The goal of the Community Stewards program is for local resource users to actively participate in sustainable natural resources management. This is achieved through capacity building – giving interested participants the tools to be environmental stewards and enabling them to educate their peers.
With funding from UNDP COMPACT, the program has run under three consecutive projects from 2009 to 2013. In that time, 12 fishers using the Port Honduras Marine Reserve were trained in knowledge and practical skills that are useful to them and strengthen their capacity as stewards, including marine ecology, fisheries management, GPS navigation, boat engine maintenance and radio communications.
Stewards are also given the opportunity to visit other locations to be inspired by successful examples of community stewardship elsewhere. In 2009, they saw an example of community management of a terrestrial protected area in Guatemala, and in 2012 they visited Punta Allen, Mexico, to learn about sustainable fisheries management organized by local fishers.
In their role as stewards, they have implemented environmental projects, given lessons in schools and raised the environmental awareness and management capacity of their peers. Most recently, this has involved communication with fishers on Managed Access, raising awareness of the benefits of this fisheries management tool (newly implemented in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve), building fishers’ capacity to submit accurate catch data and gathering feedback regarding the program.
Community stewards are also equipped with radios so that they can report illegal transboundary fishing.
Following the success of this program, the Junior Stewards Program was launched in 2011. So far, both the senior and junior programs have focused on the Port Honduras Marine Reserve. TIDE is keen to expand the program to include stakeholders of terrestrial protected areas.