NanengCoral Triangle Regional Manager Naneng Setiasih’s hope for the future of conservation is that nonprofits, businesses, and governments will learn to play better together. “We have so many prejudices and boxes,” she says. “I want to see more of us work across boxes. The environment is a job for everybody; we need to stop blaming and judging each other and work together.”
Nan is walking that talk in Indonesia-and she’s having a lot of success. In 2013, after years of advocacy, CORAL, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy persuaded the Raja Ampat government to sign a shark and manta ray sanctuary (that had been declared in 2010) into law. The law protects sharks and rays in 46,000 square kilometers (18,000 square miles) of ocean off the coast of Raja Ampat. And for the past three years, CORAL’s Indonesian field team has been gathering community input—from fishermen, business operators, and government officials—on plans for a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) off the coast of Bali.
Born in Bandung, West Java, Nan has been a field manager for CORAL since 2009. She always loved nature, spending lots of time in “mud, a river, and a little forest” near her home. In college, biology was one of her easiest subjects. But it was her father’s observation—that Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with 17,500 islands but limited human resources to manage them—that nudged her in the direction of coral reefs and marine biology. After finishing postgraduate work at Bandung Institute of Technology and the School of Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia in the UK, Nan worked for the World Wildlife Fund and Reef Check Foundation, two organizations with which she continues to work closely. She finds that CORAL’s smaller size gives her more of an opportunity to build trust with local communities.
Her effectiveness is grounded in her sense of urgency. “We are borrowing time. The need to manage our resources more effectively is escalating,” says Nan. “The only way to do that is for the locals to be the main actors in initiating, developing, implementing, and maintaining conservation systems. To be able to facilitate and empower them to do so is very satisfying.”