Toko telo rewind: Can community-based ecotourism catalyse locally led marine protection?

The last edition of Toko Telo interactive online discussions facilitated by Blue Ventures welcomed experts from across the coastal tropics to discuss how community-based ecotourism can catalyse locally led marine protection. Laura Resti Kalsum of Stay Raja Ampat in Indonesia, Francesca Trotman of Love the Oceans in Mozambique, and Adrian Wells of Seventythree, shared their experiences of working in community-based ecotourism and in particular, the challenges facing the industry in 2020.

The event, which we hosted in collaboration with WWF’s Coastal Communities Initiative, consisted of two parts: a facilitated conversation and live questions with the expert panel, followed by group workshops in English and Bahasa Indonesia in order to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced and potential solutions to support community-based ecotourism and locally led marine conservation initiatives.

Love the Oceans: Our mission

Francesca Trotman, Founder  of Love the Oceans, kick started the event with a short presentation about the marine conservation expeditions programme that she runs in Jangamo Bay, Mozambique.

Francesca began by describing the mission of her small but impactful charity, which is to establish a marine protected area in Jangamo Bay and to engage the local communities in ocean conservation. The Love the Oceans team focus on three key approaches to achieving this goal: education (teaching fishers and local young people about the importance of protecting the ocean), research (collecting data to drive community action and legislation change) and sustainability (overcoming barriers and developing alternative income opportunities, including ecotourism).

The so-called ‘micro charity’ has achieved a great deal in the past five years, including teaching more than 1,150 children about the basics of the ocean, teaching 800 children to swim and raising money for a community pool, removing over one tonne of trash from the beaches and consistently collecting seasonal fisheries data for over six years.

Stay Raja Ampat: Community-led ecotourism in Raja Ampat: What are the benefits, what does it take and what is its future after COVID-19?

Laura Resti Kalsum introduced Stay Raja Ampat as a company which is owned by PERJAMPAT, The Association of Indigenous Community Entrepreneurship and Livelihood in Raja Ampat (also known as the Raja Ampat Homestay Association). The association is managed by communities and is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of Raja Ampat’s indigenous communities on their own land, while restoring and sustaining the island’s unique ecosystems for future generations.

This community-based model has had a major impact on the communities in Raja Ampat as members have shares in the company, with profits used to support programmes that improve their way of life and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Laura explained how the association’s hive of activity has drawn young people from the city of Waisai to the coastal villages for work, and how women in particular are developing a stronger position in society and experiencing increased financial independence.  

Laura went on to describe the impact of COVID-19 on the homestay association here. Her team has seen an increasing dependence on natural resources, both marine and terrestrial, and more people have been considering selling their land to investors. However, the team also saw some positive changes – business owners took the time to repair their buildings and cultivate gardens to grow fruit and vegetables.

Stay Raja Ampat are hopeful that the area will quickly recover from COVID-19, once the Indonesian government reopens tourism. Laura believes that because the communities here have been able to build businesses with almost no support from the government or other institutions, they are unlikely to be broken by COVID-19.

“When local people start running a homestay business, they understand that land is a vital asset that must be protected. They start thinking ‘why do I need to sell this land when I could start my own business here and earn more money’?”

Seventythree: Key learnings around community-based ecotourism and homestays

The final expert speaker, Adrian Wells of Seventythree, summarised his learnings from his extensive experience working in community organising and ecotourism. Seventythree is a social enterprise with an interest in local control over land and natural resources, and recently supported the development of a homestay toolkit with Blue Ventures and WWF, detailing their experience working with Stay Raja Ampat. 

In 2012, Adrian Wells and his team at Seventythree began working with the communities in Raja Ampat to develop sustainable fisheries and agriculture, however they soon discovered that the communities were most motivated to try homestays as an alternative livelihood, due to previous experience in hospitality. As Adrian explained however, it was important to develop other alternative livelihoods around homestays, such as sustainable fishing and farming, in order to engage the entire community.

