Coastal region and small island papers 20
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION: SHARING THE EXPERIENCES

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  4. SHARING SMALL ISLANDS VOICE EXPERIENCES

‘I spoke about how we can change the mindset of communities using participatory approaches and the value of existing traditional knowledge in the community. We also need to work on providing the scientific community with the skills to communicate with the public about amending behaviour patterns. We must find out the interests of communities and ways to motivate them, and take on the diversity of their cultural practices. It is also important to build autonomy as a process at the outset of the project to avoid a dependency syndrome between the community and the NGO, and so to replicate and expand successes.’ Pynee Chellapermal, Mauritius


Sharing conservation experiences at the Oldhegg Turtle Sanctuary, Park Bay, Bequia, 12 July 2005

Community Issues, Activities and Outreach

Caribbean - San Andres Archipelago: Ms. Elizabeth Taylor, Corporation for the Sustainable Development of San Andres, Old Providence and Santa Catalina (CORALINA), outlined a variety of Small Islands Voice activities in her presentation.  These included school radio programmes, the strengthening of documentation centres, development of a marine curriculum for schools, and beach management activities.  Future actions will focus on involving the wider community in the SIV Global internet forum, documenting island memories, strengthening youth activities and raising awareness about the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve.

Discussion:

  • A 53% unemployment rate, mainly among immigrants from the Colombian mainland, creates many social problems.  One effort focuses on sustainable livelihoods (ecotourism, fishing, farming) e.g. an effort is underway to process wasted fruit under a ‘green label’
  • Ecotourism has been established in Old Providence where the community has requested that some proposed development projects be denied because of perceived negative impacts
  • Seychelles has seen a recent boom in large hotel development and the government is trying to ensure that community concerns are incorporated into these proposals
  • A land use plan approved in 2003 in San Andres includes a policy to release the foreshore through the non-renewal of beach licenses for large hotels, Now these resorts will have to make significant changes before having their licenses renewed
  • CORALINA has an environmental outreach programme directed towards schools and communities

Caribbean - Cuba: Ms Illeana Saborit Izaguirre, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), outlined in her presentation Cuba’s national environmental strategy, which addresses problems such as soil degradation, deteriorating sanitation in human settlements, pollution, deforestation and loss of biological diversity.  While Cuba is fairly new to Small Islands Voice, it is hoped that the project will help to provide a framework for strengthening public participation in environmental initiatives.

Discussion:

  • Cuba has one of the best educational systems in the world and the inclusion of an environmental dimension in all plans and programmes has helped to shape attitudes so that children and youth are heavily involved in community programmes
  • With the help of an inter-departmental committee, legislation such as the coastal management law, and local level environmental strategies, hotels have a good record of preserving the local ecosystem.

Indian Ocean - Mauritius: Mr. Pynee Chellapermal, Centre for Documentation, Research and Training on the South West Indian Ocean (CEDREFI), in his presentation, focused on involving major groups: trade unions, farmers, fishermen, women, human rights groups, in the follow-up to Mauritius.  Over the coming two years, representatives from these groups will be invited to select a particular issue from the Mauritius Strategy and to begin dialogue and action relating to the particular issue. The groups will share their experiences at regular intervals and the entire process will be coordinated by CEDREFI. It is hoped that the process can be replicated at the regional level in the AIMS region.

Discussion:

  • In Seychelles the main action since the Mauritius International Meeting has been to put in place infrastructure to respond to extreme events, such as the December 2004 tsunami, however, this has yet to reach the community level.  Community response is one of the most important aspects of disaster management, and the Caribbean has considerable experience in this area, which can be shared with islands in other regions.  For example the National Emergency Management Agency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines established offices in different communities – thus establishing communities within communities
  • In the Maldives a lack of communication was one of the main problems after the December 2004 tsunami
  • Many islands, in aspiring to western ideals, discard traditional ways of living.  Many of the communities were located inland, while now most of the tourism development is on the coast and therefore especially vulnerable to natural disasters such as tsunamis
  • Another issue facing many islands is the large number of cars, insufficient parking, and lack of attention to energy conservation and renewable energy

Indian Ocean - Mauritius: In a second presentation, Pynee Chellapermal focused on communities and climate change.  Using participatory approaches, CEDREFI had worked with one community in Mauritius to build on traditional and tacit knowledge, and to show the linkage between climate change and natural resource conservation.  Through the project activities, the community discovered for themselves that wise conservation practices in the use of electricity and water, and in the management of household waste, resulted in significant financial savings for families, as well as benefit for the environment.

