Giving our secrets away - Collabs with other organisations
Our movement has potential because we don’t stand alone. We work with a large and ever-growing network of people and organisations making a positive difference for people and the environment.
Our work is backdropped against a sensitive and complex context built over generations of land rights abuses, colonialism and socio-economic inequalities. The path to finding solutions in those situations can be laden with mistakes.
Since what we do impacts human lives and critically important ecosystems, we can’t afford to make many.
While community-led interventions to conservation have a long and somewhat controversial history (e.g. ICDPs in the 80s/90s), we can benefit by vicariously learning through others experiences to predict and avoid mistakes. We’ve done this by learning about past NGOs through research or presently from more experienced NGOs through direct face-to-face knowledge exchanges.
One notable partnership has been with the renowned Blue Ventures.
2 years ago, we wanted to replicate our model (which had only been implemented in terrestrial environments) to coastal areas where rich mangrove forests were being threatened. But we felt we were lacking a fisheries-level intervention. Blue Ventures played an integral advisory role in that process and the integration of periodic closures into our Conservation Cooperative approach.
Of the seven villages who control over 15,000 hectares of mangrove forests in the coastal region of Kubu Raya, only one was trusting enough to work with us.
That was Sungai Nibung, who has rights to just over 3,000 hectares of mangroves and who we’ve developed a close working relationship with since. We conducted our usual surveys and discussions to listen to what the community needed.
It was a similar story to our terrestrial sites. There was a lack of access to essential services, financial stability and isolation amongst other issues were driving environmental loss. This meant, that our model was suitable. However, they relied on fisheries and we didn’t have the coastal expertise or experience to alter our sustainable management branch of our model to cater to their livelihoods.
That’s when we turned to Blue Ventures for help. They began in Madagascar 15 years ago, and have since seen immense success with their coastal natural resource management systems to the benefit of local community economies and environment health.
One of their model staples is the periodic closures (sometimes referred to as area and time closures, temporary reserves, among others. . The periodic closure is cyclic, where you ban fishing in an area for a set period of time, to allow the population to recoup, before reopening the area for another limited period of fishing.
Using their experience in setting up closures, we worked with Sungai Nibung to implement one too. It was a tense few months as we waited out the initial 3 month fishing ban but eventually, it was met with overwhelming success.
So much so, all seven villages in Kubu Raya heard the word and within the same year made the pledge to work with us.
That experience also proved how replicable our Conservation Cooperative (CC) model was to other regions. You simply build our central community-based system, the CC, and alter the programs to fit the needs and values of the communities in that location.
Now, with research giving us hard numbers on the positive impact of our model, we are confident in our ability to help other regions through local organisations much in the same way Blue Ventures helped us.
So when Blue Ventures asked us if we would be open to welcoming another organisation to learn our sites, we were incredibly excited to.
Enter Forkani, a community formed organisation from Wakatobi who came to observe our partnership with Sungai Nibung last month.
Forkani works with communities on a cluster of four islands in the bio-diverse region of Sulawesi (the name Wakatobi comes from combining the names of the four main islands Wangi-wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko), where the largest island stretches only 15 kms at its widest point.
The differences are stark. They work on a never-ending expanse of ocean with clear bright turquoise waters compared to our brown rivers, their main fisheries are octopus whilst ours are crabs and their mangroves are meters shorter than the ones you can find in our coasts.
But the similarities are much more so. Much like our partner villages, Forkani’s communities are incredibly isolated geographically and marginalized socio-politically. They similarly suffer from food security, health concerns and balancing socio-economic needs with environmental ones.
To read about the full four-day trip experience, what we learnt and did - go over to Blue Ventures blog here.
At the final debrief the Forkani representatives expressed plenty of excitement over the knowledge they’d gain and we’re certainly excited to see how it has been applied... when we visit them in a few months time!
Around October, we’ll be heading to Wakatobi so our SMART Patrol team can learn from Forkani’s successful marine patrol methods. Armed with that knowledge, our SMART Patrols will be able to expand their efforts to our coastal partners in full force later in the year.
And so we come full circle.
These knowledge exchanges are constantly ongoing. Just last month we attended a knowledge exchange about rehab and rescue center maintenance during a visit to Cikananga. In July, Aceh Birder also visited our terrestrial site to learn how our model is lowering deforestation and helping end illegal songbird poaching.
Our collaborations in 2019 have involved organisations from many districts in Indonesia, Australia, the UK, Singapore and Malaysia amongst many others.
These knowledge exchanges will also be critical in growing the reach of our model and movement which has been designed to achieve all 16 of UNDP’s sustainable development goals - by balancing human well-being and environmental conservation needs.
You see this is another thing, local problems need the expertise of local people - we don’t need to be the ones implementing. We can collaborate to empower other community-based organisations, such as Forkani, to make those changes for themselves.
Every organisation has their specialty and experience. By working together we can do more and we do it better.