Written by Art Klassen Wednesday, 06 August 2008 07:00
The massive tsunami which struck the coast of Aceh Province in Sumatra on December 26, 2004, rolled largely unobstructed across shrimp farms and rice paddies of the heavily populated coastal plain and wiped out entire villages in its path. In low-lying areas, the tidal surge penetrated up to four kilometers inland.
One of the heaviest hit areas, was Bandah Aceh where the tsunami surge destroyed entire foreshore communities in the Bandah Aceh bay and swept deep into the city. The impact on the human habitation was catastrophic. In the immediate foreshore area, virtually all buildings were destroyed and up to 80% of the population perished.
Over the decades, most of the natural vegetation of mangrove and Nipah palms in this intertidal zone had been converted into a matrix of shrimp ponds and human habitation. The tsunami destroyed not only entire communities but also the network of channels, shrimp ponds, and remaining natural vegetation in the intertidal zone which made up one of the main sources of livelihood for the foreshore communities in the Bandah Aceh bay area.
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Within the first year of the Tsunami, two unrelated factors came together which gave TFF the opportunity to make a meaningfull contribution to the post-tsunami rehabilitation effort. TFF was approached by the Centre for Research and Community Development , the research and extension service of a private forestry university and the only faculty of forestry in Aceh, with a request for assistance. This request originated with one of the local communities in the Bandah Aceh intertidal zone, which had requested help in re-establishing the mangrove vegetation as buffer zones around and within it’s shrimp ponds.
Not long thereafter, TFF received an offer for project funding from an anonymous donor interested in contributing to the ecosystem restoration efforts associated with the tsunami damage in Aceh.
These two events coming in quick succession of each other, quickly led to the formulation of a project concept and TFF’s venture into a new line of activity.
Perhaps the most significant way in which this small effort has distinguished itself from much larger, donor-driven efforts, is that the entire initiative originated at the local community level. Survivors of the tsunami saw the rehabilitation of their shrimp ponds and the restoration of natural mangrove vegetation in and around these ponds as crucial to their economic well-being and long-term economic viability.
TFF’s fortuitous ability to respond quickly to this request has been well received by the local community and has ensured successful implementation despite some operational set-backs.
The Completion Report for this project can be downloaded from here.
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