Raindrops make small circles fill the Nusakambangan Strait. The small circle a second later disappeared in the waves from a passing boat. On either side of the strait, you can see the verdant mangrove forest starting to grow lush.
Wahyono, as he is usually called, is better known by his neighbors as a hero for reforestation of mangrove forests. The mangrove forest along the Segara Anakan Lagoon to the eastern tip of Nusakambangan is known as the largest mangrove forest on the island of Java. Now the condition is very alarming due to illegal logging by residents.
Wahyono said, Kampung Laut is a land between mangrove forests which was formed due to the sedimentation of several rivers that empties into Segara Anakan. One of the largest rivers is the Citanduy River, which crosses 11 districts in West Java and Central Java.
He claimed to have lived in that place for more than 40 years. The mangrove forest, he said, was a place where he played and fished as a child. His memory of the many mangrove trees that stood strong and towering was still awake in his brain.
Little Wahyono was so amazed by his surroundings. The large mangrove trees are able to become the habitat of various kinds of marine life. Not only fish, other animals such as shrimp and crabs are so abundant in that place. The sea animals, he usually exchanged for rice, oil, and other basic needs with residents on the mainland of Cilacap.
Local residents also used to use mangrove trees to build houses. They take it sparingly without overdoing it so that it doesn’t affect the mangrove forest area too much.
The sweet memories were instantly shattered. In 1995, he said, there was a large-scale clearing of mangrove forests. “Investors from West Java are starting to come and open ponds for shrimp farming,” he said.
It’s easy to get money, making people tempted. They then leased the land and started clearing hundreds of hectares of forest. For four years, they enjoyed the golden age of the fishpond.
As the saying goes, no party doesn’t end. Entering 1999, one by one investors went bankrupt. Their pet shrimp began to catch a deadly virus and put them out of business. What a bitch, the mangrove forest that used to be green, now looks like an arid savanna full of shrubs. “Since then, fish, shrimp and crabs have become difficult to find,” he said.
Aware of his damaged environment, Wahyono was moved to create a radical movement. He is determined to replant the mangrove forest in his village that has been damaged. This intention, he conveyed to his family. It didn’t take long, the dipper was welcome.
He then took six members of his family and formed a group to replant mangroves. The group was named the Lestari Family. “The goal is only one, replanting mangrove forests,” he asserted.
Wahyono has four children, Yufita Reni Windiyastuti, Antonius Jonny Riyanto, Andreas Aji Wibowo, and Claudius Mario Tegar Saputro, the result of his marriage to Monika Tumirah. Together with his wife and children, he started a campaign to replant the damaged mangrove debt.
The initial movement he did in 2001 with his family was not then well received by the surrounding community. In fact, there are a number of residents who actually sneer at what they are doing.
“I continue to encourage my brothers and sisters not to stop planting. Because like previous experiences, if the mangrove forest is dense, then fish, shrimp and crabs will be very easy to find. In addition, if you need wood, just cut the branches of a large mangrove tree. The cutting must also be wise, not entirely, so that the tree does not die,” said Wahyono, who only received an elementary school education.
Entering the second year, local residents began to be interested in helping Wahyono. Even though they don’t get paid, local residents are still eager to follow in Wahyono’s footsteps. Currently, there are 50 people in the group. “Because of the increasing number of members, the name of the group was changed to Krida Wana Lestari and every 35 days we have a meeting,” he said.
Ten years on, now they have reforested around 30 hectares of mangrove forest. They now also have a hut as a place for get-togethers.
To support the economy, they are now building ponds for crab cultivation. The ponds built in the middle of the mangrove forest that they had reforested turned out to be quite productive.
The results are quite good, from crab seeds purchased for Rp. 20 thousand per kilogram, after being raised for about four months, they can be sold to Rp. 120 thousand. They think that the crab business will not be successful if the mangrove forest is damaged.
Sukarjo Kliwon, 50 years old, one of the group members admitted that he was initially skeptical about what Wahyono was doing. “But gradually the results are seen, I am now the coordinator of reforestation of the northern region,” he said.
He admitted, there are still many residents who have not been moved to follow in the footsteps of his group. Even to this day, when more and more community groups outside Cilacap are starting to participate in replanting mangrove forests, residents just look on indifferently.
For him, restoring mangrove forests as before, will take decades. It’s just that he is sure that reforesting the mangrove forest is not only for himself but for his future children who are usually called mangrove children.
The destruction of mangrove forests is not just a figment. Secretary of the Department of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of Cilacap, Supriyanto said, the area of mangrove forest in 1974 was recorded at 15,551 hectares. “Currently, there are only 8,359 hectares,” he said.
Supriyanto said that the Segara Anakan mangrove forest area has the most complete and widest forest composition and structure on the island of Java, which is overgrown with 26 mangrove species, including fires (Avicennia alba), bogem (Sonneratia alba), and mangroves (Rhizopora mucronata). damage due to siltation. In addition to logging, he said, the destruction of mangrove forests is also caused by sedimentation that enters about 1 million cubic meters every year.
Head of Mitigation at Jenderal Soedirman University, Purwokerto, Endang Hilmi, said the Nusakambangan mangrove forest is the most complete in the world. “From our research, there used to be at least 30 types. But now there are only 10 types,” he said.
According to him, the role of mangrove forests is very important for disaster mitigation, especially the tsunami disaster. He gave an example, during the 2006 tsunami, Cilacap was not too badly damaged because it was blocked by mangrove forests. In addition, mangroves are also believed to be able to absorb carbon which has been accused of being the main cause of global warming.