A string of longboats were moored at a river estuary in Toseho village in Oba subdistrict, Tidore Islands Municipality, North Maluku Province that day, July 29, 2021 while some 700 meters further south, stood eight unkempt houses and the ruins of several others.

Taufik Khalil, the Headman of Toseho village, said that occupants of the eight houses  in what is known as the Old Toseho village, have all moved to a new settlement some two kilometres in land because their homes were often  inundated by tidal floods every year.

“The migration of these people started in 1997. In 2001, a serious tidal flood hit and some 400 people opted to evacuate the village. Until now, about 900 people have already left and moved to the new Toseho village,” said the 29-year-old village head.

 The old Toseho village directly faces the sea and behind it, are the mangrove forests that line the coast of this subdistrict. 

Data from the Ministry for Maritime and Fishery Affairs shows that in 2020, Indonesia had 3,490,000 hectares of mangrove forests, or 21 percent of the world’s mangrove forest cover.

A total of 2,673,548 hectares of mangrove forests in Indonesia are in good condition while 637,6234 hectares are in critical conditions. 

The Tidore Islands Municipal Development Planning and Research Agency noted that there are 1,729 hectares of mangrove forest in the area or  0.05 percent of the national mangrove cover.

Taufik said that the mangrove in his village has an important role. It’s the habitat of the popaco snail (Telescopium telescopium) that has become part of their daily protein and a source of livelihood for some.

“There are people from other villages who always come to look for popaco snails here,” he said.

The mangrove plants are also used for making feed stock for goats and for traditional medicines.

Sixty-year-old Ramli Abdullah, the Biang (elder) of  Toseho village said that she always harvests mangrove plants from around the old Toseho village to make her medicines. The mangrove forests, she said, contain various plants that have been used as raw material to produce medicines for generations. 

“Since I was little, I already watched papa use mangrove for healing, and my grandmother is a village biang and always do the same,”  said Ramli who said she learned traditional healing and medicine from her parents.

Speaking at her home on July 19, 202, Ramli, who is better known as Li,  said that she has been using mangrove as ingredients in medicine to cure a number of ailments, including stomach aches, sprains, tasting bud problems and also postpartum hemorrhage.

“Whenever there is a woman who had just given birth, I always advise them to go look for posi-posi (Sonneratia alba, mangroves with peg or hanging roots) roots, dip them in water and drink the water. This is to help clean out the postpartum blood,” she said.

Kieraha.com learned that the use of mangrove as ingredients in traditional medicine  is not only limited to Toseho village but cand also be found in other coastal villages with mangrove forests such as Lola, a village in the Oba Tengah subdistrict of Tidore Islands municipality.

The local community use parts of plants from mangrove forests, such as their bark, roots, fruits or leaves, and the medicine is ingested by different methods, including  boiling them, infusing the water or even direct consumption.

Mashud Hamid from Lola village, said that he used mangrove to cure himself from the asthma that had bothered him for years by regularly drinking boiled water with mangrove parts.

“I have been using this medicinal ingredient since I was still in eighth grade,” said the 27-year-old man.

Asthma had made it difficult for him to carry out normal activities with his friends and local villagers advised him to try to cure the ailment using water from the boiling of mangrove with peg roots (Sonneratia alba), also known as mangrove apple.

“Thank God I no longer feel sick,” he said.

He said that other fellow villagers also use mangrove as raw material for their medicine, a habit he said, influenced by the community’s heavy dependence on their environment, such as farming and fishing.

The ingredients of these medicines are also available around them at no cost. “Because mangrove does not grow everywhere, this mangrove forest is a boon for us on its own,” he said.

Natural antioxidant

A number of researches have been done on mangrove and its medicinal potentials. A research by Ali Ridlo, Rini Pramesti, Koesoemadji, Endang Supyantini and Nirwani Soenardjo from the Maritime Department of the Faculty of Fishery and Maritime Sciences of the Diponegoro University in Semarang in 2017 found that a number of natural antioxidants such as  flavonoid, polifenol, tanin, senyawa fenolat, klorofil, karotenoid, terpenoid, and alkaloid can be extracted from the leaves of the red mangrove plant (rhizophora mucronata) .

The research wrote these antioxidants can help fight the free radicals that are causing cancer.

More specifically the research said that the antioxidants can be extracted from the leaves using ethyl acetate, methanol and hexane solutions. These three extractors yield methanol with a small  IC50 value  (the amount of concentrate that can overcome 50 percent of the free radicals).