In his talk, Adrian described how the most important aspect of developing ecotourism as a livelihood for communities is to dedicate time, effort and expertise to developing strong community institutions to manage ecotourism businesses, like the Raja Ampat Homestay Association. These can be strengthened through building leadership capacity, teaching the importance of transparency and accountability, establishing rules and standards, and most importantly, facilitating conversations around community values. As Adrian explains, NGOs can’t be there forever and it is important not to create dependencies that cannot be sustained; communities must be enabled to take complete ownership of their businesses so that they remain valuable, lucrative and sustainable for years to come.

Following their presentations, the panellists continued to share their expertise in a live Q&A, which was then followed by breakout sessions, offering the chance for participants to learn more about the ways in which these organisations are working to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis impacting community-led ecotourism and how these communities are continuing to lead conservation efforts.

WWF’s Coastal Communities Initiative will be hosting a follow up event focussing on innovative finance mechanisms for marine tourism in early 2021. 

You can watch the panel discussion here:

Learn about Blue Ventures’ homestays initiative

Explore this session and past sessions’ outputs and panel presentations

Find out more about Toko Telo

Thank you to our expert panellists, Laura Resti Kalsum, Francesca Trotman, Adrian Wells, our partners at WWF for their support in facilitating and to all who attended this interactive online discussion.


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Thailand’s small-scale fisheries are the cornerstone of social, economic and nutritional health for the communities living along the majority of the country’s nearly 3,000 kilometre coastline.
In the southernmost Trang province we are supporting communities reliant on nearshore fisheries − in particular for crab, shrimp and squid − in partnership with the Save Andaman Network (SAN).

We’re providing training and tools to aid organisational development, community led fisheries monitoring and management, and building community-owned social enterprises that fund and sustain local conservation efforts.


Since 2016, our work in Timor-Leste has evolved into a dynamic movement supporting community led marine management and coastal livelihood diversification in Asia’s newest country. From our origins on Atauro Island, considered to harbour amongst the highest levels of marine biodiversity on earth, we’re now working with numerous communities on the island and the mainland to ensure that local communities have access to diverse sustainable livelihood options to relieve fishing pressure on critical coral reefs and seagrass ecosystems.

We’re engaging communities in monitoring the relatively unexplored marine biodiversity of Timor-Leste, and managing local marine resources through customary local laws known as Tara Bandu. Alongside our community conservation efforts, we have pioneered Timor-Leste’s first homestay association, which now provides a consistent income from visiting ecotourists and sparked interest in replication by a mainland community. Using homestays as a hub, communities are well placed to host learning exchanges, training events, and act as an outreach platform to engage and inspire communities in fisheries management and livelihood diversification. Exchanges have led to communities of best practice and strengthened associations, and the opportunity to establish a formal network throughout the country.

Our team in Timor-Leste’s capital Dili works closely with government, civil society organisations and NGO partners.


Like its neighbours within the Northern Mozambique Channel marine biodiversity hotspot, Tanzania harbours some of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean.  These habitats are facing unprecedented challenges from overfishing and climate change.

Our Tanzanian team has worked with communities and local organisations to support locally-led marine conservation since 2016.  Our work has expanded from Zanzibar to mainland regions of Tanga, Lindi and Kilwa where our technicians work with local partners to help communities strengthen co-management systems, working through beach management units (BMUs), Shehia Fishing Committees (SFCs) marine parks and Collaborative Fisheries Management Areas (CFMAs).

Our partners Mwambao Coastal Community Network, and Sea Sense have spearheaded a remarkable acceleration in the uptake of community-based fisheries management and conservation in recent years, notably through the use of short term fisheries closures to catalyse broader community conservation.


With one of Africa’s longest coastlines, Somalia’s diverse marine environment supports enormously productive coastal and offshore fisheries.  Decades of conflict have undermined the country’s capacity for fisheries management, with many foreign industrial vessels fishing with impunity, and little regard for the critical importance of Somalia’s coastal fisheries for local livelihoods and food security. 

A period of relative political and social stability unprecedented in recent decades is now presenting new opportunities to address past challenges, and to realise the considerable opportunities that well-managed coastal fisheries and conservation can offer Somalia. We are forging partnerships with community organisations in Somalia to build their capacity and skills to help coastal communities manage their fisheries for food security, livelihoods and conservation.


