Indonesia and the Philippines | Poverty​

Securing Sustainable Income while Protecting the Environment

A grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction has empowered marginalized fisherfolks in Indonesia and the Philippines to run their own alternative businesses while protecting the Coral Reef Triangle.


Eco-Friendly Earnings. Ecosystem-based and financially viable businesses have increased the incomes of fisherfolks in two coastal communities in Palawan, Philippines and East Kalimantan, Indonesia.


Regional: Developing Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods in Coastal Fishing Communities in the Coral Triangle: Indonesia and Philippines

Project Cost

$2 million

  • Financing Partner
    • Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction $2 million

Approval Date

November 2011

Signing Date

15 May 2012


October 2019

Partnership Results

Over 400 households in the Philippines with ecosystem-based businesses
About 900 households in Indonesia with ecosystem-based businesses


The Philippines and Indonesia are two of the six countries surrounding the Southeast Asia Coral Reef Triangle, a marine area endowed with 76% of all known coral reefs, six of the world’s seven marine turtle species, and thousands of other marine species. The coral reef triangle is a major source of income for many fishers.

Despite the reef’s endowments, fishing communities surrounding it are often mired in poverty. This is especially true in the coastal areas of Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Palawan Philippines. Balabac Municipality in Palawan and the Berau District in East Kalimantan have poverty rates higher than their national averages─about 40% in Balabac and 11.6% in East Kalimantan. Fisherfolks in these areas rely solely on the seas for a living, in the process destroying it. The coasts lining the marine area were heavily degraded due to overuse. Water quality has declined, and fishes have been overfished. Coral reefs have been destroyed, too. The combined stress created by climate change and human-induced destruction threaten to harm all the coral reefs in the area by 2030.


To provide marginalized fishers with sustainable income while protecting the coral triangle ecosystem, ADB and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) teamed up. They initiated the project Regional: Developing Sustainable Alternative Livelihoods in Coastal Fishing Communities in the Coral Triangle: Indonesia and Philippines. This project aimed to raise the income levels of poor coastal communities in Berau, East Kalimantan, Indonesia and Balabac, Palawan, Philippines by developing model alternative livelihoods.

It is not easy for people to accept that the destruction of their only source of income may be imminent partly because of their own activities. The project had to tread the delicate balance of ensuring people’s sustainable livelihood while fostering their effective stewardship of their marine resource. So, the first step was to enable fishers to establish alternative livelihoods through a grant from the JFPR.

To choose the types of livelihood the two localities can implement, the project set up consultation sessions where stakeholders from the local government, the academe, civil society, and the communities freely expressed their opinions and insights. Representatives from the local fishers, traders, village officials, and ethnic and women groups were sought out and engaged during the consultations, too. From these sessions, potential financially viable and ecosystem-based livelihoods were drawn up.

Beneficiaries were also trained. The project partnered with Forum Lingkungan Mulawarman in Indonesia and the Technological Education and Skills Development Authority in the Philippines to raise beneficiaries’ capacities in livelihood implementation and marketing.


In Balabac, Palawan, a total of 42 business plans were formulated in twelve villages, benefitting over 400 households. Livelihoods were either land-based and sea-based, but the former was prioritized to reduce pressure on sea resources. Examples of the businesses they set up include goat-raising, poultry, handicrafts, weaving, and seaweed farming.

In Berau, 52 business plans were crafted in eight villages, benefiting about 900 households. They ran four types of livelihood, namely shrimp paste, fish and seaweed crackers processing; fish drying; small enterprises; and ecosystem service. Examples of these businesses were selling of processed seafood products, souvenirs, snorkeling gears, and bicycles. They also set up a mangrove forest café and forest trekking.

The project also linked up the communities with organizations that helped expand their businesses in a sustainable way. In the Philippines, the beneficiaries linked up with Save Philippine Seas Foundation of Jewelmer Pearl Farm Corporation. The foundation provided additional seaweeds planting materials to 90 seaweeds farmers and helped monitor seaweed farming even after the project was completed in 2019. In Indonesia, the project linked up the beneficiaries with resort hotels and the Save the Turtle Foundation. This helped farmers shift their livelihoods from hunting turtles to sell their shells to production and sale of accessories and souvenirs in Derawan and Maratua. It also enabled the beneficiaries to partner with 13 supermarkets across Berau where they can sell their products.

These livelihood activities breathed new life in the villages. They empowered the fishers, both male and female, to run viable businesses that expanded their skills and their reach within their own locales and beyond. These activities strengthened efforts not just to protect the coasts of the two countries involved, but of the whole coral triangle. They form part of regional activities that address the destruction across the coral triangle and reduce its vulnerability to climate change.