Empowering Island Communities through Dive and Conservation Training
Cartagena's surrounding islands are home to healthy coral and thriving tourism. However, the Afro-Colombian island communities live in poverty due to a history of structural racism and environmental exploitation. With few formal job opportunities, the local economy on the islands is based on fishing, which can include unsustainable practices such as dynamite fishing, using nets that do not comply with regulations and capturing animals that are endangered. Regrettably, professional dive courses and training are too expensive for most locals and thus many have never seen a coral reef, do not benefit from the dive industry, and do not play a role in protecting their own ecosystem.
We seek to change unsustainable fishing practices in addition to local unemployment by training select youth from the island town of Bocachica to become professional divers and coral reef monitos. Tourists create a demand for professional dive guides and scientists need coral reef monitors--positions that could be filled by the native population if they had adequate training.
100% of their training is funded by our dive center, Paraiso Dive Cartagena. PADI had joined our cause and agreed to supply learning materials and certifications to the youth in our program.
As part of our conservation efforts we work alongside marine biologists to instal and maintain technologies that monitor corals along the Varadero Reef and other areas around Tierra Bomba and Baru islands.
Coral reefs provide daily food and income for millions of people (including those in Bocachica), give over 25% of marine species a home to grow up in, protect coastal communities from erosion, flooding and storms, create billions of dollars in revenue for tourism and pharmaceutical industries, plus combat climate change by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen (over half of the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from corals).
We have worked closely with the local school and community leaders to find and select participants between 18 and 25 years old. This project furthermore takes special consideration to educate and train young girls as it has been shown time and time again that empowering females through education and economic advancement leads to more equal, sustainable communities.