Building trust with communities to protect their fisheries
Kamaka village has dollar signs in its eyes. Its reputation of being financially opportunistic is well known throughout neighboring communities of Triton Bay, Indonesia. One of Kamaka’s town leaders relentlessly collects fees for any access to village waters. Rare Conservation Fellow Wida Sulistyaningrum recently spoke to him and was pleased to learn that he has been rejecting offers of payment. “The leader said ‘no’ to boats because we had declared it a no-take zone and we do not use nets anymore,” says Sulistyaningrum. “It is a good thing for the campaign.”
Two years ago, Sulistyaningrum and nine other conservationists in Indonesia and Timor-Leste partnered with Rare to learn social marketing tools and systems to lead change in their communities. In early May, the ten fellows celebrated the completion of Rare’s two-year training and implementation program. All ten Pride campaigns built a sense of ownership around fishery management. Though each fellow confronted different hurdles and achieved a range of successes, they all managed to inspire fishing-dependent villages to take pride in their marine resources. Combined, the fellows facilitated the declaration, implementation or design of 32 no-take zones covering a total of 65,000 hectares (or about twice the size of Rhode Island). At the end of May, 13 new fellows from Indonesia and Malaysia joined the next class to further improve prospects for coastal fisheries in the Coral Triangle.
“When I started the campaign, I felt nervous because I didn’t have experience or skills in communication,” says Sulistyaningrum. “Rare gave me a lot of tools and skills to approach the community in a fun way.” She and her colleagues at Conservation International had been working for years to gain the trust of the communities on the coast of Triton Bay. In the past, she presented to local stakeholders telling them what their problems were and how to fix them. Those meetings did not go well. Now she asks the community to identify their own issues and involves them in creating and executing the solutions. The community now feels invested in sustaining their livelihoods.
“Rare gave me a lot of tools and skills to approach the community in a fun way.”
Her suggestion to the people of Triton Bay had been to establish one no-take zone, but after a series of meetings and events, the community asked to close off a total of four areas to fishing. “It was a big surprise,” says Sulistyaningrum. “That is the biggest success of my campaign.”
She aimed for a 20 percent reduction of fishers entering the no-take zones. In Kamaka, surveys already show a 33 percent decline. At a recent meeting, community members asked Sulistyaningrum about building a patrol post on a central island to guard the no-take zones. She explained that funds were limited. But the community told her they would provide the materials and funds, if she would lend technical support. “I tell them they are the role model for other communities who now also want to set up no-take zones,” says Sulistyaningrum. “The people are really proud of what they have done.”
Sulistyaningrum chokes back tears as she talks about her vision for Triton Bay and its people — with whom she has built a strong bond and trust. “I hope they become a fish kingdom,” says Sulistyaningrum. She wants them to continue living according to local traditions and feed themselves from the sea.
Her hard work, combined with the pioneering spirit of the people of Triton Bay, may already be paying off. Early indications at one site show a five-fold increase in the snapper population. Recently, an elderly fisher approached Sulistyaningrum and excitedly told her, “Ma’am, last week we had lots of fish near the village. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”