Marwan, 45, is a fish-farmer from Simeulue, Indonesia. He leads an aquaculture cooperative, Koperasi Aceh Bahari Nusantara, which was formed by Islamic Relief in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami of 2004.

Working together through the cooperative, local producers to maximise production and marketing of their fish. Since the cooperative was set up, the producers have worked hard to develop their cooperative and have secured volume sales with international traders based in Hong Kong.

For Marwan and his fellow members, the journey to a sustainable livelihood began with the launch of Islamic Relief’s project to support fishing communities in Aceh, a province in which around 180,000 people died when the tsunami struck.

The project saw Islamic Relief beginning in 2010 to support efforts to rebuild the fisheries industry that was central to the local economy.

Breathing new life into the fishing industry

Indonesia Aceh fishing cooperative 2014 (2)

Marwan leads the Koperasi Aceh Bahari Nusantara fishing cooperative, set up through the Islamic Relief project.

As well as bringing critical infrastructure back into use, we equipped and trained local people to undertake sustainable fishing. We also set up fishing cooperatives such as the group headed-up by Marwan.

“Fish farmers typically work on their own. Their limited production capacity, growing debts and unforgiving circumstances are a disadvantage in negotiating with buyers,” said Marwan, underlining the importance of cooperatives as a means by which local traders are strengthening their livelihoods.

When Islamic Relief completed our project in 2013, we left the cooperative with a feed factory, office space and boats, as well as cage cleaning and water testing equipment. Now, Marwan and other members are gearing up to the challenge of developing the cooperative even further.

“We have made significant advances, and need to push [forward] before we fall back to where we started. We need to better organise ourselves, we need to improve the quality and quantity of our produce, and we need to increase our profitability to be able to look after our families better.”

Together, local people, local government and Islamic Relief have helped breathe new life into the fishing industry in Aceh. We are now looking to encourage private sector involvement to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry upon which many of the area’s families depend.