Mangrove forests are highly productive ecosystems, providing a range of important ecosystem services. However it is estimated that 35 percent of mangrove forests were lost globally in the last two decades of the 20th century, and in Indonesia nearly half of all mangroves have been lost in the last 50 years. A range of factors associated with the decentralisation of natural resource governance across Indonesia's coastal zone, most notably conversion of mangrove forests to aquaculture ponds, have contributed to the loss of mangrove forests and associated provisioning and regulating services. This has significant implications for the coastal communities dependent upon the ecosystem services provided by mangrove forests for their livelihoods.
An understanding of how one makes their livelihood is essential to understanding the vulnerability context of marginalised communities. Several researchers have applied the Sustainable Livelihood Approach to understand the livelihood strategies and vulnerabilities of mangrove-dwelling communities but few studies have clearly incorporated a gender analysis, resulting in women being homogenised as a category and their diverse triple roles compressed into invisible support positions. The incorporation of gender analysis into NRM programmes and research is argued to be important for reasons of efficiency, equity and improved policy implementation. It also offers critical insights into social and power relations that are essential for understanding the resilience of socio-ecological systems, the vulnerability of livelihood trajectories and the successful implementation of policies. This is of relevance in light of a recent trend in development programmes combining alternative livelihood and mangrove restoration projects, seeking win-win poverty-environment outcomes.
This PhD research aims to explore the gender dimensions and vulnerabilities of livelihood strategies in a case study of mangrove-dwelling communities in Indonesia. It will investigate gendered livelihood strategies within the broader social context that has historically and will continue to determine how mangrove forests are used and managed into the future. The gendered analysis will be extended by exploring community perceptions of mangrove health, ability to provide ecosystem services and of threats to the mangrove forests and their livelihoods. Finally, the research will investigate the gendered impacts of community-based mangrove management groups in challenging the social and power relations and improving livelihood trajectories.
The research is of value because it will broaden the livelihoods discourse to mangrove-dwelling communities; and by combining SLA with a gendered social relations analysis, will provide contextual insight into the factors hindering livelihood trajectories. It will also extend knowledge of the utility of community-based mangrove management groups to empower marginalised groups and improve social equity.