Marine protection for the corals, the children and the chicken

Marine protection for the corals, the children and the chicken

Rising sea levels, overcapacity and depleting resources – the effects of climate change are hitting the Pacific Islands particularly hard. But instead of waiting for the end of the world, creative residents are trying to empower their people and preserve their home for the future.

  • Local heroes don´t wait for NGOs or governments to solve challenges
  • Challenges of community based marine protection in Pacific Islands
  • Why just stopping to fish is not effective for communities
  • What corals, children and chicken have in common
  • How to spread models and create transferability

Dreadlocks, a bright grin with gaps, barefoot – Morgan Jimuru might not live up to the image of a marine science expert that leads university students as well as National Geographic reporters through the Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands. Today is my turn.

“Do you see the posts there,” the avid diver and spearfisher points to a section in front of his property, “they mark the borders of my marine reserve.” It comes as a surprise as we are in one of the largest saltwater lagoon in the world that is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But like in so many other places in the South Pacific, deforestation and overfishing negatively affect the ecosystem. “The registration of a marine protection zone takes about 30 years. Logging licenses though are awarded within three months,” Morgan criticizes the government. But the school dropout, who has learned a lot about the ocean as a skipper for the International Water Program, sees his fellow citizens equally responsible: while the population suffers from rainfall even in the dry season and periods of heat that dries out water supplies; they complain of crop failures and fishing for fewer and fewer fish from the lagoon. Despite of this, their behavior does not change. “Many just think about the money,” Morgan says. “It’s easy to destroy our resources. But you can not restore them for no money in the world.” To save his home from this fate, the seven-fold father tried to build a marine sanctuary in front of the main village of Chuchula. Unsuccessfully. So plan B went into action two years ago: Morgan declared the waters on his doorstep as “no-take” zone.” I wanted to be a good example,” he says, “if I can prove the positive effects by 2020, people will hopefully realize that money is not everything.” In his family, Morgan’s message is heard already: “When my kids see a canoe paddling. They call me `daddy, someone is fishing here´,” he says proudly. So that not only his offspring recognizes the value of the lagoon, Morgan organizes excursions for local elementary and middle schools. “I let them watch the fish and count the species,” he says. “It’s fantastic to see the children get to know the ocean.” Now, people from Chuchula are also delighted with the abundance of fish around Morgan’s house. “But then they fish at the border of the marine reserve,” he does not have any illusions, “especially older people are stuck in their ways of thinking.”

Fijian-based Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby is convinced it is not only the attitudes of people that is a factor. The population is dependent on fishing, marine creatures are still an important source of protein. Even more so in recent years, when storms and tsunamis are increasingly destroying crops. “As a result, all villages in land, but also many coastal regions suffer from protein deficiency,” the marine biologist has identified in 30 years as a coral gardener. The population is increasingly attacking the fishing rod, destroying the corals that are the living and feeding grounds of the fish. To break this vicious circle and offer a protein alternative, the 64-year-old has come up with chicken. “There are no chicks in Fiji,” he explains, “instead eight million fruitful eggs and chickens from New Zealand are imported each year. Robots that lay 650 eggs and die after one year because they are not made for the tropics.” So Austin began breeding resistant chickens on his permaculture farm near the town of Sigatoka. “We hatched 25,000 chicks,” says the white bearded grandfather, “we sell them at local prices.” On one condition: The chickens must be used for breeding. “If we find out they eat the chicken right away, they will not get anything anymore,” Austin does not want to create a new dependency, “the key is to train the chickens, but the Fijians have no experience in it. The chickens lay their eggs in the bush, and the farmers do not find them.” This is where proven Happy Chicken methods come into play, which he passes on to interested parties in workshops. The methods are constantly expanding: For example, Austin is currently testing how a mixture of coconut waste and leaves of the protein-rich Moringa tree can replace the expensive chicken feed. “We still have a long way to go”, Austin wants to export his Happy Chicken to neighboring islands soon, “but great things have already happened. Everyone has so much to give to make the world a better place. “

Morgan and Austin are the best proof of it. They are two of many I met in the South Pacific: they are not waiting for the end of the world, nor governments or nonprofit organizations. They face the challenges. “Everything is connected: the sea, the land, the people. When one of them goes down, everything goes under, “Austin sums up the why,” I do my work for the corals, the children, and the chickens. “

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