News / 17 December 2014

Indonesian organisations: “Give the fish back to the people!”

Sophia lives in a small village in Puncak, along the river Ciliwung, around 500 km upstream from Jakarta where it flows into the ocean. The river is her life: she drinks from it, cleans in it, cooks with it and uses it to water the crops on her small plot. But many others want to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the cool climate as well. The forests and land surrounding Sophia’s village are being cleared for villa’s, restaurants, tea plantations and new settlements. The increased amount of waste and a lack of sanitation have polluted the river. For Sophia it’s getting harder and harder to find any clean water nowadays. People in the villages further down the stream are complaining about the plastic waste that ends up on their riverbanks, the reduced

fish catches and the water that’s becoming increasingly dirty. And even further to the North, in Jakarta, floods are occurring more frequently. This is all because of land conversions upstream in the South, they say in Jakarta.


Give the people back its fish

The clearing of land for agriculture and construction in vulnerable, upstream areas and along riverbanks is leading to floods, pollution and decreased fish populations worldwide. In most cases, local people have no say in this.  They see their fish catches and their access to clean water decline and they are not able to do anything about it. “This must change, and in the past years we’ve shown that this is very well possible”, says Christa Nooy form Both ENDS. Recently, she was in Indonesia, where she has been working with several local organisations for years, to make river management as sustainable, fair and participatory as possible. These five organisations have now come up with a statement, in which they state they will improve river basin management by collaborating with the people living in the areas, and at the same time with the local government and other stakeholders, like companies that use and pollute water.  “We will give fish back to the people!” is their slogan.


Headquarters in Africa

This approach, the so-called ‘Negotiated Approach’, is not new. Decades ago, this method was designed in India and for years now it has been used in practice by Both ENDS and its partners worldwide – with success. In various river basins in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Peru, local organisations have succeeded in getting all stakeholders to collectively decide about sustainable management and fair distribution of the water from their river. During the past two years, Both ENDS has also introduced the Negotiated Approach in Africa, to work together with organisations from several African countries to get local farmers, fishermen, shepherds, companies and governments to jointly decide on the management and governance of their rivers. For example, the Mono River, which flows straight through Togo and Benin, is now being managed by a water commission in which people from communities are represented. To replicate this success in other African countries, African organisations and Both ENDS have founded a headquarters in Lomé in Togo: the AfriWaterCoP (CoP meaning Community of Practice).


African lessons in Indonesia

“One of the reasons why I was in Indonesia was because I wanted to see if the organisations I work with, feel that they need their own Community of Practice”, Christa explains. “This is why there were two African partners present as well, to tell about their experiences. We organised different workshops, and everybody was very enthusiastic about the idea of an ‘IndoWaterCoP’. In March 2015 we will meet again to see what the actual problems are that need to be solved, and which steps would be most effective and practical to solve these. Then, the IndoWaterCoP will really be taking off. For example, in Teluk Meranti, a village along the Kampar River in the province of Riau, one of the organisations will make a plan, together with the local population, to improve access to drinking water and sanitary facilities. And this is just one of the many plans that the different organisations will bring into practice.”


Read the declaration here

Project page 'the Negotiated Approach in Indonesia'


2 September 2014: new headquarters

21 July 2014: Succes: the Mono river (Togo, Benin) has a management, go ahead for negotiated approach

12 February 2014: Africa on the Dutch IJssel river

3 February 2014: Our African partners in water 'software' have arrived

Read more about this subject