Terra Conscious is a conservation oriented social enterprise promoting responsible marine and coastal tourism in Goa. They conduct ethical & sustainable wildlife and nature experiences, to build awareness about local marine species and follow international guidelines for wildlife watching. They also work with local communities, tour operators and institutions to understand wildlife conservation challenges and build their capacity to be sustainable tourism practitioners.
It is Terra Conscious’ hope, that they becomes a platform, which creates an awareness and an engaged community of operators, travelers, authorities and local communities who work together to protect our oceans and coasts, thus ensuring that future generations are still able to enjoy, experience and learn about marine ecosystems.
In view of this Terra Conscious started the ‘Goan Youth Leadership In Conservation Fellowship’ to empower Goan youth to be a part of and initiate conservation action. Marishia Rodrigues was the first recipient of this Fellowship for the year 2017-2018, due to her Goan origins. As part of this she was given the opportunity to complete her SSI open water diving course and was trained in The Art of Hosting: Participatory Leadership practice by CircleWallas. At the end of the fellowship she had to design and execute a project as an evaluation of the skills that were built.
The conservation intervention that she decided to focus on was awareness building in children. In this project she aimed to address the gaps in knowledge about sea turtles by taking a small step in building awareness about the species during 6 interactive and experiential learning sessions with 15 children from Goa Outreach over 3 weeks. Engagement with the marine space can get very elitist, as marine based activities can be expensive.
Marishia is keen on changing this narrative by engaging children from various backgrounds with this space so as to build a more conscious and empathetic community of youth who are sensitive to wildlife and the local environment.
In the first week the children from Goa Outreach ( a small project supporting Indian slum and street children with education, health and nutrician through outreach work), were exposed to the first stage of a turtles life and the struggles turtle babies face as hatchlings.
The children were given an insight into the physiology and general functioning of turtles and their body parts. As an activity the children mapped out, in the form of drawings, what their perception of a beach is, this helped understand the children’s’ existing outlook on the marine space.
As part of the experiential learning they were taken to the Morjim turtle information centre where they interacted with on ground forest officials and looked at the various stressors to baby sea turtles along the Morjim beach stretch. The temperature at various points and depths along the beach was measured to better understand temperature dependent sex determination in sea turtles. The children also learnt how to use a compass and how female turtles use the magnetism of the earth to locate the beach that they were born on to nest.
Along with all the learning, after a safety briefing from the lifeguards on the beach, the children also had some fun swimming in the ocean and playing in the sand! A visit to the turtle information centre brought out many curious questions from the children that were answered by the forest official present.
Week 2 took the children to the wonderful reef ecosystem. During the first session of the week the children were introduced to the importance of the reef system, how it is used by some turtles, and to the other curious and spectacular organisms that make this system their home. The children learnt from co-founder of Terra Conscious and dive instructor Roshan Gonsalves about how divers engage with the marine space! The children also built a reef from waste material; this helped them further understand the different organisms that live in that system.
Day two was a trip to the rock pools in Anjuna where the children engaged with the space while also learning to snorkel. The day ended with a short tide pool walk back to the beach! “Special thanks to Dive Instructors Roshan Gonsalves and Vibodh Rath who took the kids snorkeling in the tide pools and also Barracuda Diving India, who loaned us the dive equipment for the week, “said Puja Mitra, Founder, Terra Conscious and a conservation practitioner currently living and working in Goa.
In week 3 the children were exposed to the various threats, natural and anthropogenic, faced by turtles through different stages of their life and how these also affect the marine system at large. A particular focus was given to waste and waste management. The children also interacted with Espie Kandolkar who leads the Green Goa Works team in Khorlim, Mapusa. She introduced them to the importance of reducing waste and composting.
“We thank her for taking time out and interacting with these children! Terra Conscious would also like to thank all the kind donors without whom this project would not have been possible!,” adds Puja.
“One of the most important factors of conservation outreach and education is the ripple effect that it has, I was empowered and inspired by my work at Terra Conscious to conceptualize and design this project that has now empowered 15 young children to go and talk about these things themselves!”, said Marishia.
A conscious effort was made to also share the various upcoming livelihood opportunities, like diving, composting, farming, tourism, etc., that this space provides. Many of these are building on already existing livelihood options or have a low starting cost and also give good returns. Through the three weeks a newfound curiosity for the marine space was seen in the children.
They were also observed spreading this knowledge among family and peers. The kids have also found a different outlook to this marine and coastal space and wish to engage with it even more but in a responsible manner.
“ As Marishia leaves for her masters future Interns at Terra Conscious will continue to expand and build on this project and will also work with schools and other spaces around Goa continuing to build a sensitivity for the marine space in children and youth in the state, “ Puja concludes.
The organisation hopes to support one person each year, to ensure that more young people in the state, based on their interests, are able to build careers in conservation and take forward their own initiatives to build awareness and impact on ground conservation action.[H]