Developing local capacity is key when working towards nature conservation goals. I recently found some old notes from 2014 when I was working for a species conservation programme in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, in which we focused on the Critically Endangered Sulawesi crested black macaque (locally known as 'yaki'). I acted as the Education & Advocacy Coordinator in North Sulawesi at that time, and with our programme Selamatkan Yaki (Indonesian for "save the yaki"), we worked from a government office in the city Manado. One afternoon, when talking to a woman who worked in the government office next door, she mentioned that she had gone to visit her home village, which was located in one of our awareness campaign areas. She was conversing with a neighbour who often went hunting when the demand for construction work (his usual job) was low. Next, two children came up and told this neighbour that "he should not hunt yaki because they are endangered and protected by national law". She asked where they got this information from and the kids replied: "from our teacher at our primary school who spoke about the Selamatkan Yaki programme". After hearing about this dialogue wondered: "how could our campaign message have reached these two children?" At that point, we had only visited senior high schools in our campaign areas, resulting in our Yaki ambassadors (high school students who participated in our Yaki Youth Camp, see Yaki Magz p.16) who were now reaching out to junior high schools themselves. This anecdote meant that word was spreading further than we expected, even to elementary school level, increasing the reach of our conservation efforts through capacity development. For me this anecdote illustrates the power of a 2-step approach to capacity development by recruiting youth ambassadors.
This is still one of my fondest memories of working in Indonesia for 3 years. In addition to our brilliant Yaki Youth Camps of course! It also reminded me how we, as a team, persevered by strongly advocating for our Yaki Ambassador programme so that we continued receiving funding for this important work. As we all know, behaviour change doesn't happen in a day, nor does the change in social norms, even with these inspiring youth in North Sulawesi and elsewhere in the world. It's vital to have donors' long-term commitment to a conservation team/programme/organisation's vision. Also, to me, our work there illustrated the need to streamline expectations with these donors about the work pace when implementing conservation in a country with limited access to information, funding, and people, where arranging any kind of activity or event generally takes longer, often resulting in projects taking longer than the 12 month funding cycle. And yet, we achieved so much! I hope you enjoy reading this beautiful Yaki magazine, which truly was a collaborative effort of all the people featured in it!
Our Yaki Magz: Issue II is also available in Indonesian here.