BIBA-SEM! Socioeconomic monitoring in Micronesia: Reflections from the facilitators

By Supin Wongbusarakum

SEM_teamThis fall, I traveled to Guam to participate in an energizing Training-of-Trainers (ToT) workshop—for socioeconomic monitoring training—as one of three facilitators. The workshop brought together nine representatives from five countries[1], in Micronesia and Hawai‘i, and is the latest effort to provide socioeconomic data and information to support the Micronesia Challenge. The Micronesia Challenge is an agreement between these five countries to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. Understanding the social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics of these islands is critical to helping resource managers identify potential problems and opportunities, and focus management priorities[2].

Chief Gadao, a legendary chief of Inarajan, a historic village that we visited in southern Guam.

Chief Gadao, a legendary chief of Inarajan, a historic village that we visited in southern Guam.

The aim of this recent workshop was to build on many previous efforts, including two Socioeconomic Measures workshops conducted in 2012 and 2015, and funded through the generous support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), and Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance (MINA). These two previous workshops developed and tested a set of socioeconomic indicators for all Micronesia Challenge sites and established a regional core socioeconomic monitoring team. With this foundation and ongoing financial commitments from these partners, the recent workshop was the first opportunity to begin training this core monitoring team and building capacity at the Micronesian regional level.

Core SEM team members and facilitators discussed topics for next training workshop in 2016

Core SEM team members and facilitators discussed topics for next training workshop in 2016

We spent the first week deepening the team’s knowledge of socioeconomic monitoring (SEM) based on the guiding document, Socioeconomic Monitoring Guidelines for Coastal Managers in Pacific Island Countries (commonly known as SEM-Pasifika[3]), which was developed and launched by NOAA and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme in 2008. They also worked on planning sessions and practiced their training skills for a socioeconomic monitoring workshop that was conducted with local participants from Guam in the second week.

The trainers-in-training for socioeconomic monitoring in Micronesia include:
Angel Jonathan, Conservation Society of Pohnpei
Bertha Reyuw, Yap Community Action Program
Bond Segal, Kosrae Conservation Safety Organization
Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, MINA
Kriskitina Kanemoto, formerly with Chuuk Conservation Society
Mark Stege, Marshall Islands Conservation Society
Rachael Nash, Micronesia Challenge
Shirley Koshiba, Palau International Coral Reef Center
Erin Zanre, Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources

All three facilitators came away from this training with a renewed energy and commitment to strengthening socioeconomic monitoring efforts in the region and building capacity of the core team.

Here are my reflections on the workshop as well as those of my two co-facilitators, Brooke Nevitt and Marybelle Quinata.

Supin Wongbusarakum (NOAA PIFSC Ecosystem Sciences Division), “As a social scientist involved in developing guidelines for socioeconomic monitoring and assessing conservation impacts, I do not need convincing that socioeconomic monitoring helps us better plan, manage and conserve marine and coastal resources. The key question to me has not been the importance of SEM, but how we can strengthen and sustain it. After multiple years of SEM efforts in the region, we began to establish baseline data for different sites, some of which has already been used for better planning or management. However, we do not have real monitoring planned for the sites with baseline data and there has been little synergy and exchange across the islands. We needed to find a more strategic way to make the best use of our limited funding and human resources to grow and ensure the sustainability of SEM. One way to do this is to have a regional team committed to SEM efforts and hold strategic planning meetings that allow us to review what has happened and determine how best to move toward effective monitoring and sustainability. I am delighted to see a team forming and a Micronesia Challenge monitoring plan in development. As I learned from Brooke, a cheer in her language, Biba SEM!”

Brooke Nevitt (MINA) Coordinator for Micronesia Challenge Socioeconomic Monitoring, “We have a team! This is SO exciting! Two years ago, Supin came to me and said, ‘Brooke, I think we should try something different than the one-time trainings and assessments we lead around the region.’ And here we are. With representatives from each jurisdiction, we have the opportunity to really move socioeconomic monitoring forward. All of the team members agree that this work is necessary and critical. There is so much work still to be done. But, tackling it together with the support of Shirley, Mark, Kodep, Bond, Angel, Marybelle, Kris, and Bertha, we are making great strides forward. As we would say in the CNMI, Biba SEM! Biba SEM!

Marybelle Quinata (Pacific Islands Regional Office, NMFS, NOAA Guam Field Office), “Working with Supin, Brooke, and the rest of the team has been an exciting learning experience because all of us entered the socioeconomic realm under different circumstances with different professional backgrounds. However, one common factor that unites us is a commitment to our communities that rely on our islands’ natural resources, not just for survival but also to preserve our cultural heritage and identity as Pacific Islanders of Micronesia and the Marianas. During the SEM-Pasifika Workshop in Guam, trainers and trainers-in-training pushed their personal limits. We learned about our strengths, acknowledged our weaknesses, and helped one another improve as facilitators. As the first of its kind, this SEM-Pasifika workshop proved to be a unique learning experience that tested us as a team and also at an individual level. And just like our islands, our team has grown more resilient because of it. I look forward to increasing our knowledge, capabilities, and ambitions as the SEM Core Team Family! Biba!”

Core SEM team members with Guam participants and facilitators.

Core SEM team members with Guam participants and facilitators.

[1] The five Micronesia Challenge countries include Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall islands.

[2] Visit to learn more about the Micronesia Challenge.

[3] A copy of the guiding document can be downloaded from the SocMon website.

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