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April 05, 2023

ABA ROLI Mentors Journalists in Indonesia: Duano Tribal Fishermen were in Anguish due to Climate Crisis

In September 2021, ABA ROLI kicked-off the implementation of the three-year regional program, Right to Resilience: Community-Led Advocacy for Human Rights, Political Participation, and Good Governance in Island Communities Impacted by Climate Change (R2R Program), supported by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The program’s primary goal is to build the capacity of communities in island nations, including the Philippines and Indonesia, to participate in political and decisionmaking processes, and to encourage the governments to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change on human rights.  

The R2R program trains journalists on reporting on the impact of climate change on human rights, leading to the publication of participating journalists in major news outlets, including Gresi Plasmanto, Journalist at Liputan6. The workshops helped journalists overcome a wide-range of challenges by advancing public understanding of the serious state of the environment and climate crises; fostered knowledge-sharing and networking among participating journalists; and strengthened reporting on climate change and human rights, including supporting journalist safety.

On February 6, 2023, Liputan6 published the following article by Gresi Plasmanto, Journalist at Liputan6. Originally in Bahasa Indonesia, the article was translated by Muhammad Reza Zaini and Shinta Permata Sari, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.

Amrizal, a fisherman from the Duano tribe sailing the eastern coast of Indonesia’s Jambi Province on Thursday (12/9/2022)

Amrizal, a fisherman from the Duano tribe sailing the eastern coast of Indonesia’s Jambi Province on Thursday (12/9/2022)

Photo Credit: Gresi Plasmanto,

Most fishermen in Jambi Province’s eastern coastline have decreasing catch from the sea.

Shortly after the morning call of prayer at dawn, Amrizal hustled from his home. Carrying a small jerry can of fuel, he rushed to the Kampung Laut pier the in Kuala Jambi District of the Tanjung Jabung Timur Regency, Jambi Province. At the pier, people were busy preparing supplies to go fishing in the sea.

Wooden fishing boats with outboard motors (pompong) and canoes were lined up and tied on the pier’s poles, that were made from nibung woods (an Asian species of palm tree in the family Arecaceae). Amrizal immediately poured the fuel from his jerry can into his pompong’s  tank. This is his daily routine before fishing.

“Today, we do not need much diesel fuel since we are fishing nearby. Anyhow, there is too much risk for small boats like this to sail in the open sea,” Amrizal said as he prepared to go fishing, on Thursday December 9, 2022.

“The waves are big since the wind from the west is blowing in,” continued the traditional fisherman, with his Malay accent. He then invited me to board his 4x1.5 meter boat. Racing against time, Amrizal turned the engine on, creating a blaring noise.

The small wooden boat, powered by outboard motors, slowly creeped over the coastal current, leaving the Kampung Laut pier towards the sea. The constant rumbling sound from the engine silenced us during the one-hour ride. 

Slowly, the Friday dawn was rising, illuminating the entire horizon. Amrizal’s boat then reached its destination, where he usually casted his fishing nets. He turned the engine off and lowered the anchor.

He instantly casted a 600-meter fishing net and hoped that he could catch as many fishes as possible with his nets. 

I’m afraid of catching fishes in the area that is far from the coast. It’s dangerous in the open sea. The large waves are very dangerous,”



He did not want to take any chances, because he does not have enough supplies with him, just bottled tea and bread. He did not have any first aid kits or life jackets. 

Amrizal is a fisherman from the Duano tribe, as Indigenous community native to the east coast of Jambi Province, to be precise, in the Tanjung Solok Village, Kuala Jambi District, Tanjung Jabung Timur Regency, Jambi Province. For the Indigenous Duano, the sea is an extension of their cultural identities. 

The Duano’s life depends on their catches from the sea. Amrizal still remembers that during the first few times he went to sea, he was able to catch a lot in one day at sea.

In the past half decade, he struggled immensely to find fish, as the catch became increasingly uncertain. Not to mention that he also must pay for his boat’s instalment to the wholesaler who buys his catches.

“Today, the most I get per day is about IDR 100,000, and I still need to pay for fuel and boat instalment to the wholesaler. So, I only get IDR 50,000 to bring home.” Amrizal sighed.

Amrizal has to support his wife and three children. With his income, he also pays for the tuition fee of his eldest child in a local junior high school. There were times when situations were tough and he could not make enough money from fishing, forcing him to get a loan from his wholesaler.

Now, fishing cost keeps increasing, while our catches keep decreasing. Not to mention the increased danger of fishing in the sea. These have made our lives, the Duano fishermen who only rely on small traditional wooden boats, very difficult,”



The Duano tribe is an indigenous people who live on the eastern coast of Sumatra Island. In Jambi Province, this indigenous group resides in Tanjung Solok Village, Kuala Jambi District, Tanjung Jabung Timur Regency. Their life is heavily dependent on the sea and inseparable from the coastal area.

They are still practicing the traditional way of fishing, as well as foraging mantis shrimp and bamboo clams (Ensis leei). Menyumbun is their most known tradition of catching bamboo clams at shoal -- the muddy area in the coast that heavily relies on tidal cycles. 

However, the current situation of the Duano tribe is very concerning, as they have become more vulnerable to climate crisis. Their daily activities, which rely on sea catches, are facing increased challenges and risks. 

According to the traditional elders of the Duano Tribe in Kampung Laut, the Duano Tribe only has 77 families left. They live in a crowded housing area. 

Most of the members of Duano tribe are traditional fishermen. They observed that nowadays catching fishes had become increasingly difficult and the weather is increasingly difficult to predict.

Amrizal did not understand this unpredictable weather. In his mind he wondered what phenomenon had occurred in recent years to cause this. Duano’s local wisdom had become futile to navigate the current maritime weather. 

The sea weather has become irregular. We used to be able to easily predict the signs of strong wind and big waves,”



In addition to the challenges from the climate crisis, the traditional fishermen who live on the east coast near Malacca Strait—a busy international trading line—also had to face the risk from the passing barges carrying coal from inland Jambi.

Twice, Amrizal came face-to-face with coal barges. The ship damaged his fishing net, even though he had put up a flag on his nets. Amrizal’s signals were also ignored. The coal barges kept breaching the area where the fishermen had laid their nets, causing Amrizal to lose 120 meters of his fishing net.

“After that incident, I told my boat lender or wholesaler, and he gave me a loan to buy a new net,” Amrizal remembers.   

Similar situation was faced by another fishermen, Wak Ninggal. The middle-aged man shared his story on how he tried to survive by fishing amidst the climate crisis and unpredictable weather. Moreover, these fishermen had to fish further which resulted in higher operational cost.

Economic losses are inevitable if the catches are insufficient. In the past, the eastern coast of Jambi was promising for the fishermen, and had plentiful catches, from fishes, crabs, clams, to prawns.

Now it is difficult, the fishing season has changed its cycle."

Wak Ninggal


Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Asia and the Pacific.