Recently in Project Updates Category
We just got this GLOWING update via email from our field rep in Indonesia about the 99,000-acre marine reserve off the coast of Daram Island. (Seacology is funding the construction of a community center in nearby Fafanlap village in exchange for their support of the reserve)
It was so great we just had to share:
The last time I dived this site was with the Seacology trip in 2007 and while it was spectacular four years ago, the reef has exploded with fish life since then. For the first time we saw schools of Napoleon wrasse, blacktip sharks and aggregations of big grouper, all of which seem to have been locally extinct on most Indonesian reefs for over a decade. There were so many fish on this dive that our heads were spinning. I was emphatically pointing one way and Mark was emphatically pointing another way the whole dive. I came out of that dive exhilarated and full of joy and hope that other reefs in the Misool area, with continued protection, will also look like Fafanlap in just a few short years. If they do, I can foresee that S.E. Misool will have THE best diving in the world, hands down.
During Mitiaro's dry season (typically from June to November) the island's 200 residents must rely on reserves they store in water tanks. When they suffer droughts -- as is the case right now -- they may have to resort to dipping into the island's natural resevoirs, the pristine fresh-water pools found in remote caves.
But even that isn't so simple, since just getting to the pools can be challenging and dangerous. One cave requires that you climb down a tree and then navigate steep, slippery rocks before you reach the water.
Our project in Mitiaro addressed both these issues. In exchange for the conservation of 3,000 acres of forest (roughly a third of the island!) we funded the installation of a safe pathway with handrails to the cave pools, plus the renovation of eight 10,000 gallon water tanks (pictured below).
So what kinds of creatures are being protected? Here's a quick tour of some of Batukahu Forest's residents:
The forest cat has big eyes and is very ferocious, while the long-tailed macaque looks a little sad, but their babies are adorable.
Meanwhile, the pangolin looks a lot like an armadillo, and the flying fox (AKA the kalong) is not a fox at all, but instead a rather large bat.
Seacology's Field Representative in the Philippines, Ferdie Marcelo, maintains a blog documenting his experiences working to conserve the rich natural resources and ecosystems in the Philippines. His most recent entry details his recent trip to Barangay Malhaio on Cebu Island, where Seacology is funding the construction of a boardwalk and viewing deck in support of the conservation of 73 hectares (180 acres) of mangrove forest for a duration of 15 years. Ferdie's description of working with the community to develop a thorough understanding of the conservation agreement with Seacology is especially engaging.
Seacology's win-win formula is simple. An island community commits to protect a natural resource, and in return, Seacology funds a tangible need of the community. To finalize the agreement, a Covenant between the community and Seacology is then signed.
The covenant is not complicated. It
just stipulates a few important points: that Seacology will provide the funds
required to build the tangible; that Seacology will not claim ownership over
any land or sea belonging to the community; and that in return the community pledges
to protect the no-take zone agreed on.
From past experience, this process is usually straightforward. The village will sign the covenant, and the construction will commence. That is, until the village of Malhiao raised a few questions that I thought should be answered face to face.
It took a good three hour ride to get to Malhiao from Cebu City, past the noted beaches of Argao and Moalboal. The barangay's leaders, led by putative Barangay Captain James Taboada, were waiting for us by the time Delfa Talaid of Tambuyog (Seacology's project partner) and I got there late morning yesterday. "Putative" because he is all but officially that, the previous Barangay Captain having died from a stroke the week before, I was just informed. Burial is today, July 3.
The object of the covenant is the village's commitment to protect 73 hectares of mangroves for 15 years, in exchange for Seacology's funding of the construction of a boardwalk and view deck on the Mangroves. The community hopes to develop its own tourism industry by showcasing their lush mangroves.
Of the many concerns they raised, I found four to be particularly incisive, which I have listed below along with my response to each:
Question: What exactly does a "no-take zone" mean? The community conducts mangrove planting activities every once in a while, and there is a concern as to whether activities of that sort will constitute a violation of the covenant. In fact, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, in partnership with Malhiao, has a continuing program where parolees go to Malhiao to plant mangrove trees as part of their community service. Incorporating tree planting in future educational tours are planned as well.
Answer: Tree planting is allowable because this is not extractive
Question: Enforcing the no-take zone among the villagers of Malhiao is not a problem, but some fisherfolk from neighboring barangays go to the mangroves to collect shellfish for food. Will people still be allowed to gather shellfish within the mangroves if the mangrove trees themselves are left alone?
Answer: No. Setting aside the mangroves as a no-take zone means
that gathering of any sort is prohibited. The benefits of this policy will
redound to the five-hectare multi-use zone that the community has also
declared. Maintaining an undisturbed mangrove area means more juvenile marine
life will have a chance to grow into spawning adults, and the resulting
spillover to the multi-use zone will mean more bountiful harvests. It is easy
to imagine noticeable results in the quality of harvests in the multi-use zone
within six months if the mangroves are fully protected.
Question: What if Malhiao is unable to effectively protect the mangroves? Will there be a penalty imposed?
Answer: The first casualty, if the integrity of the mangroves is
ruinously violated, is the productivity of the five-hectare multi-use zone.
That by itself is heavy enough a penalty. Secondarily, the plans of the
community to capitalize on tourism and the potential business it can bring will
be in jeopardy. It will be hard to look for tourists who are willing to pay to
see a mangrove area where people indiscriminately set traps and collect all
sizes of crabs, seashells, and whatnot. But as far as Seacology is concerned,
no penalty can or will be imposed, though it will
be unlikely that we will enter into another agreement with the community in the
Question: Why does Seacology insist on a term on the village's commitment to protect the mangrove?
