Photos Informing Conservation

Members of the Tulamben community are learning how to the document their natural environment through photographs.

More than a quarter of coral reefs around the world are in a protected area—yet, according to Reefs at Risk Revisited, most of those protected areas aren’t being effectively managed. Much of our work is focused on helping communities develop successful management programs so they can create and enforce local regulations that will really benefit their coral reefs. And the first step is often to design a management plan.

We’ve known for a long time that for a management plan to be successful, it has to be built around local resources, traditions, and customs. So naturally, our first step in working with a community is always to learn as much as we can about the area and really understand the dynamics and relationships. Next we help them gather and compile information about their environments, cultures, and lifestyles.

This is what we’ve been doing in Bali, where communities have created seven marine protected areas on the north shore, all with significant management challenges. In Tulamben and Amed, both small fishing villages in Bali, we’re partnering with Lens of the Community of Indonesia (LMN) through the Photovoices program to help the local residents document their natural environments, cultures, traditions, and lifestyles through photos.

Photos help tell powerful stories about what’s happening in a community.

When compiled, these photos tell powerful stories about how community members are interacting with nature and help identify issues and challenges that may affect management programs. Through the photos, we will be able to gain a better understanding of what’s happening to Tulamben’s and Amed’s natural resources, and help governments and local NGOs better prioritize conservation initiatives. The program and photos also help foster a sense of ownership over their environment, and often lead to more buy-in and support from local community members.

Forty individuals—a nice mix of community members, local governments, and indigenous village representatives—are participating in a training which will run from April to August, 2015. By having such a diverse group of representatives who all play a role in protecting Bali’s natural environment, this program is helping to foster the conversations necessary to build support for conservation.

Thank you LMN for leading this effort! And to the communities of Tulamben and Amed, snap away! We can’t wait to see the final photos when they are compiled into a photo book later this year.


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