Comics for coastal conservation: launch of new educational resource for Indian Ocean communities

28 October, 2011, Mombasa, Kenya. The first phase of a new website, dedicated to providing open-access educational materials that support community-based marine conservation, was launched in Mombasa, Kenya today at the 7th biannual Symposium of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).

The site features a series of 12 handbooks covering a variety of marine environmental issues, from village-based aquaculture to community managed marine protected areas. Handbooks are aimed at local audiences including community leaders, conservation field agents, and school children. Each handbook comprises an overview of the subject as well as a full colour comic.

Octopus sensitisation 4-1

The site is an open-access resource centre and public forum for educational tools to support community conservation, based around a wiki, meaning that anyone can register and edit or add content. In this way content can be continually improved and updated through collaborative crowd sourcing. The site's editable nature also allows for the development of new user-customised handbooks for specific languages, regions or communities.

The multilingual website, available online here, currently features content in English, French, and Vezo Malagasy, and will add further translations over coming months, initially targeting the languages of the western Indian Ocean region. Paper copies are being distributed to partner communities and conservation NGOs.

"After two years of production, it's great to be getting these handbooks out to people," said the series' main author, Shawn Peabody. "And with the wiki site, we are really excited to see how people will improve the handbooks and modify them for their specific needs."

Blue Ventures is actively involved in developing community-based marine protected areas in Madagascar, supporting coastal communities along the island's Mozambique Channel coastline in the creation of some of the Indian Ocean's largest locally managed marine areas (LMMAs). LMMAs were first pioneered in the pacific by the Pacific LMMA network where they empower communities to sustainably manage their marine resources. As part of this work, Blue Ventures is committed to documenting and sharing best practices to foster dialogue and learning around community-based coastal management.

"This new series of comics provides a fantastic resource for sharing the lessons learned in Madagascar across the broader Indian Ocean," said Julius Francis, Executive Secretary of the WIOMSA. "The multilingual wiki enables us to make these educational tools accessible to a much wider audience, amplifying their impact beyond Madagascar, and adapting content for specific local contexts."

The handbooks and website were developed by Blue Ventures Conservation with generous support from the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation.


Editors notes:

Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation, dedicated to working with local communities to conserve threatened marine environments. Our highly acclaimed conservation programmes work with some of the world's poorest coastal communities to develop conservation and alternative income initiatives to protect biodiversity and coastal livelihoods.

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