Meet Monda Costa… She is one of a team of community members working with marine conservation NGO Blue Ventures to save sea grass habitats on Ataúro Island in Timor-Leste.
Seagrasses are flowering plants that form meadows in shallow waters. These meadows are ecological superstars. Protecting them is a priority in Timor-Leste, but scientists, community members and decision-makers need more information about the location, composition and use of existing seagrass beds. Community members like Monda are embracing the opportunity to work with Blue Ventures to conserve these habitats.
It is Sunday in the village of Biqueli on Ataúro, a small island in Timor-Leste. Fishing nets hang above wooden boats in the tropical midday sun as the community enjoys a day set aside for prayer and time with family and friends. Jemima Gomes, who was born in Biqueli, walks along the beach, chatting with visitors who have come to Ataúro for an expedition with Blue Ventures.
As a teenager, Jemima spent her days helping her father pull nets full of fish from the teeming seas around Ataúro. Today, at age 23, she still spends her days in the sea, but in a different way—one that reflects the changing times for the island. Jemima is Ataúro’s first female scuba diver, and she is on the path to becoming Timor-Leste’s first female Dive Master…
This past spring, I was fortunate enough to be one of the “visitors” that Jemima was chatting with on the beach. I wrote about her journey for Blue Ventures, a conservation-focused NGO that is helping local communities drive marine conservation efforts in East Timor. To read the rest of the story and see more photos, please visit Blue Ventures’ Beyond Conservation Blog.