Beyond the technology

Building resilience in coastal communities: How Blue Ventures is using KoboToolbox to drive marine conservation and improve digital equality

Blue Ventures, a marine conservation organization, is on a mission to restore the world’s oceans and improve the livelihoods of traditional coastal fishing communities. Small-scale fishing is one of the world’s most important sources of food, but it remains one of the least digitized economic sectors. The resulting lack of digital data has long been a barrier to improving the management of coastal fisheries and protecting the biodiversity of marine life. That’s why Blue Ventures is using KoboToolbox to support remote and rural coastal communities to monitor fisheries themselves.

Data collectors from three locally-managed marine areas in Madagascar. © Blue Ventures / Nestin Rasolofoarivony

Having partnered with traditional fishers and community-based organizations in over a dozen countries, Blue Ventures firmly believes that marine conservation can only succeed when the people who depend on and know most about the sea are leading and managing the process. By providing the necessary tools and technical support to coastal communities, participatory monitoring puts the power of data collection and analysis in the hands of local fishers, enabling them to make more informed decisions about how to manage their marine areas.

Having innovative software such as [KoboToolbox] can increase the scope of [our] work, democratize data, and drive the community-led model forward at this vital time for people and the planet. - Data, Monitoring, and Evaluation team at Blue Ventures

Before finding KoboToolbox, every small-scale community Blue Ventures was working with used paper-based forms to record and store their data. By digitizing the data collection and management process, the quality and consistency of data has been improved, and communities using KoboToolbox now have access to real-time insights and information. Using data collected with KoboToolbox, communities can better understand and track what is happening in their own fisheries, so they can make data-driven decisions to improve conservation. After two decades of supporting coastal communities, Blue Ventures has seen firsthand how quickly habitats can recover, fish populations can rebuild, and coastal communities can thrive as a result of using scalable and affordable fisheries management and conservation models.

Data collectors using KoboToolbox in Madagascar. © Blue Ventures / Patrick Rafidimanantsoa

To drive data equality, Blue Ventures supports local enumerators and community members by sharing data collection best practices and strengthening local capacities in data management. The Blue Ventures team works directly with community members to design digital data collection forms that measure multiple indicators to inform marine conservation efforts, including mangrove restoration and survival rate, weight of fish catches, and marine life species and gender, both on shores and in markets. Given that data collection often occurs in extremely remote areas, a major advantage of using the KoboCollect app is its adaptability for offline use, so data collection forms can be stored on mobile devices and tablets that can be used even without internet connection.

As a fishery coordinator, I have found [KoboToolbox] to be an invaluable tool for gathering data and engaging community members in decision-making. With its easy-to-use interface and mobile data collection capabilities offline, KoboToolbox has allowed us to quickly and efficiently gather data on octopus fisheries.

Fishery technicians using KoboToolbox in Madagascar. © Blue Ventures / Patrick Rafidimanantsoa

This data gives us the evidence we need to advocate for policy changes and protect species from being overfished. I would highly recommend KoboToolbox to any organization or group looking to increase local community involvement and drive positive change. — Nestin Rasolofoarivony, Blue Ventures’ Regional Technical Coordinator for Fisheries in Southwest Madagascar

Using KoboCollect, Blue Ventures has also been able to increase access to progressive technologies in remote communities and support the leadership of marginalized groups, including women and young people. In February 2023, Blue Ventures provided training for data collectors from the locally-managed marine areas of Teariake, Velondriake, and Manjaboaky in southwest Madagascar.

In rural coastal fishing communities, women are often the primary data collectors, and the majority of the trainees from these areas were women. The trainees learned to use KoboToolbox to collect and manage data on marine life welfare and reef health in their coastal waters. They also held data feedback sessions where they presented the findings and insights from their data collection to their communities.

A data collector using KoboToolbox in Madagascar. © Blue Ventures / Patrick Rafidimanantsoa

When asked about their experience using KoboToolbox, the trainees indicated that the platform had streamlined their entire data management process and saved resources by eliminating long journeys to collect data logbooks and time-consuming manual data entry. The data collectors trained by Blue Ventures are now looking to establish a new data center and to share their knowledge of best practices with other coastal communities across Madagascar.

Blue Ventures’ partner, JAPESDA, runs KoboToolbox training days in the coastal Village of Uwedikan in Indonesia. © Blue Ventures / Made Dharma

Basing marine conservation efforts on accurate and up-to-date data is vital to the success of protecting the biodiversity of marine life and supporting the resilience of coastal communities. Blue Ventures’ work in Madagascar, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and Comoros demonstrates how KoboToolbox can be used to strengthen data-driven and community-led action for change. These ongoing initiatives by Blue Ventures help to support local communities with digital data, so they can develop conservation initiatives that respond to their needs and protect their coastal environment for future generations.

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