11th hour hero

RILI DJOHANI

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Contents - Text by Nonette Royo and the Co­ral Tri­an­gle Cen­ter Images by var­i­ous con­trib­u­tors

How a hugely suc­cess­ful re­gional NGO be­gan with one woman’s epiphany

OUR STORY BE­GAN with the awak­en­ing of one per­son in the quiet world un­der the wa­ter. But this would have re­mained a dream with­out the pas­sion, ded­i­ca­tion, and ex­per­tise of all those who have con­trib­uted to what we are today.

The per­sonal epiphany

In 1989, Ms. Rili Djohani, a ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist and sea­soned diver, had al­ready logged long hours un­der­wa­ter in the North Sea, the Mediter­ranean, and the Caribbean. Still, the wa­ters of the Co­ral Tri­an­gle were a rev­e­la­tion. Nowhere else is the un­der­wa­ter world so ri­otously colour­ful and rich, and no other place on the planet teems with such an abun­dance and di­ver­sity of life.

Dur­ing her early dives back in In­done­sia, Rili was re­minded of how frag­ile this world is. Fish­ing with dy­na­mite and ex­plo­sives had left parts of the reefs gut­ted.

If unchecked, this tragedy would dev­as­tate the re­gion and ul­ti­mately the whole planet. Iron­i­cally, lo­cal fish­er­men and their com­mu­ni­ties would be the first vic­tims of the dy­ing reefs.

Rili made it her mis­sion to save the corals.

But she also knew that to be suc­cess­ful, the ef­fort to save the reefs had to be shared with those who de­pend on them; the lo­cal peo­ple needed to be en­listed.

The dream be­comes re­al­ity

In 2000, while Rili was the Coun­try Di­rec­tor for The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy’s In­done­sia Ma­rine Pro­gram (TNC-IMP), she took the first step – the Co­ral Tri­an­gle Cen­ter (CTC) was founded un­der the aus­pices of The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy (TNC). The idea was that the new de­part­ment would nar­row the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s much broader scope and would con­cen­trate on the re­gion’s reefs.

An early cham­pion was Ge­orge Tahija, at the time a mem­ber of TNC’s ad­vi­sory board for In­done­sia. Mr. Tahija shared the con­vic­tion that the strengths of mod­ern ma­rine man­age­ment and sci­en­tific ap­proaches needed to be trans­ferred to lo­cal ac­tors. He was also one of those who recog­nised the need for CTC’s au­ton­omy, when it be­came ap­par­ent that its goals could be bet­ter ac­com­plished as an in­de­pen­dent lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion. This step to­wards in­de­pen­dence was fully sup­ported by TNC, who pro­vided foun­da­tional fund­ing sup­port and

Fish­ing net caught on fire co­ral bom­mie, Mille­pora sp., in the Banda Is­lands

tran­si­tional pe­ri­ods to en­able the CTC to be­come a stand­alone en­tity.

With a small team in place, Mr. Tahija, to­gether with Mr. Hasyim Djalal, an in­flu­en­tial diplo­mat, widely re­spected scholar, and le­gal mar­itime ex­pert who laid the foun­da­tion for archipelagic na­tions, and Mr. Made Suba­dia, a top In­done­sian con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cial, founded CTC as an in­de­pen­dent In­done­sian foun­da­tion in 2010.

The hu­man con­nec­tion

Even be­fore its life as a new or­gan­i­sa­tion of­fi­cially started, CTC worked to­wards one of the most sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ments in the area: the six­na­tion agree­ment called “The Co­ral Tri­an­gle Ini­tia­tive on Co­ral Reefs, Fish­eries, and Food Se­cu­rity ” (CTI-CFF). Mr. Johannes Su­bi­janto, our Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, worked along­side Rili and oth­ers from across dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions in the Co­ral Tri­an­gle coun­tries to bring about this un­prece­dented part­ner­ship, which launched just one year be­fore CTC it­self. In 2014, CTC be­came the CTI–CFF’s first part­ner, the only lo­cally-based or­gan­i­sa­tion to join in­ter­na­tional gi­ants such as Con­ser­va­tion In­ter­na­tional, The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy, and the World Wide Fund for Na­ture.

The fu­ture

Six years af­ter CTC’s in­cep­tion, and the the next big step is to build a state-of-the-art learn­ing com­plex and con­fer­ence cen­tre, to be known as the Co­ral Tri­an­gle Cen­ter for Ma­rine Con­ser­va­tion (Re­gional Learn­ing Hub). It is here that we seek to build bridges: the cen­tre will house an ex­hi­bi­tion open to the pub­lic, where vis­i­tors can en­gage with in-depth knowl­edge about the Co­ral Tri­an­gle, its ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment, and its peo­ple, and learn about the dan­gers that threaten them as well as the avail­able so­lu­tions.

In 2010, when we be­gan as an in­de­pen­dent en­tity, we had just five em­ploy­ees. In 2016, we have 29 em­ploy­ees, have trained 2,500 in­di­vid­u­als, and have a strong net­work of hun­dreds of col­lab­o­ra­tors from the Co­ral Tri­an­gle and be­yond.

Since our work started, we have wit­nessed the power and beauty of hu­man re­silience, en­thu­si­asm, and the strength of peo­ple con­nected by the de­sire to serve the sea that is the very foun­da­tion of life on our planet.

We have wit­nessed the power and beauty of hu­man re­silience, and the the strength of peo­ple con­nected by a de­sire to serve the sea.

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