Papua New Guinea
Puppets Help Save Reefs
While much progress has been made in Kimbe Bay to protect their reefs, destructive fishing and overfishing still threaten general reef health. Much of the threat comes from humans who do not understand the negative impacts of their behaviors. However, savvy reef educators in Kimbe Bay realized their close connection with the reef, especially the connection children have, and created an outreach and education campaign that targets children. In the local tongue, children are Mahonia Na Dari, which translates as “guardians of the sea.” They are being recruited into this role by a small conservation organization that bears the same name.
The message of reef health now reaches 14,000 young Papua New Guineans every year. Schools from all over the country send classes to Mahonia Na Dari’s facilities. Students are educated about the reef and then take the conservation message back to their communities.
Mahonia’s most effective part of their campaign is Leni and Niko, who are two young characters in a puppet show which tours villages and schools. Leni and Niko’s antics raise plenty of laughs, while simultaneously addressing the serious issue of destructive fishing practices.
The puppets were developed after teachers realized classroom style lectures were not producing the desired effect. Characters like Leni and Niko, two young boys who often cause trouble but learn valuable lessons about reefs in the end, stay in the students’ minds. When students go back to their villages they tell their friends, mothers and fathers about what they learned in school, which builds community awareness and increases reef stewardship.
In addition to the puppet shows, the awareness campaigns include marine conservation messages, videos, booklets, pamphlets and other promotion materials. Both men and women are included in the project's activities. Youth and women’s groups are an important part of the awareness program, as well as indigenous participation. The campaign has helped strengthen the message of marine conservation through the passing on of knowledge and general increase in marine education.
Kimbe Bay Marine Awareness project of the Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Programme