The Philippines forms part of the ‘coral triangle’ epicentre of global marine biodiversity, with unparalleled diversity of marine species. Over half of the country’s 107 million people (55.6%) live in rural areas, and approximately three quarters depend on agriculture or fisheries as their primary source of livelihoods.

With our local partner People and the Sea, we are working in the eastern Visayas to support coastal communities to establish locally led marine conservation and fisheries management efforts underpinned by participatory data systems that put evidence in the hands of communities.

Papua New Guinea

The largest country in the Western Pacific Region, Papua New Guinea‘s coral reefs and mangroves are among the most diverse and extensive in the world. Papua New Guinea has a long history of traditional approaches for fisheries management, and huge unmet marine conservation needs.

We have been supporting our local partner Eco Custodian Advocates since 2019 in Milne Bay, notable for its vast mangrove forests and coral reefs. We are now expanding this support to other local organisations in Papua New Guinea, focused on supporting the establishment of customary LMMAs that provide locally relevant approaches to community led fishery management built upon local cultural traditions.


Indonesia comprises almost 17,500 islands stretching across three time zones. This archipelagic nation has the longest coastline − and the largest coastal fisheries resource − of any country on Earth.  Ninety five percent of Indonesia’s seafood production comes from small-scale fisheries, which are underpinned by the most biodiverse marine ecosystem on Earth, known as the Coral Triangle.

We have supported community-led marine conservation in Indonesia since 2016. Our team works in close partnership with 12 locally-based organisations supporting community-based approaches to coral reef and mangrove conservation at 22 sites across seven provinces. Interventions across these sites are customised to each context − the local fisheries, community stakeholders, seafood supply chains, legal frameworks and customary traditions governing fisheries management and conservation.

Since 2019 we have brought these partners together within a peer learning network of Indonesian organisations specialised in supporting community-based marine conservation.  The network is based around the shared values of the organisations, including a commitment to promote the rights of traditional fishing communities in conservation.  Seventeen of the sites represented in this group are enacting local marine management through customary management regimes and traditions.  This group, largely comprising sites in Eastern Indonesia, provides an important opportunity to share learning in traditional marine and fisheries management practices.

In North Sulawesi we’re supporting the development of community-owned ecotourism businesses, such as homestays, that diversify local livelihoods and place further value on protected and healthy marine ecosystems. Across our work in Indonesia, where partner communities have an unmet need for healthcare, we’re supporting the integration of health improvement activities into our interventions.

Our local operations in Indonesia are coordinated by our sister Indonesian organisation Yayasan Pesisir Lestari, based in Bali, working closely with our local partners Forkani, Yayasan LINI, Yapeka, Yayasan Planet Indonesia, Foneb, Komanangi, JARI, Yayasan Tananua Flores, Baileo, AKAR, Japesda and Yayasan Hutan Biru.

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We continue to work in India with our long term partner the Dakshin Foundation. We are collaborating in three distinct locations; the archipelago of Lakshadweep, coastal regions of Odisha and the Andaman Islands.

Overfishing has led to a reduction in fish catches, challenging the future of many traditional fishing communities.

Our partnership is working to build the capacity of communities to manage coastal fisheries,  and improve the health of fishing communities, for the long-term wellbeing of both the communities and their fishing grounds.


Kenya’s coast supports an extraordinary diversity of tropical marine and coastal habitats.  These  waters are threatened by a proliferation of destructive fishing practices and over-harvesting within the artisanal and commercial fishing sectors.

Our approach in Kenya focuses on strengthening Beach Management Units (BMUs) to improve fisheries management.  Since 2016 our Mombasa-based technical team has provided support, mentoring and assistance to local partners including Pate Marine Community Conservancy (PMCC), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and Coastal and Marine Resource Development (COMRED).

These partnerships have seen notable achievements in community led fisheries management and conservation, including training and mentoring BMU leaders in eighteen communities in Kwale and Lamu Counties.


The Comoros islands are located in the northern Mozambique Channel, a region home to the world’s second highest marine biodiversity after the Coral Triangle. This globally important biodiversity underpins coastal livelihoods and food security, but is at risk from climate change and overexploitation of inshore fisheries.

We have maintained a permanent presence supporting locally led marine conservation and fisheries management in Comoros since 2015, providing support to local partners, governmental institutions and communities.

