The Coral Triangle cohort consists of 22 sites across Indonesia and the Philippines, and each Rare Conservation Fellow is focusing on a single site in order to better respect the local context in which the fishermen are operating. As the Fellows finish up their 11th week of training, they are applying the theory of change to their individual communities in order to identify and fight the specific causes of overfishing. They are becoming familiar with past techniques that have been successful in encouraging behavior change and removing the economic and cultural barriers to making sustainable fishing possible. In addition, their education focuses on the day-to-day requirements of running a campaign and on local causes of damage to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). As a part of their training, they are beginning to develop the foundations of an outreach campaign to build community awareness and support of these MPAs. By doing so, the Fellows will promote these sustainable protected fishing areas that, in turn, will provide the fishermen with a sustainable livelihood and preserve biological diversity. Once they conclude their training in a few weeks time, the Pride Program Managers will launch their outreach campaigns at all 22 sites, beginning the efforts to impact an estimated 700,000 people and 4.5 million hectares of ocean and to establish a lasting network of local leaders who can support even broader conservation efforts.
Pride Campaign Manager Duan Honglian is hard at work in the Gaoligong Nature Preserve, working to protect the forest habitat of the Hoolock Gibbon. Through the combination of promotional materials and events, she is making great strides towards changing attitudes in the surrounding communities.
Honglian created a wide array of promotional materials to raise awareness of the plight of the gibbons. 500 canvas bags were given out to farmers, each replete with a picture of a gibbon on one side, and the phrase “Love My Homeland, Protect the Gibbon” on the other. The campaign also gave out 1000 notebooks to surrounding communities. These notebooks served several functions, not only did they contain beautiful pictures of the Gaoligong Reserve, but they also provided valuable information on biodiversity, plant and animal resources, and Hoolock Gibbons. In addition to the notebooks, 5000 calendars containing information and pictures regarding the gibbon were given out to farmers. The impact of these calendars cannot be understated, as prior to their distribution, very few farmers had ever even heard of the gibbon. After the calendars were handed out, however, Honglian surveyed the surrounding area and found that 35 of 37 houses visited displayed the calendar. The only two houses that did not display the calendar lacked adhesives powerful enough to combat the wind. Finally, the campaign created badges (see picture) to use during their visits to schools. The badges act as a great motivator to get children involved in the campaign.
The campaign held several promotional events that were extremely successful. In Nan King Village, the campaign worked closely with the primary school to create a cooking competition, puppet show, songs, and other gibbon themed activities. The cooking competition was intense, as it pitted some of the best local cooks against one another in a contest to see who could use the new electric stoves to create the best dish. The puppet show and song (“Love My Home”) saw the participation of Beithou and Azhen, the two pride campaign figures. They were, as always, a huge success with the children of the village. At the conclusion of the event, a survey was taken that resulted in 80% of the attendees saying that they recognized the value of protecting gibbons.
Community Pride Week was another event organized by Honglian and her partners. The activities, while fun, also focused on celebrating the construction of household stoves, use of electric stoves, arrival of energy saving light bulbs, and a decrease in firewood consumption. Furthermore, the event was able to show movies about conservation several times. Although this may seem minor, the entertainment provided by a movie was a special treat to people in the area.
Finally, here is a story shared by a mother in the area about the effect electric stoves have had on her and her son’s lives. The son, who is seven years old, did not like going to school. He would often use the excuse that he had to tend to the fire and, therefore, could not go into school that day. The mother, while wanting her child to learn how to read and write, also understood the need to tend the fire, and would often allow her son to stay home. When the Pride Campaign arrived to the area, one of the many things they contributed was electric stoves. As the son learned how to use the cooker, which only took about a week, the need to tend the fire diminished. Now, the son no longer has an excuse not to go to school, and is present every day. The campaign has affected people’s lives in ways that they never originally intended.
The progress this campaign has made over the last several months has been truly remarkable. With an emphasis on public outreach and education, villagers in the Lamandau area are successfully reducing the amount of forest cut down for fuel and expansion of farmland.
A poster drive, mascot, and song have been the primary focus of the campaign’s public outreach push. The posters promote settled farming, reduced burning of forest, and the planting to mixed gardens. Led by Eddy Santoso, almost every village surrounding the Lamandau Wildlife Preserve was given these informational posters. In addition to the posters, a fact sheet was created that used pictures to link climate change to the burning of forest. Not content to stop there, Eddy and his team made a concerted effort to draw children into the fight against deforestation. Uncle Win, the mascot who represents the campaign, has made several visits to schools to educate children. A song was also written specifically for the campaign to be sung at schools. These fun and playful strategies have paid big dividends. Children in the area have, of their own accord, begun to collect seeds and plant trees to replace ones that have been burned. The involvement of children as well as adults bodes well for the future success of the campaign.
Perhaps the most successful part of the Pride campaign thus far has been the implementation of settled farming techniques in the Lamandau area. The primary reason for clearing forest is to plant palm trees, which are harvested for their oil and, ultimately, become the main source of income for villagers. As villagers earn income from the palm oil, they stop planting their own food and start clearing more forest for palm trees. This additional income is then used to buy food and other supplies that they could otherwise provide for themselves. Eddy and his partners at Yayorin have created a settled farming program that increases the self reliance of villagers and reduces the need for palm trees and their oil. In Tempayung Village, a mixed garden program was created that encourages villagers to start planting their own gardens in order to supplement their diets. These gardens include things such as fruits, vegetables, and rubber. With the additional food and resources gardens provide, villagers no longer have to go into the forest every day to find food. In the nearby area of Babual Boboti, 77% of villagers started their own mixed gardens. The community was so excited by the idea of starting gardens that women, children, and even men returning home from their day jobs, all participated in the planting and upkeep. In fact, the settled farming program has been so successful that the head of the Department of Agriculture traveled to the area to personally praise their efforts.
The future looks good for the preservation of orangutan habitat around Lamandau. Village chiefs around the wildlife preserve all reaffirmed their commitment not to expand farming fields, open new farming lands, or cut trees for fuels. This is an extremely important step, as villagers are loath to defy their chief. Furthermore, supervisory patrols were created to ensure that everyone is following the directives of the chiefs. These supervisory patrols were also pleased to discover the return of migratory birds to the areas that had been previously burned. The return of ibis, egrets, herons and grouse all signify the improving health of the forest and the success of the campaign.