YAF REKU -Community-based coral Conservation & Restoration in Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Yaf Keru is a community-based reef restoration effort in Raja Ampat, facilitated by YOLP/TSP. Addressing human induced reef degradation, over the past 5yrs Yaf Keru has operated on project basis and has restored 5950+ sqm of degraded reef, protected 7000+ sqm primary healthy reef, and trained and employed 30+ local community members, across 5 projects.
YOLP (Yayasan Orang Laut Papua) acquired a 15m catamaran which had previously operated as a small liveaboard in Komodo National Park.
With funding from an NGO in France, YOLP was able to purchase this boat, & sailed it over 2000km across Indonesia to Raja Ampat. A key challenge relating to the acquisition of their boat largely lay in the fact that its condition was not quite as advertised & ‘preparation for departure’ activities were not completed as promised by the seller.
This required notable/unexpected time & resources from YOLP to resolve in order to have the vessel ready for departure, resulting in delayed departure (3 weeks later) & a 2 weeks sea crossing instead of 5-7 days.
Additionally, despite having conducted their own inspection prior to purchase, a number of mechanical issues were hidden by epoxy & paint and/or did not become apparent until after several hours of continuous sailing. Again, requiring significant time and resources being allocated, influencing their ability to deliver fieldwork according to their schedule.
Despite this, by July the boat was in the field, & they had the logistical base to accommodate their team onsite, whilst having their own diving operation, space for teaching & training on board. This shift in their logistical ability significantly increased their operational capacity, autonomy & output, as they no longer had to rent nor rely on 3rd parties to provide such logistics.
Additionally, they built & installed their own mooring to accommodate the boat. In Raja Ampat’s MPAs, it is forbidden to use an anchor, however, poor management has lead to limited infrastructure with <15 functional moorings throughout the 2million ha Marine Park.
Therefore, in the absence of a mooring within the vicinity of their project, with permission from & in collaboration with the community of Yebekwan Village, they built & installed a mooring with a 100GT capacity. The mooring was installed successfully & in addition to supporting Yaf Keru operations, it now forms the basis of a pilot project based for community managed mooring systems in the MPAs.
With funding from SMILO & Blue, a 4.8KW solar power system was installed on the boat whilst in Labuan Bajo.
Installed by PT Smart Energy Tech, a company specialising in marine solar systems, this system replaced a diesel generator powered system with an autonomous, renewable solution.
This critical upgrade enabled them to be more congruent with their environmental mission, lead by example in an area reliant upon diesel-generators (particularly in the lucrative tourism sector) & reduce their reliance on fossil fuel.
After negotiating a 34% discount, they were immediately able to re-allocate funding that would otherwise have been spent on diesel towards their reef restoration and capacity building effort.
This year saw a significant change in the Yaf Keru, & wider YOLP team. The introduction of a boat meant they were required to recruit a certified captain & marine mechanic - challenging positions to fill in Raja Ampat, particularly in a year where funding was extremely limited. After many attempts they were able to secure both an experienced marine mechanic and captain.
With Respect to their original Coral Gardening (CG) team, they had a complete turnover. Their head CG re-located to another area of Indonesia, with a second returning to his village to build a family homestay &/or seek work in the tourism industry.
These departures occurred with short notice (standard in region) & placed a heavy additional burden on their resources in having to continue fieldwork, whilst recruiting & training replacements. This being said, a new & motivated team is in place & are demonstrating wonderful potential as divers, CGs & ambassadors for reef health!
Using Yaf Keru as a platform for learning, TSP - YOLP commenced Open Water Scuba Diving training with 4 local community members. With a quitting before course completion (not uncommon in the area), the remaining 3 are fully participating in the program & learning both the practical & theoretical components of scuba diving whilst being employed as coral gardeners. This current intake includes:
- x1 compressor fisherman (previously employed as an illegal lobster poacher)
- x1 certified Open Water Diver, who received local training/certification but has very limited understanding of the principles/skills of diving (common in Raja Ampat)
- x1 who has tried diving, but without training. Very limited literacy & numeracy but keen to learn.
Quality training & opportunities for certification are extremely limited for local people, with paid diving positions in tourism largely being offered to Indonesians from outside the region.
Through Yaf Keru, Their objective is to build capacity with local community members & support their training/certification to either continue in a career as a coral gardener, or seek skilled employment within the tourism industry.
With the new team in field, reef restoration continued, with the further inclusion of their ‘Coral Gardener For A Day’ experience; whereby tourists already in the area ‘donate to participate’ in reef restoration with their local team.
Through this they provide tourists with an insight & awareness into the threats to coral reefs in Raja Ampat whilst offering a hands-on experience, & additionally, shift the balance from ‘locals serving tourists’ to ‘tourists learning from locals.
This program also offers a means of fundraising, whilst showing coral gardeners/local community (the recipients of funds raised) that a direct income can be derived from restoring and protecting coral reefs.
- Reduce the environmental and carbon footprint of their daily reef restoration operations
- Facilitate the upscale of the YAF KERU program through infrastructure improvement, enabling energetic and operational autonomy
Through Yaf Keru projects, they aim:
- To rehabilitate 0.5 hectare of degraded reef slope in 2022 while preserving another 0.7ha of pristine primary reefs.
- To re-establish the traditional marine management practice of “Sasi” within a 500Ha reef complex in the heart of the Dampier Strait, Raja Ampat; involving 9 villages.
- To rehabilitate 5 hectares within 3-5 years
- Directly improve the livelihoods of local community members by creating employment in skilled positions that enhance reef health.
- To raise awareness and educate both the local and international communities about coral reef ecology; and the functions and services they provide.
- To develop a research platform and learn more about the resistance, resilience and regeneration potential of corals in the near ideal environmental conditions of Raja Ampat
- To develop a sustainable and replicable model of conservation tourism, in direct collaboration with local stakeholders.
- Contribute to the establishment of a mooring network in the Raja Ampat MPAs