In 2020, OneReef formalized its Community Partnership Agreement with the five communities that manage Nanwap MPA. Shortly after that, MLMDA, a collaborative organization that the communities had created to help manage Nanwap, was revived, and a fundraising effort was launched. In our experience working with communities to manage MPAs, initiatives like these are a crucial success factor. Even so, we were taken by surprise at the speed with which the communities achieved their ambitious goal.

Nanwap Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Madolenihmw municipality in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) was established as part of Pohnpei State’s effort to preserve and protect future generations a unique coral reef system, lagoon, and the deep open ocean.  Nanwap MPA is vital for the spawning of many species of fish, including rabbitfish. These fish are of critical economic and cultural importance to the five communities that manage Nanwap.  The protection of spawning sites is necessary to secure Pohnpei’s fish stock for the people who depend on them. For generations, the community leaders have served as master fishermen to their Kings and stewards of the nearby marine resources. However, the demand from fish markets in Pohnpei and the exports of reef fish and other marine resources to Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland have greatly threatened the fish populations and other aquatic resources of Pohnpei State.

In July 2005, the five communities of Metipw, Lukop, Mesihsou, Dolopwail, and Aparahk that manage Nanwap MPA came together under their chiefs’ leadership to formalize and charter a community-based organization called MLMDA  (the first letters of each of the five communities).  Over the years, in the absence of support and leadership, the organization made minor progress in protecting the spawning sites. In 2019, the village chiefs secured a critical milestone –  a OneReef Community Partnership Agreement, including the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, Madolenihmw Municipality, and Pohnpei State Government. The agreement outlines a trial partnership that helps develop a shared and equitable relationship that matures into long-term support for community stewardship. Shortly after the formal agreement was signed in 2020, the MLMDA was revived. Now, with the recent selection of a new President for the MLMDA organization – Mr. Patterson Shed, who’s passionate about the environment and community development – the communities are poised to realize their original vision. The five community chiefs and the President of MLMDA have proposed a community project that aims to expand their existing community meeting house into a Community Center akin to traditional Learning Centers.  The Community/Learning Center will be used for important community work, gatherings, meetings, and teaching traditional knowledge and skills to the next generation. To accomplish this vision, MLMDA approached OneReef, and we have committed $30,000 for the Learning Center, which is half of the cost. The MLMDA has obtained matching funds for the rest of the cost from the FSM Congressman – Hon office. Dion Neth.

Patterson Shed, the President of the MLMDA organization, invited Her Excellency Carmen Cantor, the U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, to visit the Nanwap MPA site and witness the celebration of MLMDA’s Community and Learning Center Expansion project. At this celebration on September 24, 2021, the $30,000 check from OneReef was presented on our behalf by Eugene Joseph, Director of Conservation Society of Pohnpei, a OneReef partner.

OneReef applauds the great teamwork and leadership of the communities that manage Nanwap MPA and the MLMDA in building cohesion and securing matching funds for the Learning Center. This enterprising spirit and resourcefulness have the potential to become a model for other communities in Pohnpei state.