Giving Compass’ Take:
· Writing for the MAVA Foundation, Justin Woolford shares how the indigenous people and local communities on the Bijagós islands in West Africa are approaching contemporary conservation.
· How can other locations integrate contemporary conservation methods into their communities?
Off the Atlantic coast of West Africa lies a lone, small, densely forested island with a tiny lighthouse. Otherwise untouched, it also boasts another more impressive beacon — a magical golden beach.
Here, every year, between July and October, driven by instinct, thousands of green sea turtles from all over West Africa return to the very place they were born.
Arriving exhausted at nightfall after epic journeys from seagrass beds hundreds of kilometres to the south, they heave themselves across the fine sand to the top of the beach, and patiently lay their eggs.
This is Poilão, part of the João Vieira and Poilão Marine National Park and the southernmost point of the Bijagós archipelago and the proud nation of Guinea-Bissau. Only two kilometres long, its beach is the most important green turtle nesting site in Africa.
In 1995, aged just 14, city boy Miguel de Barros from Bissau joined a learning exchange programme run by environmental NGO Tiniguena. Staying in a rural community, he learnt about sacred forests, and the local people’s deep connection with nature.
It was a formative time, not just for Miguel but also for his country, which was struggling to establish identity, sovereignty and democracy while navigating World Bank and IMF structural readjustment programmes and economic crises.
Today Tiniguena’s director, Miguel has become a respected environmental advocate, indigenous rights champion and equality campaigner. A product of the youth movements he champions, he has earned Tiniguena a formidable reputation.
Read the full article about driving sustainability in the Bijagós archipelago by Justin Woolford for the MAVA Foundation at Medium.
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