Note: This is Rare’s Senior Vice President of Global Programs Paul Butler’s third blog post in a series about his recent trip to the Philippines and Indonesia to monitor Rare’s conservation work in the field. You can find his first post here and his second post here.
After spending a very pleasant week with Mona, Rare’s Dampier Strait Rare Conservation Fellow, my attention shifted to a second site within the Raja Ampat archipelago, Ayau Asia, where we helped another Rare Conservation Fellow refine his campaign materials.
We had found that Mona’s campaign was a few weeks behind schedule but that she was making steady progress both in her campaign (many materials were in the final stages of design) and in engaging communities in patrolling and other aspects of her barrier removal strategy. I was keen to see where Valend Burdam, our Ayau-Asia fellow, was with his campaign. There was some concern that he might be even further behind as there had been some communication issues. This is hardly surprising considering Valend lives and works in one of the most remote sites in which Rare has ever worked.
Encompassing two large atolls and fourteen coral cay islands, Ayau Asia lies in the far northeast of Bird’s Head Seascape where Indonesia’s territory borders that of Palau, a country that has also hosted many Pride campaigns including, Republic of Palau, Palau, Ngerukewid Islands Wildlife Preserve. The Ayau-Asia marine protected area (MPA) covers 101,440 hectares, and was established in December 2006 when five villages with tenurial rights over the islands and reefs endorsed them to be an MPA. The MPA was formally recognized by the Raja Ampat Bupati, the head of district and Indonesian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs in 2007.
Valend is an employee of Conservation International where he serves as the Ayau MPA Conservation Campaign Coordinator. Sadly we were unable to join him at his site because of adverse sea conditions that prevented our boat from reaching his isolated archipelago. But (thankfully?) he too had been stuck in Sorong where he was meeting his supervisors, so he was able to meet with us in Waisai.
While camped out in CI’s field station, it was great to have Mona and Valend together, and we were thrilled when their respective supervisors joined us, as well as some of his community members who were also trying to get back to Ayau. We were equally thrilled to find that Valend was not as far behind in his campaign as we had feared. It had simply been impossible for him to get samples of his work uploaded to RarePlanet due to limited internet connectivity. To get an impression of his island see the photo below taken by Yayat Afianto, who works as Rare’s Pride Program manager overseeing and mentoring Valend’s campaign.
Valend has began drafting various pieces of campaign collateral and thankfully he had brought his computer with him, so we were able to review them. He had crafted a campaign logo, slogan, poster and begun work on a campaign song that would be recorded and broadcasted across the archipelago. Like Mona his campaign was striving to establish and/or strengthen no-take zones, improve boundary marking, reduce incursions and encourage community patrols to enhance enforcement efforts.
Valend noted that there are currently seven no-take zones within the Ayau-Asia MPA. He thought that five of these were reasonably well protected, but that two areas were not. This was in part due to the fact that they were poorly defined and comparatively new.
It was interesting to hear that younger community members (fishers) seemed more willing than their parents to adopt the concept of no-take zones. It was also interesting to hear from a community members just how dramatically fish catches have declined. Working as a former grouper trader in Sorong, a fisher noted that in the 1990’s he could purchase 10-20 tons of fish in one load, now it was difficult to purchase 1-2 tons.
The Ayau and Asia atoll systems are home to one of the last remaining known grouper spawning aggregation sites (SPAGS) in Raja Ampat, making the site critical for sustained fishing throughout the region. The MPA and associated no-take zones were established in part to ensure protection of these “SPAGS.”
During our days together, Valend worked with Yayat and the team to review those materials currently being designed and to discuss other material such as billboards and sermon sheets that were still in the early stages of planning. Valend believes it to be critical to involve the church as these community leaders command a great deal of respect. Indeed, having the no-take zones “validated” by the Church might help them command more respect.
We were working with Valend on his campaign song. It already sounds great. Below is an early version of it.
We also worked with Valend on his logo and poster. Each of these then had a first round of focus group testing with community members.
Working on the song was a definite highlight. The three verses help the audience to learn about the value and threats to the no-take zones, to feel a sense of ownership over them, and to understand what they can do to help. The chorus reinforces the call to action and embeds the campaign slogan, “Take some, keep some for the future, for our child and grandchild’s future, for the bright future of Ayau.”
It’s amazing what a talented fellow, a guitar and a simple drum can produce in a few hours. Once Valend gets back to his island, he will further test and refine the song as he plays it for his primary target audience, Ayau fishers. It will then be professionally recorded in Sorong and aired throughout Ayau Asia.
Valend is also planning to “blitz” the area with campaign materials (posters, billboards sermon sheets etc.) in August and September while simultaneously working on planting mooring buoys to better define marine protected area/no-take zone boundaries.
It was great to watch Rare’s staff working hand in hand with our fellows, while staying in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Sadly my time in Raja Ampat was limited and it was soon time to move on to a third site in Seribu…