URI Coastal Resources Center provides key support to two groups awarded 2012 UN Equator Prize

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – April 9, 2012 – Two international organizations that have been recognized with the 2012 United Nations Equator Prize for best practices in sustainable development have received training, business planning, and other institutional support from the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center (CRC).

The TRY Oyster Women’s Association in The Gambia and the Namdrik Atoll Local Resources Committee in the Republic of the Marshall Islands are among 25 community organizations in developing nations to be recognized by the United Nations Development Program. The awards will be presented at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June.

“Our role has been to support these groups in achieving their goals,” said Brian Crawford, CRC director of international programs. “The work we have undertaken with these groups has been a combined effort of many individuals here at URI, both at the Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Environment and Life Sciences.”

The TRY Association brings together 500 female oyster harvesters from 15 villages in the West Africa nation of The Gambia to promote sustainable harvesting techniques and small-scale enterprise development.

“These women are the poorest of the poor, and they’re doing some phenomenal work,” Crawford said. “When we started working with them, there were just 50 women, they were disempowered, no one was paying them any attention, and in a period of several years, they’ve grown as an organization and their impact is huge.”

Beginning in 2009, the Coastal Resources Center has provided the Association with guidance in organizational development, resource management, product development, and training for their children in skills to diversify their income sources.

The Namdrik Atoll Local Resources Committee promotes a model of community self-sufficiency and local food security for the Marshall Islands and other island nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Because the low-lying nation is among the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change, CRC has provided training for national agencies and non-profit organizations on incorporating climate change adaptation into their national strategy for resource conservation.

“We used Namdrik as a pilot example of how to incorporate climate change into local resource management plans,” said Pam Rubinoff, the CRC coastal manager working most closely with the group. “I helped the Marshall Islands Coastal Management Advisory Council assess vulnerability and provided input as to what they could do to address climate change impacts.”

Based at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, the Coastal Resources Center has worked with numerous developing nations on coastal management and sustainable fisheries initiatives for three decades. Its international work is primarily funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.