Observing the beach: Building climate change resilient coastal communities in Indonesia and Timor-Leste

Sandwatch monitoring by youths in Maldives (©Sandwatch Maldives)

In the past decade, climate change has become one of the most pressing and defining issues facing the planet, especially in small island development states and archipelago countries like Indonesia and Timor-Leste with many small, low-lying islands. Climate experts predict that by 2050 climate change will bring increasingly frequent and severe heat waves and extreme weather events, as well as a rise in sea levels.  Indonesia and Timor Leste, under such circumstances, are expected to experience freshwater shortages, increased flooding in its coastal areas, intense and extreme precipitation, and increased storm damage (IPCC report, 2007).

Besides climate change, at the same time, the coastal areas are threatened by direct pressures, including pollution, destructive fishing and overfishing, and coastal development. In fact, the coastal areas of Indonesia and Timor Leste, part of the Coral Triangle, is recognized as the global centre of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation. They are home to highly biodiverse and productive coastal ecosystems which provide significant benefits to people: food security, livelihoods and coastal protection. This makes coastal areas in Indonesia and Timor Leste an important, but vulnerable, asset. Climate change and anthropogenic activities will affect coastal areas disproportionately and render communities living in such areas extremely vulnerable.

Following the successful implementation of an environmental education programme called Sandwatch(1) worldwide, UNESCO Office Jakarta aims to support implementation of Sandwatch in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. The Sandwatch programme will be targeting school students and teachers. Actively involving youth in environmental conservation efforts as well as increasing their involvement in decisions that concern environment and development will enable the country to reduce negative impacts from climate change in the future.

For Sandwatch implementation in Indonesia and Timor Leste, a unique component will be emphasised: local and indigenous knowledge related to coastal zone management and climate change adaptation, also known as traditional ecological knowledge. Such knowledge will highlight the unique and diverse cultures of Indonesia and Timor Leste that are related to the environment. Using traditional knowledge as the basis, scientific research and other information gathered through observations by students can be integrated to provide a model for sustainable development strategies appropriate for specific local contexts in Indonesia and Timor Leste. Both countries are rich in biological and cultural diversity, and many local communities still use their traditional knowledge to conserve the environment around them and to adapt to the changing climate.  Such emphasis on local and indigenous knowledge will lead to development of locally-specific strategies to build climate change resilient communities.

A flyer on Sandwatch in Bahasa Indonesia has been prepared by UNESCO Office Jakarta, which is adapted from the Sandwatch manual, to provide an overview to teachers and students about the Sandwatch. The flyer can be used in Malay speaking countries such as Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Malaysia.

In Indonesia, UNESCO Office Jakarta is working closely with local NGOs in each pilot site to facilitate Sandwatch implementation in their area. The first training for teachers and students from 3 schools in Wangi-wangi Island will be held on 11-12 December 2012, organized by UNESCO Office Jakarta and FOCIL Indonesia Foundation.

UNESCO office Jakarta also welcomes participation of school teachers and students to implement Sandwatch in their school. Please read “Join Sandwatch!” news for more information.

 

 

 

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(1) Initially a Caribbean regional initiative, Sandwatch is an international programme supported by UNESCO and implemented in Africa, Asia, Europe and islands in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans.  It is a successful environmental education programme where children, youth and adults work together to scientifically monitor and critically evaluate problems and conflicts facing their coastal environments.  Activities are then designed and implemented to address some of those issues identified, which leads to enhancement of the coastal environment and building of resilience to climate change.  For more information: click here and http://www.sandwatch.ca/

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