On Anjouan, the second largest and most densely populated island in the Comoros archipelago, we work closely with national NGO Dahari. Our partnership has developed a replicable blueprint for community-based marine management, which has seen the creation of the country’s first locally managed marine areas − including temporary and permanent marine closures − designed to safeguard the coral reef ecosystems underpinning the archipelago’s coastal economy.

This approach, which is expanding rapidly across the Comoros, is also demonstrating the importance of inclusive conservation in empowering women − through local women’s fisheries associations − to play a leading role in fisheries monitoring and decision making.

On neighbouring island of Moheli and the french island of Mayotte, we’re supporting the Moheli National Park and the Mayotte Marine Natural Park with efforts to strengthen community engagement in fisheries management and conservation.


Belize’s marine environment encompasses some of the most important marine ecosystems in the Caribbean Sea, including vast coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass ecosystems. We have maintained a permanent presence in Belize since 2010, supporting diverse fisheries and conservation efforts from our base in Sarteneja, Belize’s largest fishing community.  

We work in close partnership with the Belize Fisheries Department, MPA managers, fishing cooperatives and fishers’ associations, and are actively involved in promoting the establishment of a national scale domestic fishery for invasive lionfish.  We’ve worked with coastal stakeholders to develop a national strategy for lionfish management, including launching the National Lionfish Working Group.  

We’ve led a ten year MPA monitoring and evaluation programme in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, and provide training in coral reef monitoring methods to six MPA authorities in Belize, including helping establish management targets for Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, Belize’s largest MPA. 

Our team supports community-based fisheries and conservation groups across the country to ensure local interests are mainstreamed in the design and implementation of marine conservation and fisheries management, improving the effectiveness of co-management of conservation areas.


Our Mozambican team has worked with communities to develop locally led approaches to fisheries management and marine conservation since 2015.

Our approach is focused on supporting and strengthening local organisations and Community Fisheries Councils (CCPs) to better understand their local fisheries, make informed management decisions to rebuild fisheries, and assess the impact of management actions.  This work is developed in close collaboration with our partners Oikos- Cooperação e Desenvolvimento in Nampula province and African Parks in Inhambane province.

Ongoing security challenges have devastated many coastal communities and emerging marine conservation efforts in several areas of Cabo Delgado, where our work is regrettably now on hold.

As in Madagascar, given extremely high levels of coastal poverty and a pervasive lack of access to basic services, alongside our work in conservation we facilitate partnerships with specialist health providers, through an integrated health-environment approach.


Blue Ventures’ journey began in Madagascar in 2003, and we’ve been supporting communities in marine conservation across the country ever since. We have five regional field programmes along Madagascar’s west coast, as well as regional offices in the towns of Toliara and Ambanja.  Our national headquarters is located in the capital Antananarivo.

Across all these sites we support communities with the establishment of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs), and work with government partners to secure national recognition for community conservation initiatives.  First developed in Madagascar by Blue Ventures in 2006, the LMMA concept has since been replicated by communities at hundreds of sites over thousands of kilometres of coastline, now covering almost one fifth of Madagascar’s inshore seabed.  Our research in Madagascar has demonstrated globally important evidence of the benefits of LMMAs to fisheries and conservation.

Our work focuses on strengthening community institutions in marine management and governance, and pioneering new approaches to catalyse community engagement in ocean conservation.  These innovations have included establishing the world’s first community-based sea cucumber farms and the country’s first mangrove blue carbon project.

At a national level, we incubate the LMMA network MIHARI, which brings together 25 partner conservation organisations in supporting 219 LMMA sites across the country.  Our policy team is also actively involved in advocating for more robust legislation to safeguard the rights and interests of fishing communities, and to remove destructive industrial fishing from coastal waters.

Given the lack of basic services in remote coastal regions in Madagascar, we also help communities access basic healthcare through training and supporting women to serve as community health workers. We do not replace government health systems, but work to strengthen existing structures in close collaboration with government health actors and specialist NGOs.  We also incubate Madagascar’s national health-environment network, which brings together 40 partner organisations to address the health needs of communities living in areas of conservation importance across the country.