Blue Ventures Timor-Leste

Coastal Conservation in Timor-Leste
Country: Timor-Leste
Partner: Blue Ventures Conservation

Coastal fishing communities in Timor-Leste, which are highly dependent on natural resources and ecosystem services, are experiencing the negative impacts of climate change. The resilience of Timor-Leste’s well-known coastal ecosystems is being eroded by both natural and anthropogenic processes, challenging its abilities to provide essential ecosystem services necessary for communities to adapt to climate change, furthering their vulnerability to climate risks.

VSA volunteer, Cecilia, is working with our partner organisation Blue Ventures Conservation (BV) as a Conservation Science Analysis Officer to oversee ecological monitoring which includes mapping, data analysis, public education, and advocacy material for the Blue Carbon Programme. Cecilia is in the learning process of building capabilities within the team as well as mutually exchanging skills and knowledge.

BV was established in 2003 as an NGO to help remote coastal communities in Madagascar thrive by rebuilding fisheries and protecting ocean life. BV was founded on the simple idea of putting communities at the heart of conservation. For almost two decades now, BV has played a pivotal role in supporting coastal communities to develop locally-led approaches to marine conservation that mutually benefit both people and nature.

Cecilia was born and raised in Dili, the capital city of Timor-Leste. Her passion for learning about the environment began when she was a child because she was aware of climate issues in her country and wanted to learn more about the effects of climate change around the globe. She is now a local volunteer who graduated from the Manaaki New Zealand Scholarship programme and in 2022 she gained her major in Environmental Science & Applied Conservation.

Setting up BRUVS (Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations)

“The programme through VSA helped me ease into the transition from academic life to a working environment.” Cecilia adds, “Since the assignment is related to my major, I wanted to share the knowledge and skills that I gained in New Zealand with Blue Ventures.”

Being raised in Dili already gave Cecilia first-hand insight into how serious the climate crisis is, and why it felt important to her to be involved. She says, “Climate change is an issue that has already affected my beloved country in many ways, including flooding, eroding, and unpredictable weather. Since climate change is a global issue, I want to be part of mitigating it. I hope everyone can contribute to this matter as well and raise more awareness.”

Having contributed a significant amount of time being involved in several climate-related causes such as participating in a climate strike, tree planting, beach clean-up activities, presenting on climate change in one of Timor-Leste’s local organisation’s Facebook Lives, and now her time volunteering through VSA.

The goal outcome from her time volunteering is to strengthen BV’s ability to build resilience and mitigate climate change through the protection of ecosystems through community-based management. Cecilia say there have been many achievements from her work with BV so far, the main one being the completion of the seagrass data collection which includes seagrass mapping and biodiversity assessment, having this completed means they are now able to analyse the data. Humanity has caused a deterioration in seagrass leading to unstable habitats located in the depths of the ocean. To prevent major decline, seagrass distribution must be mapped and monitored.

The beautiful view from the boat shows the three ecosystems: corals, seagrass, and mangrove in Hera, where the team collected the data.

When asked about her time within the community Cecilia says, “Working with communities can be challenging, but effective communication skills is the key to being able to create honest, and open dialogue with them, such as listening to their story first before suggesting anything.

It’s important from this experience to obtain the trust of the communities so we can continue to provide support that facilitates their needs and be able to protect and conserve most of the seagrass and mangrove areas in Hera.”

The biggest learning from her journey with BV so far is that these two ecosystems (seagrass and mangrove) are interconnected or interdependent and can store lots of carbon, which could mitigate climate change effectively if they are healthy.

“I hope together with Blue Ventures, we can spread more awareness to the communities, authorities, and any other stakeholders to take immediate action to mitigate climate change through sharing data.”

Cecilia will continue volunteering with BV to strengthen and sustain fisheries management and governance for the community and overall, advocating for best practices to support fishing communities across the globe.