This means that the methanol produced is the most potent antioxidant compared to those from other sources. It is capable of offsetting the activities of free radicals and converts them into new free radicals that are less reactive and less dangerous.

Another research, by Hery Purnobasuki from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the Airlangga University in Surabaya in 2004, titled “The Potentials of Mangrove as Ingredient for Herbal Medicine,” identified mangrove plants growing in Indonesia which could be used in medicines. Hery said that most parts of these plants could be used in medicines.

“Extracts and the raw form of mangrove have been used by coastal communities to produce natural medicines,” Hery said in his research paper.

The head of the Tidore chapter of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) Rusni Abdullah explained that free radical is one of the predisposition factors that could turn a cell into an abnormal cell.

In the human body, these cells are constantly battling normal cells. If they win, then it would lead to the development of cancer in the human body.

“Antioxidant functions to prevent this from happening,” Rusni told kieraha.com in Tidore on August 13, 2021.

Rusni added that a number of scientific researches on natural antioxidants in mangrove plants showed that they had beneficial functions for the human body. However, excessive consumption would also lead to negative impacts.

“The dosage, whether it affects other organs or not when consumed, these are areas that need further studes,” he said.

Unique roles of mangroves

Mangrove expert Muhamad Matdowan from Ternate State Islamic Institute’s Environmental Research and Services Department said that in a number of locations where he had done his research, such as Obi island in South Halmahera and Gamaf village in Central Halmahera, communities that coexist with mangrove plants often used the plants for medicinal purposes.

He said the mangrove plants that are often used include the cannonball mangrove (Xylocarpus granatum), the oriental mangrove (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza),  the loop-root mangrove (Rhizophora mucronata), and the red mangrove (Sonneratia alba.)

“It is true that harvesting for this (medicinal purpose) is small in quantity, but if harvested continuously, it would also threaten the ecosystems,” Matdoan said in Ternate on August 4, 2021.

The expert who has been studying mangrove since 2004 underlined the importance of mangrove as it maintains the continuity of interactions and associations between organism living in mangrove ecosystem and up until now, no known substitution that can also live in high salinity environment.

He said that it is important for the community to be aware of the importance of mangrove. Aside from contributing to the food and medicine, mangrove is also a natural fortification that protects the coast from erosion and abrasion, strong winds or waves, and even tsunamis. 

“The government also has the obligation to anticipate the potential destruction of mangrove forests, otherwise the mangrove forest cover would continue to shrink,” he said.

A  2021 report of the Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) showed that mangrove forests were composed of various trees and shrub, each of which had their own adaptation mechanism to be able to survive in a challenging environment – part sea, part land- of inter-tidal zones.

Mangrove forests provides habitat for a large variety of animals including 341 globally threatened species, from tigers to seahorses. The structure and productivity of mangrove forests allow them to support abundant fishes.

“The latest research estimates that in many countries, more than 80 percent of their fishermen depend on mangrove forests and there are more than 4.1 million fishermen globally dependent on mangroves — they all support an interdependent network or community,” the report said.

The GMA report also said that because mangrove forests are located at the meeting points between land and the sea, they could mitigate floods and function as natural protection against waves and wind.

They also function as a permeable dam to break the force of storms and thus limit the damage. Mangrove forests are estimated to be able to prevent 65 million dollars worth of property losses due to natural calamities and also reduce the risks of flooding for about 15 million people every year.

The head of the Pollution and Environmental Damage Mitigation at the Tidore Municipal environmental office, Rahmawati, said the environment office has conducted mangrove forest rehabilitation covering 26.29 hectares in 2019.

Through a collaboration with local community, as many as 144,625 mangrove seedlings have been planted inTogeme, Lola, Tauno, and Desa Loleo villages in Oba Tengah subdistricts.

“So they (local communities) planted them, and they are also the ones maintaining them,” said Rahmawati at her office on August 21, 2021.

As part of the Open Green Spaces managed by the environment office, the rehabilitation of mangrove forests must also include maintenance, she explained.

The result of an evaluation following the first planting program in 2019, Rahmawati said her office found about 20 percent of the planted mangrove seedlings failed to grow due to the impact of waves. Another round of planting was conducted in 2020.

“Because not all of those that were previously planted survived, they should be patched up again,” she said.

Rahmawati added that if all parties continue to take part in maintaining the mangrove forest, it will make it a sustainable source of livelihood, especially in fishery.

About the writer

Apriyanto Latukau

Apriyanto Latukau has been active in journalistic activities since 2018 when he involved in Trotoar, a weekly media initiated by SAMURAI Maluku Utara, a student organization in North Maluku. He joined...

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