Editor’s note: After working for years with fishers and mollusk-gatherers on the coasts of Chira Island, Conservation International (CI) Costa Rica’s Marco Quesada wasn’t surprised to find himself working on a local school improvement project — even if it wasn’t traditional “conservation” work such as protecting mangroves or fishing grounds.
In a small community, everything is connected. By finding out what is critically important to people — and working together to fix those issues — essential collaboration to protect nature becomes easier.
January brings the dry season to Costa Rica. That means clear skies, sunny days and warm temperatures, especially along the coast. It also means vacation for schoolchildren all over the country. However, for a group of fishers in two coastal communities on Chira Island, last January meant showing up every morning at school. They were not there for their kids’ school activities, but to complete a surprising task: building wheelchair ramps and new bathrooms in two local schools in order to improve access for children with disabilities.