Caulerpa lentillifera or sea grapes (latoh) as called by Rembang residents is one of the local commodities that has the potential to be developed. Unfortunately, public awareness to cultivate it is still low. The high nutritional content and potential for export to countries such as Japan and Korea have not aroused the interest of the people in Rembang to manage it seriously. So far, sea grapes is only sought traditionally and not massively cultivated. The reason is because people used to get it easily, they just have to go to the beach and can easily find sea grapes. The community feels that there is no need to cultivate it because it is considered as something that is easy to find, so it does not need to be preserved. These days, there has come a time when sea grapes is rarely found and the price on the market is also relatively expensive for the surrounding community. It is a problem since people in Rembang have a culture to consume sea grapes and process it into mixed vegetables (urap).
Reflecting on the existing reality, the Community Creativity Program-Community Service Team from Diponegoro University tried to find a way out of the existing problems. The team consisting of Bahrul Ulum Habiba, Aji Rusanto, Zavia Ananda Safitri, and Chrissilia Yunia Atmojo guided by Kadhung Prayoga, SP, M.Sc took the initiative to create “Community-Based Sea Grapes Ecotourism as an Effort to Preserve Local Commodities in the North Coast of Java at Rembang Regency”. These four students chose Pantiharjo Village at Kaliori District, Rembang Regency as a pilot village. Based on the explanation of Bahrul Ulum Habiba as the team leader, this village was chosen because the majority of its people are fishermen affected by the pandemic, so their income even dropped by 50%. Moreover, women in Pantiharjo Village also do not have productive activities. It is hoped that by implementing this program, the income of fishermen’s families will increase and sea grapes ecotourism area can be developed. The ecotourism area at the same time can be an education field for the surrounding community.
The current condition in Pantiharjo Village is that there is only one person who works as sea grapes farmer. This is because the risk in harvesting sea grapes is quite high, where a sea grapes farmer must dive to a depth of approximately one meter at midnight if they want to get optimal results of fresh sea grapes. However, sea grapes cannot be harvested every day due to seasonal problems and the limited availability of sea grapes in nature. Therefore, this community service program uses a pond as a medium for cultivation of sea grapes. This technique is considered ideal because it is simple, does not require high costs, and is easy to maintain for tools and commodities. Moreover, the reservoir technique does not require a large area of land so that it can be developed on limited land. For now there is no concept of community-based sea grapes cultivation in coastal areas so that this activity is expected to be a pilot project for empowering coastal communities. When it develops into an ecotourism area, it can also be used as a community reference, especially as education field for students to learn about the process of sea grapes cultivation. It is considered by seeing the current generation in Rembang and many of them do not know what sea grapes is like.
The preparation of this program is done by inviting the public through socialization which is carried out online and offline. Activities that are then carried out during this service program are in the form of searching for location points in making ponds which of course must meet certain criteria, finding partners, socializing with the surrounding community, licensing with Pantiharjo Village government, and finally implementing the activities. These activities are carried out in collaboration with the surrounding community for mutual cooperation in the manufacture of aquaculture ponds. After the making of the pool is completed, the team and partners check and test for leaks in the pond and install various equipment needed for cultivation. Partners are then trained by the team regarding cultivation and maintenance activities.
The implementation of cultivation is carried out in the initial stages, namely nursery, care, harvest and post-harvest, the establishment of ecotourism, and evaluation. At the nursery stage, partners are taught about how to choose good seeds which are fresh and potentially grow well. Partners do hands-on practice by going into the field to conduct nurseries using a pair of bamboo boxes as a substitute for substrate attached to the roots of sea grapes. The next step is maintenance, such as cleaning the pool using a filter to take out the dirt in the pool and changing the water once a week. Next is fertilization which is done twice a week. It ends with harvesting and post-harvest training so that the selling price of sea grapes can increase.
The next stage is establishment of a sea grapes ecotourism village. The establishment is carried out by structuring the area around the pond, preparing the necessary needs, strengthening the capacity of human resources, and disseminating information through social media in TikTok account of @ekowisatalokanom. This activity is giving significant impacts on the mothers in Pantiharjo Village. “This program is carried out well. It is hoped that it will be sustainable program considering that sea grapes is increasingly rare and this is a real effort to preserve its sustainability,” Said Mrs. Saripah, the Chair of Family Welfare Movement of Pantiharjo Village.
Translated by: Titis (Public Relations)