Formed in 2013, the Harapan Jaya fisher’s business association (known in Indonesian as Kelompok Usaha Bersama/KUB) was managed by 15 fishermen in Seruni Mumbul village, East Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. The establishment of a KUB serves as initial foundation in developing a business model for fishers, further providing economic empowerment, as well as access to various fishing equipment and other relevant needs. Despite initially deemed less than optimal, this platform that was initiated by Fisheries Department facilitators was able to start a small business outlet that generated up to Rp 300.000 per month as revenue. The funds are then utilized to restock fishing gears and other assets.
On the other hand, forming a KUB also strengthens the foundation for future fisher cooperatives. However, stepping up to cooperative level requires serious management and organization, one of the reasons as to why Mr. Muslimin, leader of Harapan Jaya fisher association (FA), thought long and hard about upgrading their KUB status. Feeling unprepared and needing more experience in business management, Muslimin and his fellow members doubted their capacity in managing a cooperative that demands a more complicated administrative process, in addition to requiring a bigger starting capital. Doubtful, but not uninterested.
In 2020, MDPI first met Muslimin at a vessel measurement simulation event at the East Lombok Port. Hearing the story of Harapan Jaya FA, conveniently around the same time when MDPI began implementing a new approach in community organizing, the team visited Seruni Mumbul village to get to know Muslimin’s FA a little better. Taking the group’s evident motivation into consideration, supported by the collaborative nature of local fishery facilitators, conversation surrounding fisher cooperatives were brought alive once more. “At first, they hesitated towards the idea of forming a cooperative because they felt like they weren’t ready for it. However, they have such a great desire to expand and grow,” explained Hadi, one of MDPI’s field staff actively assisting the FA on site. The team believes that Harapan Jaya has the potential to develop even more, as long as MDPI can provide maximum assistance.
Since 2020, MDPI has been implementing the Fisheries Community Organization (FCO) program in East Lombok, working closely with the government’s fishery facilitators, more specifically in building the capacity—and confidence—of everyone in Harapan Jaya. Their commitment to progress is also seen through the variety of initiatives that they have carried out so far, one of them being a pathway construction that now allows for a more efficient access from the village to their “landing site”, for fellow fishers and other local residents. Since the small path was built within a mangrove forest, they also made sure to plant new mangrove seeds along the way. The group’s cohesiveness and loyalty to the organization have also highly motivated MDPI in providing support to the best of our abilities, particularly in helping them establish a fisher cooperative.
In order to successfully establish said platform, other relevant government agencies were brought into the process, to help us convey all necessary information regarding cooperatives and the various benefits that could come with it. For fishers, being part of a cooperative would give them easier access their fishing needs, and payments may also be arranged according to individual needs and conditions. Legally registered cooperatives also provide FAs with different kinds of support by the government. Furthermore, by managing the sales of fishing gear through fisher cooperatives, they can also ensure that the gears used are environmentally friendly.
Throughout all this process, Muslimin actively kept his group members in the loop, conducting frequent internal meetings and discussions regarding all the pros and cons as well as to determine the group’s next moves. For nearly two months they deliberated over every aspect, from their readiness to opportunities and benefits of a cooperative for the group. It all came together eventually and KUB Harapan Jaya, which initially consisted of 15 members, finally decided to take the big step into becoming Harapan Jaya Bersama Cooperative, consisting of 30 members including fisher wives
By mobilizing the group’s business savings, coupled with a number of remaining assets that have not been sold, and supported by a grant from MDPI as a final boost, the required initial capital was successfully collected. On September 29, 2021 the Harapan Jaya Bersama cooperative was officially established in Seruni Mumbul village, carrying over the same management structure from the previous KUB, including Muslimin who now acts as Chairman of the cooperative.
It has been almost a year since the FCO program was first implemented in East Lombok. According to Taeran, another MDPI field staff in Lombok, the group’s involvements in sustainable fishery efforts and business management have so far been positive; from recording catch data using fisher log books to financial book-keeping, they are now able to carry out these responsibilities independently. “We hope that this group of fishers can continue to maintain their cohesiveness, as it is the most important key; no matter how good of a job we do, the group will not thrive unless they stay united,” he concluded.