Discussion:

  • Topics such as climate change used to be perceived as relating only to abstract science.  Now the signs are visible for all to see and it is important to link solutions to activities in people’s daily lives
  • In San Andres, energy conservation among hotels has been promoted but has had only limited success because of the way energy is priced.  The power generation capacity of the private electricity company is more than the island needs, and the cost of under-utilised power is passed onto the consumer, thereby creating a disincentive to electricity conservation
  • In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, rainwater harvesting is carried out by many households, and many people feel that water is a free resource.  A water bottling business started by an international company resulted in considerable controversy when a local community felt their resources were threatened.  (This issue was also discussed on the SIV Global Forum)

Pacific - Palau: Ms Bernie Keldermens, Palau Conservation Society, described the community visioning process that has been underway in Palau since 2001.  Community visioning is essentially a long term planning process whereby communities lay out a blueprint for changes they want to see within their communities; they then implement the plan and evaluate their progress on an ongoing basis.  Palau, a small country with approximately 20,000 people, has been undergoing rapid changes in recent years, e.g. villagers used to grow their own food and now they are dependent on imported food products.  Within the framework of community visioning, villagers are being challenged to think for themselves and to come up with a roadmap for how they want to develop. At the beginning, communities felt they were being burdened with new responsibilities, however, after several visits they began to see the potential benefits of the visioning process.  Now eight communities (called states in Palau) are working on community visioning.  At the beginning, government showed some reluctance to support the process, however, now they are seeing that it is important for those who own the resources to decide for themselves how to develop those resources.  The Palau Conservation Society is well positioned to facilitate the community visioning process since it is outside the decision-making sphere.  The process is also providing an opportunity for women to get involved in planning the future of their communities.

Discussion:

  • The national government was not involved in the process at the beginning.  The idea was to get people to think about the issues first and they are now telling the national government what they want done
  • The local language (Palauan) is used throughout the consultative process
  • Women leaders are the key to the process since they perceive the need to grow as a community, rather than having their community run by a few businessmen
  • While the Compact road in Babeldaob is not yet completed, communities recognise the need to include this new infrastructural development in their planning
  • Since community visioning is still at the early stages, it is difficult to specify tangible benefits, but the fact that communities are already making decisions for themselves is an intangible benefit
  • Palauan villages traditionally had some degree of self governance, but this was lost during their history of colonisation and occupation

Pacific - Fiji: Mr. Christian Nielsen, Live and Learn Environmental Education Inc., in his presentation on Mobilising Communities: Education through Participation,’ described an MAIA model (Mobilization, Anticipation, Innovation, Action) which attempts to develop critical thinking skills and link knowledge to change.  This model has been applied in the Solomon Islands to address the issue of widespread logging such that communities had been empowered to participate in forest management through a process combining dialogue, identification of community assets, awareness raising, participation and managing conflict.

