Rare Fellow Wida Sulistyaningrum never imagined she could change the fate of coastal Indonesian fishing villages. She and her colleagues at Conservation International (CI) had been working for years to help communities embrace sustainable fishing behaviors. The sea grasses, mangroves and reefs there harbor important fish breeding grounds as well as the enigmatic Bryde’s whales. Overfishing not only threatened the ecological health of the area, but the livelihoods of communities dependent on fish for food and income. Rare partnered with CI and helped Wida approach the community in a new way.
barriers to change
Few fishers and their families understood the long-term consequences of overfishing. Industrial fishing vessels often paid their way into the coastal waters. The communities of Triton Bay did not trust each other, but especially frowned upon interventions from foreign nonprofits. To earn their trust and help reverse destructive fishing trends Wida — an Indonesian — ate with them, listened to them, learned from them. She led and facilitated village workshops that fostered collaboration, rather than dictating prescribed, top-down plans. She asked them questions about their realities and concerns rather than telling them what to do. They became owners and implementers of the solution.
against the odds: agreement
Wida talked with the people of Triton Bay about the benefits of establishing no-fishing areas where fish stocks replenish. She suggested they establish one to test its benefits. After a series of meetings and events, the community asked to close off four areas to fishing. “It was a big surprise,” says Wida. “That is the biggest success of my campaign.”
promoting sustainable behaviors
To ensure enforcement of the zones and community support for the declarations, Wida inspired the people of Triton Bay to find pride in their natural resources through a Pride campaign with targeted marketing materials and events.
benefits for people and nature
Adrianus Kamaula, a local leader, used to collect fees for access to
village waters. Now he refuses boat entry into the fishery replenishment
zone at any price. He wants to ensure enough fish for future generations,
says Wida. A longstanding tenure system gives him exclusive fishing
rights within the community waters; so he personally sees a benefit to
enforcement and ensuring ecological health.
a future with fish
“I hope Triton Bay becomes a fish kingdom,” says Wida. She wants the people to continue living according to local traditions and feed themselves from the sea. An elderly fisher approached Wida and excitedly told her, “Ma’am, last week we had lots of fish near the village. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”