyclone Seroja was a direct consequence of climate change.

When Yasinta and other fishermen go to sea now, they need to rent boats, which is extremely expensive. “You can build one, but for that you first need capital. This can be gotten through loans, but these are only affordable when the interest rates are low.” Loans with low interest rates are exactly what Yasinta’s organization lobbies the local government for.

Hivos’ Voices for Just Climate Action program supports them in this and with their other work. “We also desperately need breakwaters to protect the boats against the waves. Without them, potential new boats would also get damaged again.” According to Yasinta, the world needs to adapt to a new climate reality. Climate justice can only be realized if the communities that are hit hardest within this new reality are heard loud and clear.

Photo: Adi Yuda