Ten years ago, the Community Partnership Agreement was co-crafted by OneReef and Tobi community leaders to achieve three critical objectives over ten years: (1) to combine traditional stewardship and modern resources to protect coral reefs (2) to support local management of marine environments (3) to allow for greater efficiency because the money goes where it is needed most as deemed by conditions on the ground.

In 2006, the Tobi Community in Palau was working with other organizations to help them with their conservation vision for Helen Reef when they read about OneReef’s community-based model. They contacted founder Chris LaFranchi because they saw the OneReef partnership as a novel solution to protect Helen Reef – it put the community on an equal footing with partners and would support them as long as needed. These two elements are uniquely geared to accomplish lasting conservation success.

Helen Reef agreement was signed at conference where other community leaders were present.

The creation of OneReef’s equitable and long-term community partnership agreements was heavily influenced by founder Chris LaFranchi’s work in Namibia in 1996-1998. He was a part of a Community Based Natural Resource Management project where he collected data on local livelihoods, use of natural resources, and agricultural practices. At the beginning of his work, it was a challenge for LaFranchi to envision success from community-led efforts. By the end, however, he saw how the model based on mutual benefit principles could work well. It was during this time LaFranchi began to understand the importance of community-led efforts to create real impact. His work, as well as his interactions with Garth Owen-Smith, led to the insight that equitably involving communities and aligning solutions with their interests is critical to conservation success. LaFranchi later refined his idea during his Fellowship with the Mulago Foundation in 2002, which led to the OneReef community partnership agreement that supports coral reef conservation in Micronesia.

Chris LaFranchi and Wayne Andrews (~2008)

The groundbreaking agreement with the Tobi community in 2010 led to interest among other communities in the region to partner with OneReef to better protect their marine areas. A pivotal role was played by Wayne Andrew, who was manager of the Helen Reef conservation program when he met Chris LaFranchi of OneReef. Wayne helped negotiate the first OneReef Community Partnership agreement in 2010 and spread the word about the OneReef approach among other communities. Seeing an opportunity, Wayne was recruited by OneReef as an Ambassador and Advisor. With his diplomatic and inspiring ways, Wayne has been a driving force in establishing OneReef Community Partnership Agreements in Micronesia that helps protect hundreds of thousands of acres of coral reef. Over the next 10 years, we look forward to partnering with many more island communities to protect their coral reefs and increase resiliency across the region.

Tobi Community Rangers