Discussion:

  • The difference between understanding and feeling culture was much debated.  Culture is constantly changing, and when there are negative aspects they should not necessarily be maintained
  • Identification of community assets by the community is a time-consuming process and differentiating between physical assets e.g. fishing plots, land lots, and value assets e.g. cultural and faith-based beliefs, is often helpful
  • Focusing on community assets also allows for identification of gaps or needs; and it is very important to avoid creating expectations within the community that are beyond the scope of a particular project or initiative
  • Instances were discussed relating to the difficulty of identifying a community’s needs, they may request help with one need, but in essence want help with something completely different

Pacific - Fiji: Mr. Joeli Veitayaki, Marine Studies Programme, University of the South Pacific, in his presentation focused on the importance of community outreach and stressed that the management of resources is about the management of human beings and their activities.  He described the collaborative community efforts in Fiji being conducted by the Chemistry Outreach for Schools/Ocean Futures Society/Small Islands Voice and showed how the activities could be spread to other Pacific islands through the University of the South Pacific Student Association.  During one of the evening sessions, Mr. Joeli Veitayaki gave another presentation on the Mositi Vanuaso project, a locally managed marine area where various habitat rehabilitation initiatives have complemented marine resource management activities.

Discussion:

  • NGOs have to engage communities and to take their perspectives into account and not to just follow their own (NGO) agenda

Focusing on Outer Islands

Caribbean - The Bahamas: Ms. Portia Sweeting, Ministry of Education, in her presentation stressed that one of the major challenges facing archipelagic states such as The Bahamas was to get people together and coordinate activities. In The Bahamas, education is perceived as the principal vehicle for achieving national development, and emphasis has been placed at the primary school level on the implementation and evaluation of sustainable development projects.  Small Islands Voice activities included the Youth Focus 2004, Sandwatch and the Youth Internet forum.  Other related activities were also described in the presentation.

Discussion:

  • The concept of making learning fun, e.g. through activities such as camping, has shown considerable success in the Caribbean
  • There is a need to emphasise activities at the primary school level, since by the time the students reach secondary school level, it may be too late especially with concentrated examination schedules

Indian Ocean - Maldives: Mr. Abdullah Shakir Mohammed of the Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources, outlined a variety of Small Islands Voice activities in his presentation.  The activities focused on several outer atolls and waste management was among the issues prioritised by the communities.  Waste characterization surveys were conducted as well as school-based activities.  Another activity, especially important in the Maldives where fishing is a major industry, was training communities in reef management and monitoring.

Discussion:

  • Fishermen react in different ways to the conservation versus harvesting aspect of reef management.  In the Maldives fish are still plentiful, and the major problem relates to insufficient capacity to freeze and store the fish
  • Comoros is another Indian Ocean island country with a similar culture which could benefit from collaboration with the Maldives, perhaps within the framework of Small Islands Voice

Pacific - Cook Islands: Ms Imogen Ingram, Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society, described various Small Islands Voice activities including a video training course, provision of communications equipment to outer islands, the Island Memories project and Sandwatch activities.  In her presentation she outlined several areas in which Cook Islands would like to get involved in the future.  One such area is the creation of a Transnational World Heritage site that would include Suwarrow Atoll, an uninhabited atoll especially important for bird breeding, and the Line Islands to the north.  Other areas include coastal revegetation after the February 2005 cyclones, preservation of language and culture through the UNESCO Voices of the World project, draft legislation for the protection of intellectual property rights, renewable energy and waste management practices.

Discussion:

  • There is a considerable difference in the way activities in central islands and outer islands are perceived.  In Bequia, it was not until a documentary about their Small Islands Voice/Sandwatch activities was aired on local television that the central government took notice. This documentary generated considerable awareness among the general public, e.g. fishermen started listening to their children and stopped unwise practices like throwing oil bottles in the sea. Usually activities and ideas start in the central island and move to outer islands, not the other way around
  • Videos can have a considerable impact, especially among young people

Youth and Communities

Inter-regional - Ms. Fathimath Ghina, Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands, UNESCO-Paris and Ms. Nekishair Gordon, Bequia Community High School, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in their presentation, described the Youth Visioning for Island Living process and focused particularly on the all-important follow-up projects being conducted by the youth in their home islands.  Nekishair outlined her ideas for a Sandwatch fair for all school students in the country at which the different Sandwatch activities would be publicised through an activity-focused, fun-filled event.

