Wise use has been widely recognized as a central tenet of sustainable development in wetland management throughout the world. In 2005 the concept of wetland wise use was incorporated into the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) framework to highlight the importance of maintaining a balance between wetland utilization and maintenance of ecosystem diversity. However, the implementation of this framework has been less than effective due to a lack of official government support in terms of institutional and organisational arrangements and lack of local community engagement.
The aim of this thesis was to explore the mental models of local communities and decision makers involved in wetland planning and management in Indonesia, as a means to unravel the barriers and opportunities for achieving more effective outcomes for both wetlands and local communities. The specific objectives were to better understand the mental models of the key actors involved in wetland management, as well as the broad policy, economic, social and cultural issues surrounding wetlands at multiple scales from local to national. The term mental models as used in this study referred to a collection of individual worldviews, values, beliefs and mindsets in relation to understanding human-wetland relationships.
This thesis presents the findings from a case study of the mental models of community-based rehabilitation of coastal wetlands in Pemalang, Central Java. It drew from a constructivist and pragmatic research paradigm to illuminate the importance of understanding wetland wise use across the key stakeholders involved. The assumptions of the constructivist and pragmatic paradigms indicate that this approach is appropriate for gaining insight into the social and cultural context of communities in the Pemalang district. The research targeted all 110 community members, who were actively engaged in wetland rehabilitation in Pemalang coastal areas. Interviews were conducted with 22 key decision makers involved in wetland management. Systematic procedures were used to minimise the potential for bias that can be evident in interpretive research and to ensure that the findings represented accurate information regarding the phenomenon under investigation. Techniques that included face-to-face validity, triangulation, repeated and prolong observation were used to ensure the reliability and validity of the research. The data analysis used a grounded approach. Leximancer Software and Nvivo QSR analysis were used to enable the complexity of the phenomenon associated with wetland wise use within the community-based activities to be identified.
A key finding of this research was that effective wetland management should incorporate community objectives that address economic, social and cultural issues. In particular, enhanced understanding of a range of social aspects is important in developing the stakeholders’ ability to nurture and provide stewardship of wetlands and to contribute to management practices that are collectively endorsed and coordinated and are socially accepted across the stakeholders involved. Decision makers viewed wetlands and their wise use on the basis of the relevant regulatory framework and had dominant anthropocentric orientations. The communities’ concerns about subsistence were the main drivers in all members who were engaged in wetland rehabilitation programs (i.e. seaweed and crab farmers, and shrimp paste makers). The community also prioritised cultural and traditional values in addressing wetland wise use.
The local Pemalang communities displayed a combination of both anthropocentric and ecocentric worldviews. Comparisons across the community groups studied revealed that fish farmers’ mental models tended toward ecocentric worldviews, whereas the crab farmers and shrimp paste makers displayed strongly anthropocentric worldviews and utilitarian values concerning the meaning of wetlands and their wise use. In contrast, the decision makers’ mental models related to wetland wise use implementation showed a strong anthropocentric worldview, which was oriented to the optimisation of land use functions and compliance with the regulatory framework.
This research is important as it combines both quantitative and qualitative approaches, including interviews and participant observation to provide rich descriptions and a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ mental models. By understanding these mental models, the views of the stakeholders can be more closely aligned with a stewarding and nurturing approach towards the environment.
A key recommendation is the need to re-capitalise the existing National Committee of Wetland Management, through providing a more effective regulatory framework that accommodates various government regulations and integrates this with other levels of government (i.e. provincial and local). Stakeholder capacity building can be improved through encouraging and supporting local government involvement in the international network on wetland management. These findings also suggest that there is the need to support local communities in their management of wetlands by applying programs that incorporate local values, including traditional practices. Incentives should be generated through incorporating the existing international program such as bio-right entitlements for the community and introducing microfinance practices that are currently being widely practised in many less developed nations. The integration of these findings will provide insights and opportunity for more effective wetland wise use in Indonesia.