Word by: Lucy Skadins
At Milaana, our mission is to empower and inspire future social leaders. This requires personal and professional development as well as community engagement. Social leaders are created when their ambitions thrive from community collaboration and they can work collectively to create solutions to community issues. What begins as an individual endeavour becomes a mission and that mission inspires others to get involved.
In Northeast Cambodia, in the province of Kratie, a village called Kampi can boast about its remarkable example of a mission that inspires community collaboration. Kampi is home to the critically endangered Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin. A small pod of this species swims along a stretch of the Mekong River.
The Irrawaddy dolphin population is in decline due to heavy pollution of the river, habitat loss, obstruction from boats and nets, a fragile breeding cycle and most recently, threats of a controversial dam development.
In many parts of the world, human greed and exploitation has exacerbated the plight of endangered species. In Kampi, this is not the case. The community know without the rare freshwater dolphin their livelihood suffers, the community suffers, and the world suffers another loss of a beautiful (and a quite peculiar looking) animal.
The conservation efforts to protect this animal are created through community action focused on eco-tourism ventures. This employs local drivers and tour guides who take tourists on small boats to a nearby inlet for dolphin viewing, where the pod shows off every afternoon. There are also plenty of jobs on shore with groups of women and men painting, carving dolphin statues and other art forms.
I was told by a local guide that the community has been educated about the dolphin and are aware of it’s rarity and significance. They have respect for the species and acknowledge that their actions decide both their fates.
Conservationists from The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) visit the area several times a year to help develop management strategies and community projects. This includes sustainable methods of food production, such as raising poultry and growing home gardens to reduce fishing in the area.
This community collaboration is not unique. People all over the world are recognising real problems and are collectively taking grassroots action. ‘Think Global, Act Local’ encapsulates this idea. It’s a good reminder to think of the big picture, but to remember that change starts small.
I suggest you take time to think about what your cause is, your mission, your dolphin. Make it something you’re passionate about. Your livelihood may not depend on it, but our collective future does.