Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildlife Conservation: Rural women in Nicaragua lead effort to protect endangered sea turtles

Source: Paso Pacifico

Sea turtles throughout the world are increasingly threatened with extinction, yet the people who can help address this crisis are often ignored. Last year, Dr. Sarah Otterstrom of the non-profit organization Paso Pacifico made a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to empower women and girls as environmental leaders in Central America. As a result, women in a small fishing village in Nicaragua are now the lead protectors of nesting sea turtles. They earn money for every baby sea turtle they help to hatch which successfully enters the sea.

"Women possess unique knowledge about the value of wildlife, water, and trees to society, yet they have been overlooked as guardians of nature," Dr. Otterstrom said. "Through our effort, Nicaraguan women are now the lead protagonists in protecting sea turtles from extinction. They carefully monitor incubating eggs and assist the hatchlings as they walk to the sea."

In rural Nicaragua, women have few avenues to earn income and rely on informal employment to obtain cash. In this fishing village, women bring in an average of $30 per month through activities such as selling bread and sewing clothes. The ten women participating in Paso Pacifico's program can now earn the same amount of money for protecting a single nest. The women protectors receive 35 cents per hatchling and each turtle nest has over ten dozen eggs. There are hundreds of turtles nesting on the beach each year. The women involved in this project have shown intense collaboration. Rather than individually receiving funds for each protected sea turtle, they opted to pool the money they earn and equally distribute it across their group of sea turtle protectors.

"Nurturing baby sea turtles is very rewarding," sea turtle protector Carolina Coronado explains. "After a sea turtle nests at night, we carefully move the nests to a hatchery we have built and where we protect the nests from poachers and livestock. When the baby turtles hatch, we count them and feel fulfilled as we watch them crawl to the ocean."

Paso Pacifico's CGI Commitment to empower women includes an environmental education program reaching over 400 children and providing experiential outdoor education to early adolescent girls. Additionally, the program advances women by helping them establish native tree nursery businesses and reforest their watersheds.

"Women in Nicaragua are proving that they can become leaders in providing solutions in the face of climate change and other environmental threats," Otterstrom said. "The sea turtles being protected by these women are on the critically endangered list. We should not underestimate the transformative effect they are having on saving this ancient species."