Discussion:

  • Youth Visioning focuses on capacity building among the youth, to provide them with skills to conceptualise, design, implement and evaluate sustainable development projects.  As such it is a very time consuming activity administratively for UNESCO, and the assistance of Small Islands Voice partners, as well as other organizations, is essential
  • The outcome of the different projects needs to be documented in a publication

Caribbean - St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Ms. Joanna Stowe and Mr. Herman Belmar, Bequia Community High School, described how they have combined the Small Islands Voice and Sandwatch activities.  Sandwatch has been integrated across the school curriculum and expanded to other schools. Students have been involved in numerous activities including monitoring the environmental impact of movie making, revegetation of eroded hillsides, beach clean-ups, recycling, monitoring of reefs and beaches. They described how community service certificates have been used by students for entry to higher education and in seeking jobs.

Discussion:

  • Several government agencies are utilising the results of the environmental monitoring activities, and the Sandwatch/Small Islands Voice group is becoming known as an environmental watchdog
  • Selling of land to foreigners is a major issue, leasing might be a preferred alternative
  • Involving the media in promoting positive, non-sensational activities is difficult
  • More and more citizens in Bequia are feeling that they have a right to protest against, and defend their islands from unwanted development

Caribbean - St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Ms. Julita Edwards, North Leeward Tourism Association, and Mr. Absolom Hooper, Youth Path Project, presented the activities of the Youth Poverty Alleviation through Tourism and Heritage (Youth Path) project in the Northern Leeward area of St. Vincent.  The area is an isolated area with a high level of poverty and many social problems that are exacerbated by a high illiteracy rate.  There are few employment opportunities for young people who sometimes turn to illegal (marijuana) farming.  Through Youth Path, young people have been trained in leadership skills, communication and use of new technology, and tour guiding.  They have also been involved in the preparation of natural resource inventories. A heritage village, including a museum is under construction, which will provide a foundation for the growing tourism industry.

Discussion:

  • Illegal marijuana farming is a major problem which needs to be approached from all angles.  Education and the provision of alternative employment opportunities are critical
  • Youth Path’s effort to empower young people is  extremely encouraging

Caribbean - Dominica: Ms. Vernessa Hilton, Ministry of Education, described how they also had combined their Sandwatch and Small Islands Voice activities.  Computer equipment provided to several schools to facilitate the students taking part in the Youth Internet Forum had been plagued with electrical and internet connection problems. Nevertheless youth-led activities to combat beach pollution and carry out beautification initiatives had been successful, and had inspired other initiatives on sustainable farming, fishing and quarrying.

Caribbean - St. Kitts and Nevis: Mr. Antonio Maynard, Ministry of Education, in his presentation, outlined the varied Small Islands Voice activities in his country.  These included media material such as a booklet, jingle and rap poem, public relations spots, radio call-in programmes, and more recently a video, so that now Small Islands Voice is well known in the country.  He also made mention of the establishment and equipping of two internet centres for the youth, one in St. Kitts and one in Nevis.  A Small Islands Voice Back Chat group had also been organised, where young people could meet and discuss current issues, publish a newsletter and take part in various environmental activities.  Future plans included closer cooperation and enhanced information-sharing with other Caribbean islands and restructuring of the Small Islands Voice Youth Internet Forum.

Discussion:

  • The Back Chat group is already functioning as an informal mechanism for education for sustainable development
  • Other islands in the Caribbean have expressed an interest in getting involved in Small Islands Voice

Indian Ocean - Seychelles: Mr. Alain De Comarmond, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, in his presentation described the many different faces of Small Islands Voice in Seychelles. These included environmental management activities such as involving hotel managers in a beach management programme, the publication of a regular newsletter Enviro News, and the preparation of a waste management information package.  Communities have also been involved through initiatives with the Centre for Rights and Development and discussions on the Small Islands Voice Global Forum.  Through inter-island exchanges, Youth Visioning, and a joint activity with the Maldives on ‘Zero tolerance to litter’ youth have also been actively involved.

