Conservation in Raja Ampat

raja ampat boat - bigkanu

Conservation pushes in Asia are struggling but slowly getting traction. Raja Ampat is a bit of a stand out example of the conservation groups, divers, tourist biz, NGO's and a series of government groups putting a plan together, that in general terms, is working.

To take a series of subsidence, fishing and logging villages, and say no more reef fishing and no more logging, has not got a good track record of success in Asia. Basically, wealthy countries, have little understanding of their poor neighbours, unless they were told to go to Indonesia, and house and feed their family on $300 per month.

So in this context, conservation faces steep climbs on rough ground, where poverty is not a yogic weekend aesthetic.

A big round of applause must go to the NGOs who took the practical issues of no money, no fishing, not happy, and proposed a tourism income based replacement. How they did it, was by getting a handful of local homestays to cooperate, and the NGO funded a terrific online marketing machine that organised, attracted and sent thousands upon thousands of guests to little $5000 to build homestays. Check Hi Doug.

Now there are over 100 of these homestays, and they make up the big majority of accom beds in amongst the islands of Kri, Gam, Waigei, Misool, and all the rest of Raja Ampat providing roughly $35-40AUD per person per night, to replace fishing, and supporting communities right across Raja Ampat, whether as homestay owners, or builders, or suppliers.

Its unique insofar as there are no remote expat owners, no commissions, and all the money goes direct, not as wages, but as cash, into local village hands. The villagers now make a buck out of their local environment, so they help preserve it. The environment in terms of the rugged limestone karst geology, and dense jungle, that consigns development or agricultural aspirations to the too hard basket.

Its a wonderful solution to preserving what is arguably the most precious marine asset on the planet.

Its not without its flaws, and arguments abound about the $AUD100 paid by every visitor to Raja Ampat, as to where the funds get allocated. Atop this, the odd destructive practice still get a run...illegal fishing or spear fishing being not uncommon.

There is more life and species diversification in Raja Ampat than anywhere on earth, which maybe sounds a bit like a marketing cliche, but which is a indicator of just how fabulous and precious is this ecosystem.