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					Sea Cucumber
A PROMISING MAINSTAY COMMODITY

Sea Cucumber A Promising Mainstay Commodity
By: Reina Asmedi, Programme Assistant and Media Officer – Sustainable Livelihood Programme OGB Indonesia Office

Not many people have heard of sea cucumber, yet among the middle and upper classes in Asia, especially in China and Japan, there is great demand for sea cucumber, particularly for their high nutritional content and health-giving properties. The selling price of sea cucumber has risen in line with increasing demand from importers for this commodity. But can small fishers of sea cucumber, such as La Ende (29), from Barangka village, Bau-Bau, Southeast Sulawesi, benefit from this opportunity to improve their family economies?
La Ende Photo by: JPKP

I

ndonesia has around 17,000 islands and roughly 81,000 km of coastline. With the natural and climatic conditions varying little the year round, its coastal waters are home to an abundance of biota of economic importance. Like other coastal communities, those in Buton- Southeast Sulawesi, rely on marine resources as their main source of income. One of these resources is sea cucumber. This marine commodity has good prospects and a high economic value on both the local and international markets (Europe, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and the United States). These elongated, cylindrical soft-bodied animals are also known as teripang, suala, beche-de-mer (in French), and on the international market are known by the name teat fish.

La Ende’s net’s cage (keramba) Photo by: Reina/Oxfam

Like other coastal dwellers, La Ende, a small fisher in Barangka village, depends on nature’s generosity to provide fish and sea cucumber to meet his family’s economic needs. His experience as a fisher began in his youth, when he had to help his parents support their family by means of catching fish and collecting sea cucumber. As a result of having this fairly heavy economic burden, La Ende turned his hand to whatever he could to earn a decent income, even using explosives to fish in the coastal waters of Palabusa, Uncume (Rahia village), and in the waters of Kapontori bay. Many fishers in this area used such methods to catch fish, making use of the vast stores of explosives in their villages left over from the Japanese occupation. But as this store of explosives dwindled, local people began making their own explosives from urea fertiliser. This use of explosives caused damage and depletion of the marine resources, such as fish and sea cucumber, that fishers like La Ende had relied on for so long. The other method was used by many fishers for long period is harvest all size of sea-cucumber in the nature without concern about economic or non economic price of sea cucumber size. Sea cucumbers serve a vitally important ecological, filtering ocean sediments and recycling nutrients back into the food web. Their eggs are also necessary as a food source for many other marine species. Since sea cucumber populations grow very slowly, they can take decades to recover from serious exploitations. This situation prompted La Ende to find a solution to this problem. He has tried out several methods of cultivating sea cu-

Type*) of sea cucumber (teat fish) *) local name STR (low quality mix) Duyung CRDI (medium quality mix) Susu Polos Susu Bintik Gamma

SS I (good quality mix) *) local name Source: JPKP Buton and Yayasan Lintas

Price fishers receive per kg dry weight (average) Rp 7,000/kg (US$ 0,8) Rp 10,000/kg (US$ 1,2) Rp 20,000/kg (US$ 2,4) Rp 27,500/kg (US$ 3,3) Rp 32,500/kg (US$ 3,8) Rp 130,000/kg (US$ 15,3) Rp 130,000/kg (US$ 15,3)

Price on the international market (average) Rp 42,000/kg (US$ 5) Rp 60,000/kg (US$ 7) Rp 120,000/kg (US$ 14) Rp 165,000/kg (US$ 20) Rp 195,000/kg (US$ 23) Rp 780,000/kg (US$ 92) Rp 780,000/kg (US$ 92)

Average annual income of target fishers Rp 1,400,000 (US$ 164) Rp 2,000,000 (US$ 235) Rp 4,000,000 (US$ 470) Rp 5,500,000 (US$ 647) Rp 6,500,000 (US$ 764) Rp 26,000,000 (US$ 3,058) Rp 26,000,000 (US$ 3,058) US$ 1 = Rp 8,500

cumber, such as constructing 25m x 25m net’s cage known there as keramba, in the waters of Laumbora bay off Barangka village and filling them with sea cucumber taken from the wild. His awareness of the importance of conserving the environment grew when he got involved and started working in partnership with LINTAS one of local NGOs in 2002. The intensive assistance and support from LINTAS brought about drastic changes for La Ende, and he began move away from the destructive practice of using explosives to catch fish. His hard work and patience has begun to pay off. Between June 2002 and March 2003, La Ende harvested his sea cucumber three times, yielding a total of 13.5 kg worth Rp 678,000 (US$ 80) on the market. The varieties he has sold include sand teat (Holothuria scabra), pink teat (Holothuria edulis), common Superior quality sea cucumber Photo by: JPKP black teat (Holothuria vagabunda), red teat (Holothuria vatiensis) and brown teat (Holothuria marmorata). The number of sea cucumber (teat fish) per kilogram varies from

