Empowering Freshwater Communities and Indigenous People through Immersive StoryMaps

Freshwater ecosystems contain an incredible 10% of the world’s known species and support the livelihoods of billions of people including many Indigenous Peoples and local communities. However, since 1970, freshwater plants and animals have declined by 84% due to threats like poor fisheries management, watershed degradation and overuse. The Nature Conservancy is partnering directly with local communities around the world to apply traditional knowledge and co-create new, science-based conservation strategies.

To tell the story of its partnership with these Indigenous People and Local Communities, The Nature Conservancy employed the services of long-time partner, Blue Raster to develop a series of Storymaps to shed light on TNC Freshwater Community-Led Conservation Program’s work with freshwater communities and indigenous people, highlighting their efforts to propagate and enhance community-led conservation initiatives across Africa and Latin America.

TNC's collaboration with communities in Africa is focused on three critical regions: the Bas Ogooué wetland area in Gabon, the upper catchment of the Okavango Basin in Angola, and the remarkable Lake Tanganyika, which borders Tanzania, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi. In Latin America, TNC's collaboration with communities extends to the Andean Amazon region in Ecuador, Colombia, and the Tapajos River Basin in Brazil. These ecosystems are not only home to remarkable biodiversity but also provide essential resources and cultural heritage for indigenous peoples. By partnering with local communities, TNC aims to strengthen their capacity to manage and protect their ancestral lands sustainably.

Blue Raster's expertise in utilizing ArcGIS StoryMaps has allowed TNC's conservation efforts to be communicated effectively, enabling users to engage deeply with the stories being shared. By combining rich media, interactive maps, and engaging narratives, the StoryMaps create a powerful medium for storytelling. The StoryMaps developed by Blue Raster incorporate compelling graphics, audio soundscapes, maps developed and published in ArcGIS Online and high-resolution images, capturing the essence of the fisheries, landscapes, communities, and wildlife that TNC works tirelessly to protect. These visuals not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also serve as a means to evoke emotions and foster a sense of connection with the featured regions. Developed in English, the StoryMaps created are also available in African French, Latin American Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese translations.

These maps not only offer a geospatial perspective of TNC's work but also provide users with an opportunity to explore the geographical context and understand the intricate relationships between freshwater habitats and communities. Through the interactive maps, readers can visualize the conservation initiatives, the areas of focus, and the significance of indigenous and local community participation. By utilizing ArcGIS StoryMaps as a powerful storytelling tool, TNC can effectively communicate its vision for the future, emphasizing the importance of continued partnerships and collaborative efforts with indigenous people and local communities. The immersive nature of the StoryMaps helps stakeholders envision a future where freshwater ecosystems thrive, and IPLCs actively contribute to their protection.

The collaboration between Blue Raster and The Nature Conservancy is a testament to the power of technology and partnerships in conservation efforts. Through the creation of immersive StoryMaps, TNC's work with freshwater communities and indigenous people in Africa and Latin America is brought to life. By amplifying these stories in local languages, Blue Raster and TNC empower communities to take an active role in preserving their natural heritage and build a future where people and nature thrive in harmony. Together, they are forging a path towards a more sustainable and equitable world.

“The Freshwater Community-Led Conservation Program is excited about our story map, made in partnership with Blue Raster. We hope those who engage will learn about the important efforts of the local communities, partners and TNC staff in freshwater fisheries and biodiversity conservation and feel invited to participate. The story map platform both allowed us to tell the efforts of our program as a cohesive unit across our work in Latin America and Africa and allowed us to highlight the unique impacts specific to local communities and partners.”
Allison Aldous, Director of the Freshwater Community-Led Conservation Program

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