Storytelling from the Islands: Presenting Island Stories of Change

Our initiative – Island Stories of Change – highlights a series of inspiring stories on community conservation and sustainable local livelihoods in the context  of islands. We believe that conservation needs to be fully endorsed by local communities, to be effective in the long run. Our selected stories adopt an ecosystem-based approach. We recognize the full set of interactions amongst species within the ecosystem, the role humans play in it along with realized benefits or ecosystem services that nature provides for people.

Our goal is to develop a powerful visual compilation of stories that demonstrate how ownership, participation and collaboration can trigger positive change for all and help secure a sustainable future. This initiative hopes to inspire others by sharing these nature-inspired ideas and catalyse other communities to act.

IslandStoriesOfChange focuses on uplifting and inspiring stories that benefit both nature and communities. This wordle nicely sums up what it is all about.

Island Stories of Change was conceptualized by myself – An Bollen and my partner – Frank Viaene, based out of Brussels, Belgium. I have worked over 15 years as an ecologist on biodiversity conservation and protected area management mainly in the tropical island ecosystems like Socotra, Madagascar and Principe. My work has been together with different Non-Governmental Organisations across time. I am currently freelancing and am keen to expand my skill set to empower conversations on conservation, making them accessible to a wider audience through storytelling and powerful visual narratives.

My colleague, Frank is an expert in drone footage and web and graphic design. He has extensive experience in video production and editing. We are both nature-loving outdoor people, that complement each other quite nicely from a content and technical perspective.

We launched our website in June 2019, after which we traveled to the Pacific and the island of Madagascar, documenting some exemplary stories. Currently we are in the process of developing three short visual narratives to kick-start the process. In addition, we also want to provide a platform and host other positive stories and highlight similar initiatives from within our wider network and beyond.

Do you have a positive story to share? We are keen to get your input, so do not hesitate to contact us. Through storytelling and videography, we hope to contribute to an increased sense of optimism for the future of our planet and to ensure that hopeful examples get the traction they deserve while inspiring others.

 

Do you want to understand better what IslandStoriesofchange is all about? Have a look at our first story from Fiji, where an organisation – JHunter Pearls adopts a blue economy approach by engaging and supporting local communities in a socially responsible and environmentally friendly business model of oyster pearl farming in the bay of Savusavu, Fiji. Pearl oysters require pristine water conditions to thrive. Thus, pearl farmers need to safeguard their marine environment in order to cultivate high quality pearls. As a result, pearl farms are protected against fishing, providing a refuge for various marine species and preserving marine biodiversity. This in-turn turns these farms into blue carbon sinks. Oysters in these farms create pearls – a fully natural and organic gem – and at the same time provide food.

This story zooms in on the blue economy approach of J. Hunter Pearls that combines conservation with economic returns, and wider ocean stewardship with diversified sustainable livelihoods at community level.
A unique and respectful collaboration with the traditional fishing right owners from surrounding communities who look after farms while protecting Savusavu bay and hereby creating the ideal environmental conditions for pearl oysters.
Top-view of JHunter Pearls’ boats of the community workers out in the bay of Savusavu for their daily monitoring the oyster farms.

 

Local communities are shareholders in the company; they lease the community-owned farms, and provide workers to JHunter Pearls. The company also invests in local community projects such as education grants, electrification and infrastructure support. This story nicely demonstrates that there can be a win-win-win for nature, people and profit through unique collaboration.

Justin Hunter and An Bollen at the hatchery exchanging ideas on the enormous potential of ecological aquaculture.

Here is what some people that we have worked with have to say about us:

-Tusani Joe, head chief Savaia Village: ‘Island Stories of Change tells true successful stories of community efforts to manage their resources sustainably despite the many challenges they face.’

– Justin Hunter, J.Hunter Pearls: Fiji ‘Passion is getting the story and taking the time. Thank you, Island Stories of Change for making the long journey and telling our story.’

-James Atherton, Samoa Conservation Society: ‘Thanks to IslandStoriesofChange for in-depth reporting on key issues for the sustainable future of our islands’

About the authors

  • I have worked over 15 years as an ecologist on biodiversity conservation and protected area management in the tropics, mainly in island settings like Socotra, Madagascar and Principe working for different NGOs. I am currently freelancing and keen to expand my skillset to change the conversation on conservation accessible to a wider audience through storytelling and powerful visual material.

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