Sri Lanka’s Kalpitiya Peninsula is the largest coral reef in the southern Gulf of Mannar. Coral reef ecosystems, and marine ecosystems as a whole, have been an increasing focus for CREE due to their sensitivity to climate change. In 2010, with a grant from the International Coral Reef Action Network, CREE supported Indra Ranasinghe through his organization Marine Coastal Resources Foundation (MCRF) to strengthen a variety of local livelihoods through creative measures, including working with household gardens and women as well as seaweed farming (pictured below). Cultivars include coconut, mango, papaya, banana, edible leaves, tomatoes, chili, and even pumpkin. All of these families came from fisherfolk and one included a widower and a disabled wife of a fisherman. This support helped MCRCF build success for environmental conservation grounded in local livelihoods enhancement.
During follow up environmental education workshops, environmental impact on focal species such as ornamental fish, sea cucumber, and conch were highlighted. CREE’s targeted its workshop support on efforts for both women and men fisherfolk, divers, and school children. In total, more than 130 participants were exposed to environmental education efforts of staff and 50 families were involved in the livelihoods enhancement projects. Looking ahead, CREE and community leader Indra Ranasinghe have focused more research around the potential of aloe farming for coastal communities as a primary livelihood intervention. Other goals are to initiate a community-driven surveillance system to protect coral reefs and to minimize destructive fishing practices.