On 28th - 29th May, the Youth Think Tank Competition in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) engaged youth participants with a webinar and in-depth training workshop on Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands. One in a series of workshops that aims to build capacity for young conservationists on wetland and migratory waterbirds conservation in the flyway across various disciplines, the 2-day virtual workshop was organized by the EAAF Partnership Secretariat with the help of the youth organizing team. More than 100 youth actively participated in the discussions and workshops. Day 1 The workshop opened on 28th May 2022 with a webinar, “Understanding Nature-based Solutions and Local Community Engagement in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands.” The 1-hour webinar focused on presentations from speakers, Ms. Kathryn Bimson, Programme Officer for IUCN Regional Asia Office, and Mr. Jiefeng Jin, Conservation Officer for the International Crane Foundation. The first presentation, given by Ms. Kathryn Bimson, was an introductory presentation on Nature-based solutions and was followed by an introductory presentation on Engaging local community in conservation by Mr. Jiefeng Jin. Both presentations helped participants ease their way into the topic and the in-depth training workshop, “Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands” that came afterwards. [PPT Materials] Introduction to Nature-based Solutions (link) / Introduction to Engaging Local Community in Conservation (link) The in-depth workshop was led by Ms. Mercy Kariuki, Programme Officer (Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme) from BirdLife International and focused on “Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands”. She emphasized the significance of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the process of conservation and how the work is increasingly adopting a human rights-based approach. To delve further into the topic, the presentation was followed by a case study by Mr. George Ndung’u Muigai, Founder of the Cranes Conservation Volunteers, on the conservation of Cranes in Kenya. During his presentation, Mr. Muigai shared on-the-ground experiences engaging with the community and exchanged practical advice with the youth participants. [PPT Materials] Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands (link) / Conservation of Cranes in Kenya (link) The breakout session, participants discussed the positive and negative relations between conservation and people, so that they could learn to think in different perspectives – from local communities to conservation. The participants shared actual experiences from their respective regions and project implementations. Day 2 The in-depth workshop continued on 29th May with a short summary presentation from Ms. Mercy Kariuki before delving into a case study from Amy M. Lecciones, Executive Director of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc who tackled Empowering Communities for Managing Agricultural Wetlands. In her presentation, Amy shared the case in Paligui Wetlands (a part of the greater key biodiversity area of Candaba Wetlands) of how local farmers were trained to be local eco-tour guides. Amy enumerated some key activities for community engagement and social challenges with the proposed conservation measures taken in Paligui. (PPT Materials) Following next was a case on Hong Kong Fishpond Conservation Scheme presented by Mr. Johnson Chung of The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society. Mr. Johnson shared how local fishermen helped to enhance the biodiversity of fishponds within the Ramsar Site and being an important player in the conservation project. Johnson shared different ways to motivate the local communities as well as the general public to support the management agreements. The outputs were beyond conserving migratory birds but also benefitted local fishermen while maintaining traditions and cultures in Hong Kong. (PPT Materials) The last case study was presented by Professor Wataru Kitamura of Tokyo City University on the Little Tern project. He shared how the once-disappeared population of Little Tern was brought back to the urban areas in Tokyo Bay area. The project demonstrated the success and need for a strong scientific base, and how it can be developed into a good citizen science programme to engage the locals and general public garner their support. It was also an innovative solution to create habitats for the birds with the use of the rooftops of building in the middle of the city. (PPT Materials) After that, the participants broke out into groups to practice stakeholder analysis of the different case studies that were presented. Youth participants shared their perspectives on identifying stakeholders and ideas on engaging them with participatory conservation objectives. [Webinar] Understanding Nature-based Solution and Local Community Engagement in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands [In depth Workshop] Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands: Session 1 [In depth Workshop] Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands: Session 2 Evaluation: All 20 participants had an increase in learning for the topic of nature-based solutions. In the pre-workshop survey, half of the participants responded that they had some familiarity with the topic. In the post-workshop survey, however, 90% responded they were now familiar or ‘ready to go pro’ with nature-based solutions. All participants were satisfied and found what they learned during the workshop useful in their volunteer/work. Participants rated these three components with the highest scores: 1) trainers and speakers of the workshop (4.5/5); 2) case study presentations (4.5/5); 3) contents of the workshop (4.5/5). The most valuable learnings/ takeaways for the participants were: 1) Free, Prior and Informed Consent, 2) Stakeholder mapping and analysis and 3) Nature-based Solutions. Takeaways: Participants wrote that most valuable learnings/ takeaways for the workshop was: 1) Free, Prior and Informed Consent, 2) Stakeholder mapping and analysis and 3) Nature-based Solutions. In the words of the Flyway youth: “What really stayed in my head and in my notes also is the quote "Recognizing diversity and engaging stakeholders helps in building legitimacy, developing innovative solutions, enhancing transparency, and most importantly, in upholding social equity." “It is evident that we are currently experiencing biodiversity loss. Hence, it is a must to take action. However, there are various factors that we need to consider first. For example, the effects of the conservation programs that we want to implement on the local communities and vice versa. As conservationists, we should understand the social contexts. A way for us to plan everything is to create a stakeholder analysis. It is a process for us to be able to map and identify the target people before the project begins. Acknowledgment The Youth Think Tank Competition for the EAA Flyway Organizing Team acknowledges the great contribution from the speakers and trainers: Mercy Kariuki, George Ndung’u Muigai, Amy M. Lecciones, Johnson Chung, and Wataru Kitamura, as well the youth organizing team: Frances Alvares, Jord Earving Gadingan, Oscar Yu, Thura Soe Min Htike, Yeonju Park, Yuji Lim and Yoomi Sim. The webinar was moderated by Ms. Yoon Kyung Lee, External Relations Manager of the EAAFP Secretariat. The in-depth workshops were co-moderated by Ms. Yuji Lim, Ms. Yeonju Park, Ms. Yoomi Sim from the EAAFP Secretariat and Mr. Thura Soe Min Htike from Myanmar. Ms. Vivian Fu, Communication Officer of the EAAFP Secretariat led the coordination of the workshop. To learn more about the speakers and trainers click here. For more on the Youth Think Tank Competition click here.