Various types of sea cucumber in La ende’s Keramba Photo by: Juanita/Oxfam

around 30 sea cucumbers per kilogram for lower quality to 2 sea cucumbers per kilogram for the superior. The local selling price also varies depend on quality, from around Rp 7,000/kg to Rp 130,000/kg. Prices on the international market are around 5 – 7 times higher. La Ende could in fact have earned more if his keramba was not been damaged by a storm in February 2003. While providing an abundance of natural resources, nature has also posed La Ende his toughest challenges. To avoid further storm damage, La Ende and LINTAS adopted an improved technique of construction to make the keramba stronger, and now he has about a thousand of sea cucumber ready for harvesting. Following in La Ende’s footsteps, another keramba has now being constructed there by other group. As there is considerable demand for sea cucumber, La Ende is able to sell his produce on the local market. But, does La Ende satisfied with the price set by the middlemen? The main problem for small producers in Buton is a long transaction chain before the produce reaches the end purchaser. In this system, it is the middlemen who reap the greatest profits. The middlemen have the capital, information and networks so they are able to set the prices of commodities such as sea cucumber. In general, middlemen purchase commodities from fishers at the lowest prices possible and sell them at maximum profit to the end purchaser, which in the case of the sea cucumber trade, are exporters. To help small fishers like La Ende, JPKP-Buton (Buton Coastal Area Development) and LINTAS, which has been supported by Oxfam GB since 2002, have approached and negotiated with several

exporters of marine commodities in Bau-Bau, Buton, Southeast Sulawesi. These efforts have borne fruit with three trading companies, Anugrah Hasil Alam, UD. Buton Artha Bahari and UD Kaofe, which have agreed to cooperate in supporting the lives of small fishers. Facilitated by JPKP, meetings have been set up between these companies and La Ende as well as groups of other small fishers. Although this initiative is still in the initial stages, these meetings have resulted in several agreements being made between the two parties. The most important of these is that selling price of the sea cucumber will be jointly settle on by the fishers and the trading companies. Applying clear and generally accepted criteria, these trading companies have also set standards for the quality and quantity of sea cucumber. In order that the fishers are able to meet the quality standards required by these companies, several key commitments have been made to the fishers groups: the companies will provide capitalisation support and transfer of knowledge on how to improve post-harvest quality, so that, the sea cucumber fetch a better price. All these partnership agreements and commitments have been made in writing. A good partnership has been built and developed; the greatest challenge now is how to maintain this mutually beneficial partnership so that La Ende and the other small fishers can benefit from this opportunity to improve their economies.

Average income of sea cucumber fishers from this project: Example of a minimum harvest from an investment of Rp 6,000,000 (US$ 706). • • • • 4,000 gamma sea cucumber juvenile 160 kg of dried produce Selling price for dried gamma sea cucumber = Rp 130,000/ kg (US$ 15.3) 160 kg x Rp 130,000 = Rp 20,800,000 (US$ 2,447) per harvest (cultivation period of 6 – 7 months, harvest twice a year).

Right to Sustainable Livelihood
SCO 1.1 Food and income security for poor producers, both men and women, especially rice farmers in Java and smallholder plantation farmers and fishers outside Java, achieved through appropriate economic and social policies and programmes of governments, multilateral institutions and civil society groups.

Written by Reina Asmedi, with thanks to Yani from JPKP and Yayasan Lintas staff. Photos by Reina Asmedi/Oxfam, Juanita/Oxfam, and Yani/ JPKP.

Oxfam GB - Indonesia Office
Puri Gejayan Indah Blok B No. 20A, Yogyakarta 55281—Indonesia Phone / fax: +62 - 274 - 584722 Email: oxfam-ids@oxfam.or.id http://www.oxfam.org.uk http://www.oxfamgb.org/eastasia


				
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