The power of Rare's Pride Campaigns can be seen in this short one minute video. Farmers from an upstream community marched while people from the downstream community sang and danced along to this parade, which brings attention to the critical role protecting the ecosystem plays in the town's water supply.
It is the annual Raymillacta festival in Peru where thousands of people from dozens of surrounding villages come to the city of Chachapoyas in their native dress. The river was represented by a blue sheet. The people wore vegetation to show the importance of the ecosystem and then waltzed with the mascot -- the marvelous spatuletail hummingbird. (The young man in that costume needed some serious dehydration at the end of the day.) Women poured water for the crowd to show how the protected cloud forests purify water. The video soundtrack is a campaign song that was created by Rare Conservation Fellow Maritza Tovar to inform the community of the benefits of these reciprocal water agreements.
A week after the parade, the mayor agreed to support a voluntary municipal conservation fund!
The heavy rains did not relent for the milestone ceremony declaring four new no-fishing zones and one limited-fishing area in the spectacular southern section of Bird’s Head Seascape known as Triton Bay in West Papua, Indonesia. Rare Conservation Fellow Wida Sulistyaningrum had been working for years with her colleagues at Conservation International (CI) to gain the trust of the coastal communities. And only three months into her Pride campaign (Rare’s signature program that engages the community to build pride around unique natural assets) the communities themselves asked for the declaration of the protected areas. “Pride was an accelerant to the process,” says Eleanor Carter, Rare’s program director in Indonesia.
Sulistyaningrum explains that CI had been working in the area for four years, and though most of the villages wanted to create the no-take zones (areas where fishing is prohibited) there was one village that resisted. After persistent meetings with Sulistyaningrum, community forums and visits from government officials, the villagers finally united. They not only acquiesced to the creation of no-take zones, they asked that they be established immediately. During a training session on the benefits of marine protected areas in late May, the participants told Sulistyaningrum they wanted to bypass some of the formal next steps and just declare the no-take zones so that they could start demarcating the boundaries and patrolling the seas. “They were really anxious to declare the no-take zones,” says Sulistyaningrum. “It is really important to protect this area because it has one of the most beautiful coral reefs and we think that it is a spawning aggregation site.” On June 17th, in a torrential downpour, the heads of villages, government officials, community members as well as staff from Rare and CI gathered for a traditional ceremony, an Adat, to formally declare the no-take zones.
Local blessings sanctioned the protection of the areas with the implication that if someone were then to disobey the rules they would get a “mystic punishment”. A large billboard was also signed and placed prominently as a reminder of the no-take zones and their significance for the community. “The declarations in Triton Bay are the direct result of the Rare campaign conducted by Wida Sulistyaningrum,” says Mark Erdmann CI’s senior advisor for the Indonesia marine program. “It is a tribute to the tireless efforts of Wida and the CI team to develop strong community ownership over the management of their marine resources. I’ve been delighted to see Wida’s skills in social marketing and community outreach develop so impressively over the duration of her Rare fellowship, and we’re delighted to now have this skill set within our team.” Following numerous speeches and the signing of documents, villagers served local cuisine. Traditional dancing affirmed the stakeholders’ support and enthusiasm. The community’s commitment encourages Sulistyaningrum to move on to the challenges of building a system for the community to manage their fisheries, demarcating the no-take zones, patrolling them and enforcing them. “They are still waiting for the campaign promise that no-take zones will benefit them in the future,” says Yayat Afianto, Rare program manager in Indonesia. “We have to prove it.”
At seven in the morning the teenagers took out their brushes and started an atypically sanctioned graffiti project. It was hot and humid. Really hot and humid. And the temperature steadily rose throughout the day. Tourists and locals in bikinis and shorts stopped to look at the blank wall near the boardwalk that was quickly becoming a colorful tapestry of reef images. Cars along the quiet island’s main drag stopped to gawk, causing a resorttown anomaly – a traffic jam. (The traffic, and thus the event, made the headlines the following day.) City workers came to drop off donated audio equipment and were intrigued enough that they not only stayed, they called friends and family to come out and join the festivities.
“They thought it was a really cool event,” says Dulce Espelosin, Rare alumni associate for Latin America. Through an alumni network established a couple of years ago Espelosin offered three grants of $3,000 for outstanding applicants wanting to augment work that began in a previous Pride campaign. Itzel Arista won one of the grants. Arista’s campaign aimed to engage the youth of Cozumel – the future taxi drivers, hotel managers and tour guides – that have influence over how tourists interact and respect the reef system. The island of Cozumel only has 79,000 permanent residents, but that number can quickly double as cruise ships (which can hold upwards of 15,000 tourists each) dock on the island’s sandy shores. Snorkelers, scuba divers and even beach bums put a tremendous amount of pressure on the fragile coral ecosystems. To inspire the young artists, Espelosin took them out snorkeling with a guide. Prior to their underwater education they thought the coral was just something with which to woo a girlfriend or sell on the streets.
They were completely awed by the diversity of species and functionality of the ecosystem. “Wow!” said one of the teenagers. “That’s why during the hurricane the island is protected.” On the morning of July 26th, when they got to channel the field trip into their craft, it was clear that their talent echoed their enthusiasm for the reef. One of the island’s program directors that does youth outreach was amazed that the graffiti artists – usually targeted for their illegal vandalism and a hard segment to reach – were using their skills for a positive cause and asked for advice on how to keep them engaged in this way. People of all ages and nationalities participated in what turned into a street party to protect the reef. On one half of the wall the artists featured reef-scapes and on the other half supporters left a colorful handprint to represent their commitment to protect Cozumel’s reefs. By noon, when the dancing, singing and painting was drawing to a close, more than 300 individual hands had left their mark.