The UN’s World Environment Day takes place on 5th June every year, raising awareness of the importance of protecting the world around us. Each year there's a different theme to focus attention on a particular environmental concern, and for 2017, the UN is aiming to ‘connect people to nature’.
ZSL does just that through a variety of projects all over the world. Through working with local people, we aim to not only conserve the environment, but show that communities can benefit from conservation too.
In coastal areas, for example, overfishing, unsustainable fishing practices and growing populations can take their toll on marine resources. But these resources are critical to coastal communities, and we’re helping to reduce these pressures and empower local people through various initiatives.
Our Sea Our Life
One example is Our Sea Our Life, a project coordinated by ZSL alongside other partners, which works with six communities in Mozambique.
Our Sea Our Life manages local fisheries by creating community fishers councils, whereby local men and women lead on the management of marine areas, as seen in the community of Nsangue Ponta, Mozambique.
The project works to stabilise the fish stock and creates a model of marine management to improve food security. It also supports businesses that move away from fishing, helping locals to manage their income through Village Savings and Loan Associations.
These measures not only reduce the pressure on marine resources and help to protect vulnerable species, but they increase resilience to climate change by halting declines in the health and cover of reef-building corals, mangroves, and seagrasses. Ultimately, the project has great benefits to both fishing communities and the environment.
Another community-led project connecting people to nature at the coast is Net-Works, a collaboration between global carpet tile manufacturer Interface, Inc. and ZSL.
Net-Works tackles the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities, giving locals the opportunity to sell waste fishing nets into a global supply chain. By gathering up and selling used nets, fishers receive an income, and the nets are recycled into yarn to make carpet tile.
Since 2012, Net-Works has collected 142 metric tons of waste fishing nets for recycling and has worked with 36 communities in the Philippines and Cameroon. One such community is the coastal village of Londji – one of the most important fish markets on the south coast of Cameroon.
Here, the project set up Village Savings and Loan Associations to help locals manage their money, which has evolved into a locally owned enterprise. The community have a new sense of ambition and are now planning to develop a campsite using the money from net sales to attract more sustainable tourism to the area.
These examples show that by connecting people to nature through a community-managed approach, we can not only improve the resilience of coastal ecosystems but also community well-being and the livelihoods of local people.
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