We think that a conservation project can only succeed if it has the approval and support of the local stakeholders. We work with village elders and local village leaders to establish, manage and enforce the conservation plan. In order for the conservation objectives to be met we need to offer alternative forms of income to destructive fishing practices. If local people are prepared to stop destructive fishing and help us we, in turn, need to provide social & economic benefits to the villages such as educational, agricultural and other programmes where they are needed.
So far we have delivered approximately two thousand books for the 4 village schools in the marine conservation area which are now being used by children and adults alike. In addition we are providing language tuition in English & providing marine conservation education. We have, thanks to a Seacology grant, bought solar powered lighting for one of the local schools to allow them better study conditions. Finally, we have helped sponsor local scholars to further their education.
In January 2012 we funded an international team of doctors and public health experts to carry out a baseline health study of all individuals in each of the three villages bordering the conservation area. The report will lead to actions to improve local health.
We are working with local government and specialist international agricultural advisers to improve yields for existing agriculture such as coconut harvest and also to widen the agricultural base on the islands to improve nutrition and wealth.
Uniquely, we assist local village groups to establish sustainable businesses which are compatible with the conservation targets of the MCA to improve their lives and offer alternative income sources. Our initial focus is on tourism related projects such as making Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) and soap as well as curios for sale to visiting tourists and local resorts. VCO is cold pressed from the meat of locally grown coconuts so the oil retains its natural vitamins and minerals. In Asia VCO is widely used as a health supplement as well as for hair & skin care. We are actively helping the villagers find sales markets in Raja Ampat, Bali and abroad & the revenue from these products substantially increases wealth in the villages.