Answer: The covenants Seacology enters into generally have a term ranging from 10 to 30 years. This stems from Seacology's view that the succeeding generation should be free to make commitments of their own. If after 15 years the next generation decides to continue protecting the mangroves, it will be because they appreciate the merits of doing so; not because they have to honor some agreement their fathers entered into long ago.
We wound up beginning a shared lunch
still discussing the covenant, until the conversations drifted onto other
matters towards the end. Finally, after lunch, with all questions laid to rest,
the covenant was signed.
Then came the many ideas on the mangroves. Educational tours, guided mangrove river canoe rides, and bird watching are some of the possible mangrove activities that could spark the beginnings of tourism. Already, Tambuyog has had talks with the Regional Department of Education highlighting the Malhiao mangroves. As a result, an April 2011 memorandum was issued holding the Malhiao mangroves as a guide in the implementation of the Coastal Ecosystem Education program of the department. To assist the barangay in enforcing the no-take zone, the Municipality of Badian agreed to train some villagers to become mangrove guards, and to provide enforcement support if needed.
Looking back, if the questions on the project were raised as a consequence of the barangay's sudden leadership transition, then a lot of credit must be given to incoming Barangay Captain Taboada. He did not just go along with his predecessor's project. He took the project, analyzed it, and after being satisfied with it, gave it his approval, thereby putting the responsibility for the project squarely within his watch.
With each question I was asked, my impression on the seriousness of how the villagers of Malhiao are taking the covenant only deepened. There was a tour of the mangroves on a makeshift raft later on with some of the village's leaders. It was a really nice and refreshing tour along passages between huge clusters of mangrove trees. But my mind was still on the upturn of the villagers' regard towards their commitment with Seacology since we arrived. I just witnessed their progression from fawn-like tentativeness, to a doe's leap of faith, to a stag's confidence and optimism in the future. All in one day.
It was a good feeling that stayed with me throughout the long bus ride back to Cebu City. And then some.
All pictures from Ferdie Marcelo. To see more of Ferdie's images from his site visit to Malhaio, visit the original post on his blog, Nature Calls.
Seacology is currently supporting almost 200 projects on islands around the world. Below, we have updates on two of our recent projects. Visit our website to see news on all Seacology's projects.
Umbu Langang, Sumba Island, Indonesia - Freshwater system in support of the protection of 7,414 acres of rainforest and savannah for a minimum duration of 10 years
On Indonesia's Sumba Island, Seacology is working with Umbu Langang Village to protect over 7,000 acres of rainforest and savannah. The protected area borders Manupeu Tanadaru National Park, which contains rare sandalwood habitat for several endemic frog, butterfly, reptile, and bird species. Umbu Langang borders the park, and has agreed not to expand their farms, protecting 5,931 acres of forest and 1,483 acres of mixed savannah. Seacology originally agreed to support the village's conservation efforts with a critically needed fresh water system. When that project was completed under budget, Seacology approved the remaining funds to be used for a "living kitchen," or community garden, which will be supported in the dry season with the new fresh water system.
As of June 2010, the fresh water systems continues to run smoothly and provide many benefits to the village. Additionally, 100 village women are involved in the "living kitchen," farming small plots of land near their homes and adjacent to the fresh water pipes. Many of these women are on their second plantings, and many of the vegetables have flourished, including cauliflower, water spinach, tomatoes, and chilies. Villagers report that routine patrols are being conducted in the national park. Although there was once instance of monkeys being trapped, the conflict was resolved and the rangers are continuing to patrol with vigilance.
The third largest island in the world, Borneo is politically divided between Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. In the northern half, the Malaysian state of Sarawak harbors extensive rainforests. Recently, however, many of these forests have been threatened by logging and tree and palm oil plantations. Malaysia is currently losing rainforest faster than any other nation in Asia, with the rate of deforestation increasing by a staggering 86% in recent years.
Our first site visit was to the community of San Pedro, on Biri Island in Samar Province. Seacology has funded the construction of a community-managed medical dispensary in exchange for a 25-acre marine reserve, to be protected for a duration of 20 years.
Our second site visit was to Barangay Manamoc, Northern Palawan. This village has a population of 1,900. With the assistance of Seacology Germany, Seacology has funded a solar energy system to provide power to the community's schools, barangay hall and medical clinic in exchange for an agreement to protect a 267-acre marine area.
I've been at Seacology for nine years now (I was the first paid employee, beating Executive Director Duane Silverstein by around a week). Each time a board meeting comes and passes, I'm astounded at both how time flies, as well as how we have grown as an organization. At their June 9 meeting, Seacology's board of directors approved seven new projects, bringing our total number of projects to 176. Moreover, a really cool milestone has been reached - Seacology now has projects on 100 islands in 44 countries throughout the world.
Following are short descriptions of the projects passed by Seacology's board of directors at their June 9 meeting. You can find full descriptions on our website.
AMERICAN SAMOA, Pago Pago Village, Tutuila Island - Phase 3: Eradicate the dense stands of the destructive Falcataria moluccana tree adjacent to the National Park areas of American Samoa (NPSA). *
Left: Children on the mangrove walkway, Wasini Island, Kenya.
Seacology Field Representative Simon Ellis and project leader Frankie Harriss sent us some wonderful photos and a report from the Ailuk Community, Marshall Islands. The Ailuk Community established a 160-acre marine protected area and a 55-acre terrestrial/marine protected area for a period of ten years.
In exchange, Seacology funded the construction of a solar-powered airport terminal and guest lodge. The project began in July 2007. In spite of some setbacks due to a lack of shipping options for materials to this remote area, the construction phase of the project was completed in January 2008 (photo of building under construction and completed below).