The area of mangrove forest in West Papua is the largest compared to other provinces in Indonesia. According to data from Conservation International Indonesia (CII), the area reaches 482,029 hectares out of a total of 3.49 million hectares of mangrove forests in Indonesia.
Mangroves play role as a barrier to coastal abrasion and carbon storage. However, it is undeniable that the mangrove ecosystem is also often used to support the welfare of the people on the coast of West Papua.
Although mangrove forests in in this province are extensive, researchers in the Mangrove Expedition of the Econusa Foundation, found that the utilization of mangrove ecosystems by coastal communities around mangrove forests is still low. This is because they have alternative uses for other natural resources and do not depend on mangroves.
The 2019 Mangrove Expedition Report fronted by several researchers from the University of Papua and the Balitbangda West Papua stated that in general, local communities on the southern coast of this province utilize the mangrove forest ecosystem to look for forest products to meet their daily needs such as fish, shellfish, sea cucumbers crabs, and shrimp.
From these findings, it has not been seen that the use of mangroves on a large scale in the expedition area in 9 villages and 5 districts on the coast of West Papua. So, what are the potentials that can be obtained from the use of mangroves that can be done on the coast of this province?
The utilization of mangroves can penetrate into ecotourism. According to the Mangrove Expedition researcher from the Faculty of Forestry, University of Papua, Jimmy F. Wanma, plans like ecotourism have been widely discussed among academics, practitioners, and bureaucrats who care about forestry issues.
While enjoying the view of the mangrove trees, tourists can do activities such as bird watching to observing the life of traditional people around the mangrove vegetation. That is an activity that, according to Jimmy, can be offered a mangrove ecotourism package.
2. Export Wood
In a number of coastal villages in this province, the community uses mangrove wood to support buildings, such as building houses or churches. Mangrove wood can also have added value when it is produced and processed again on an industrial scale.
Jimmy said that the mangroves on the coast of West Papua in terms of composition, age, and tree diameter have met the requirements for the wood to be used to meet the needs of the community. But it still has to pay attention to the rules, must pay attention to sustainability and procedures for taking that do not damage the environment, Jimmy added.
3. MSME Products
In other parts of Indonesia, local mangrove farmers use mangroves as processed products for SMEs. For example, in Mangunharjo, Semarang, the Mangrove Lestari Farmer Group processes mangroves as food, syrup, and batik dye.
The Ocean Program Manager of the Econusa Foundation, Wiro Wirandi, also highlighted this. According to him, in the Mangrove Expedition, there is no community has been found that processes mangroves for such products. This is considered because there is no market that can absorb the results of these kind of SMEs products, especially in the area concerned.
4. Mangrove Research Center
Jimmy suggested that the use of mangroves on the coast of this province could also be used for educational purposes. One of them is by building a mangrove research center.
He thought that probably people in Southeast Asia or in the world who want to learn about mangroves come to West Papua, are placed in a place where the mangroves are complete in structure and formation, come and learn how the structure and formation of the largest mangrove that they have, can be used as material for education too.
In addition, researchers, according to him, will be helped if there is a research center in the middle of the forest that is in good condition and free from disturbances.