Discussion:

  • Links could be established with Comoros which would be facilitated through a common language, French

Indian Ocean - Zanzibar: Mr. Ahmed Abdulrahman Rashid, Zanzibar Youth Education, Environment and Development Support Association (ZAYEDESA), told participants that Zanzibar was a newcomer to Small Islands Voice, and that their main activity had been in partnership with the Chumbe Island Coral Park to work with young fishers to raise awareness about environmental conservation measures and HIV/AIDS.  Their first activity had been a pilot project and they were now evaluating its impact before expanding to other groups of young fishers.  During the seminar there had been heated debate between the fishers and the Department of Fisheries about various fisheries regulations e.g. net size.

Discussion:

  • Younger fishers are more receptive to new ideas about fisheries conservation than older fishers
  • Marine protected areas were discussed at length; there is often a lack of human resources to manage them and fishers need to understand the opportunities they present.  Examples were presented from San Andres, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Zanzibar

Inter-island Exchanges

Caribbean: San Andres Archipelago and Cuba Beach Monitoring Exchange - Elizabeth Taylor, San Andres Archipelago, presented details about an inter-island capacity building exchange.  A professional from CORALINA in the San Andres Archipelago visited Cuba for one week in 2005 to work with colleagues in the Havana Province Planning Department and communities on the south coast of Havana Province, to provide training in community-based beach monitoring and beach management activities.  Besides the technical and cultural aspects of the exchange, San Andres gained international exposure, and they stand ready to share their skills with other island partners.

Discussion:

  • Beach monitoring has been an important activity for Seychelles, and it is a relatively easy technique to transfer to hotel workers, fishermen, NGOs.  After the December 2004 tsunami they had a data base on beach changes that was useful when assessment teams visited
  • The beach monitoring technique used in San Andres and Seychelles is a simple method that can be used by non-professionals and is particularly useful for community-based beach management

Indian Ocean: Seychelles and Maldives Youth Exchange - Alain De Comarmond, Seychelles, and Abdullah Shakir Mohammed, Maldives, in a joint presentation, described the exchanges between Seychelles and Maldives students in 2004.  The exchanges on the Small Islands Voice Youth Internet Forum brought the two schools together, and the students wanted more than an internet exchange, they wanted to visit each other’s islands.  A group of Seychelles students visited the Maldives in January 2004, and after various environmental and cultural activities the two sets of students decided to undertake follow-up projects concentrating on waste management – these projects are still ongoing.  In December 2004, students from the Maldives made a return visit to Seychelles.

Discussion:

  • The exchanges involved only small groups of students, about five students and one teacher in each case; students were lodged with host families so the main cost was the airfare; while UNESCO-Small Islands Voice provided some assistance with airfare costs, the main financial cost was borne by parents
  • Such exchanges help to bridge cultures and St. Vincent and the Grenadines is thinking of approaching the travel industry and other businesses to seek support for similar regional exchanges; exchanges could also be proposed as UNESCO Participation Programme projects
  • Exchanges could be viewed as a way to motivate students
  • The follow-up project is particularly important, so that besides the exchange, there is a specific activity that the students undertake

Pacific Exchanges - Joeli Veitayaki, Fiji, in a presentation on island exchanges in the Pacific region outlined the potential and the challenges. Exchanges can take place at all levels from regional organizations to student internships.  It is necessary to be mindful that communities are very busy with a variety of activities thus failures must be minimized, especially when people’s livelihoods are at stake.

Discussion:

  • Land ownership: In the Pacific there is customary tenure with only small percentages of total land area in freehold possession
  • In Bequia, the government has sold much of its land, and nowadays a significant percentage of the land is owned by foreign investors; this has been the subject of recent discussion on the Small Islands Voice Youth Internet Forum
  • In San Andres land ownership is a major issue because of past practices, this has made the native community fearful of openly displaying land ownership documents; there is also an issue regarding land 50 m inland from high water mark – regulations state that this is government owned
  • The issue of beach ownership was discussed on the Small Islands Voice Global Internet Forum.  Problems arise when beachfront property is eroded and land is lost
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