One of my favorite things about working for CORAL is hearing about the direct impacts we have on local communities and people’s lives. It’s not every day that you hear about conservation efforts that have enhanced people’s lives, and it’s such a powerful thing to know that communities can really thrive and benefit from protecting their natural resources. So when I hear about how our work translates into benefits for local communities, it warms me from the inside out.
I had one of those moments recently when speaking with Juliane Diamond, one of our program managers. She was in Fiji last month, and attended a stakeholders meeting for the Namena Marine Reserve. The meeting was held by the Kubulau Resource Management Committee (KRMC), a local NGO we’re working with to protect the Reserve. Juliane was there along with about twenty other people—a mix of community members, dive operators, KRMC members, local authority figures, and more. They joined together to talk about the year’s progress, and the future of the reserve.
When we met to talk about her trip, Juliane reminded me that the Namena Marine Reserve sold over 1,600 dive tags last year—more than ever before. They sold so many that they ran out halfway through the year and had to order more. The dive tags generate much needed revenue for the reserve and not only help fund management efforts, but are also used to directly benefit the neighboring Kubulau community. So these extra funds mean that the local community can install shelters and make repairs at bus stops, so community members don’t have to wait for buses in the rain.
The funds are also used to provide scholarships for children of the Kubulau community to go to school. Juliane had a chance to catch up with Sereima Kalouniviti, a scholarship recipient from 2007. She received a scholarship to help her complete her bachelor’s in Applied Science, and is now working for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. “I felt relieved that there was something there that could help me finish my degree and get to graduate,” said Kalouniviti. “If [the scholarship] hadn’t existed, I don’t know if I would have been able to afford it.”
According to Aborosio Dulunaqio, a KRMC member, “Namena is a source of life for Kubulau.” And it really is. Surrounding the tiny island of Namenalala, the approximately 70 square kilometer Namena Marine Reserve was established in 1997, when community members successfully banned commercial fishing within the region. We’ve been working with the community to help them address illegal poaching in the Reserve, and to help enhance the dive tag system and generate more revenue for the Reserve and the community. While the reserve helps preserve such an incredible underwater treasure and popular dive spot, it is also so much more. No one could have said it better than Fiji resident and KRMC member Tevita Uluiburotu: “CORAL and Namena carry the hopes and future generations of Kubulau.”
For more information about the Namena Marine Reserve and the Kubulau community, visit www.namena.org.