Assessing food security and resilience of small island communities to socio-environmental changes: the case of the Kei islands in Southeast Maluku

The livelihoods and food security of small island communities in Indonesia are highly sensitive to social, economic and environmental changes. However, knowledge of the ways in which members of small island communities cope with socio-environmental change is limited.

New article (May 2020):

Contribution of cash transfers in moderating household food insecurity in small-island communities: Experimental evidence from Indonesia

In collaboration with Pattimura University and Tual Fishery Polytechnic, the team surveyed 534 households in fishing communities in the Kei Islands, Southeast Maluku, in February 2016. The main goal of the project was to assess the food security and resilience of Indonesia’s small island fishing communities to socio-environmental change, in particular to the declining stock of fish due to an increasing number of fishermen in the area.

The Kei islands in southern Maluku, consisting of Kei Kecil, Kei Besar, Kur, Dullah and around 130 smaller islands, have approximately 160,000 inhabitants. They were chosen for the study as being representative of living condition in Eastern Indonesia’s small islands, which are prone to food insecurity. Small island communities are highly dependent on natural resources for food, income, and employment. Marine resources in particular underpin the primary livelihood, food security, and opportunities for an increased standard of living. Improving the food security and resilience of these communities requires a deep understanding of, firstly, current and potential social, economic and environmental threats; secondly, of the sensitivity of community members to the threats; and, thirdly, of their capacity to mitigate and adapt to the threats. The information collected by this project contributed in these areas.

The project documented the communities’ level of awareness of the socio-environmental changes to their livelihood, in particular their level of knowledge regarding declining fish stocks and the reasons for this phenomenon, and their understanding of small-island ecology. The project also identified whether socio-environmental changes affect the food security of fishing communities on small islands, and examined their coping strategies, such as fortifying the coastline, diversifying their sources of livelihood – for example from fishing to planting crops – and relocating to higher ground. Additionally, the project documented long-term investment strategies, particularly with regard to children’s education, and explored the role of women in fostering community resilience strategies.


The project undertook a field survey in coastal villages in the Kei islands, Southeast Maluku in 2013 and collected information about livelihood, socioeconomic characteristics, governance and institutional arrangements for resource management. A follow-up survey in the same villages and households collected similar data, as well as indicators measuring food security and resilience strategies. A face-to-face interview was carried out and data integrated to create a longitudinal household data set. The project conducted a panel data analysis to understand the impact of socio-environmental changes on community food security and the ability of communities to cope with these changes.

Results and achievements

Using an experimental game of receiving an additional income from an alternate livelihood, this project found that, on average, a 10 per cent increase in income would reduce the probability of adults in a household experiencing food insecurity by 24 per cent, and reduce the probability of children in a household experiencing food insecurity by 34 per cent. These results show that the required additional income to increase food security in a household in a fishing community is relatively small.

Image: jufriderwotubun, via Pixabay.



Journal articles

Yamazaki, S., B.P. Resosudarmo, W. Girsang and E. Hoshino. 2018. ‘Intra-village and Inter-village Resource Use Conflict in Indonesia: The Case of the Kei Islands.’ Ocean and Coastal Management, 155:50-59.

Yamazaki, S., B.P. Resosudarmo, W. Girsang and E. Hoshino. 2018. ‘Productivity, Social Capital and Perceived Environmental Threats in Small-Island Fisheries: Insights from Indonesia.’ Ecological Economics 152 (2018) 62–75.

Hoshino, E., E.I. van Putten, W. Girsang, B.P. Resosudarmo, and S. Yamazaki. 2017. ‘Fishers’ Perceived Objectives of Community-based Coastal Resource Management in the Kei Islands, Indonesia.’ Frontiers in Marine Science, 4 (141).

Rus’an Nasrudin, Budy P. Resosudarmo, Satoshi Yamazakic  Wardis Girsange (2020). Contribution of cash transfers in moderating household food insecurity in small-island communities: Experimental evidence from Indonesia, Marine Policy, volume 118.

Paper in progress

Lolita Moorena, Budy P. Resosudarmo, Rus’an Nasrudin, Wardis Girsang, Satoshi Yamazaki, Eriko Hoshino and M. Jibril Tajibu. ‘Collective action on food security in a small island setting: A case study of fishery communities in the Kei islands, Indonesia.’