Coral Gardens: A Sustainable Step to Healthy Coral Reefs and Empowered Communities

By Maggie Farrand

Coral reefs are among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing habitat and nurseries for marine life, protecting coasts and shorelines from storms and contributing to local economies through tourism and fishing. Furthermore, reef systems provide protein to tens of millions of people, create jobs and contribute billions of dollars to the economy worldwide.

Coral at risk

However coral reefs globally are at risk. In the Caribbean, Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn (A. palmata) corals are in decline. Only thirty years ago these corals comprised 70 percent of reefs in the region. Since 1980, Caribbean reef populations have collapsed mainly due to overfishing, agricultural run-off and bleaching from increasing ocean temperatures.

In May 2006, Staghorn andElkhorn corals were added to the U.S. endangered species list— the first such listing for reef building corals. Both species have declined 80 to 99 percent from historical populations, negatively impacting the structure and function of reefs – making it so they are unable to recover without intervention.

Counterpart's role

Counterpart International is a leader in the emerging field of coral restoration – our Coral Gardens program is developing low-tech, cost-effective systems for growing and transplanting corals to restore degraded reef ecosystems and community-based fisheries. Counterpart is working to save these critical species from extinction by developing healthy, localized reef patches with capacity for successful regeneration.

We have implemented Coral Garden Reef Restoration activities over the past ten years, resulting in 36 projects in eight countries spanning the Pacific and the Caribbean. This work has generated impressive results—at minimum, Counterpart has produced 5–12 times the original amount of coral at each site and has demonstrated  a five-fold increase in fish and shellfish abundance in targeted sites, with corresponding nutritional and economic benefits for local communities.

Counterpart’s Coral Gardens approach combines strategies for sustainable management of marine ecosystems with restoration of coral reefs and associated habitats where appropriate: 

  • Nurseries are established by trimming coral fragments from existing wild populations then securing them on underwater structures.
  • The original coral is grown over a number of years and trimmed or propagated every 9 – 12 months, increasing the original fragments by ten times.
  • Second generation corals are planted back onto the reef and monitored for overall health and reproduction potential.

Meanwhile, the nursery itself can reach maturity and spawn, releasing millions of coral larvae into the ocean, further contributing to the natural restoration process.

A comprehensive approach

Aside from these specific techniques, the Coral Gardens program is strengthened as a whole when restoration is accompanied by community engagement. Engaged communities take on a sense of ownership, which leads to an empowered constituency that can advocate for strengthened oversight, resource management and sustainable livelihoods that greatly contribute to national economies through fisheries and tourism.

Climate change has been negatively affecting global ecosystems, like coral reefs, for decades. However, projects that implement sustainable regeneration of natural habitats with committed community collaboration are a step in the right direction. Through initiatives like Coral Gardens, Counterpart is doing its part in adapting to climate change.

Want to know how you can do your part?

  1. Learn more about our Coral Gardens initiatives around the world.
  2. Donate to Counterpart International’s coral reef restoration efforts.
  3. Listen to our Coral Gardens podcast.
  4. Contact Counterpart International with questions.

November 8th, 2010 | Tags: acropora, coral, coral gardens, coral reef, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Honduras, Jamaica | Category: | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Brushing Away the Dust

This first-person account is part of a regular series of how Counterpart works in the field. This story is by Brian LeCuyer, Program Assistant.

Kabul in August is a city caked in a film of dry dust that seems thicker than air. That was the first thing I noticed when I got off the plane in Afghanistan. The dirt swirled and blew, blending in with the nearby barren brown hills.

Cleaning away the layer of never-ending dust is an impossible task, but the people of Afghanistan constantly work at it. In the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, local Afghans spray water on the walkways and patios outside their homes to rinse it away. Outdoor tables in the household garden are tended to every five minutes to ensure they stay clean for an evening meal. Cars are wiped down every morning to remove the grime.

I arrived in Kabul in August, about a month before the Parliamentary elections, to support Counterpart’s Support to the Electoral Process in Afghanistan Program (STEP) which fights the general lack of knowledge about governance, the electoral process and democracy that agitates and inhibits Afghanistan’s progress.

Since the beginning of 2009, STEP’s civic education campaign has met with almost 2 million Afghan voters to explain the basic concepts that underlie a free and open society. These meetings often happen in small villages in rural districts – places tucked between two mountain ridges that are easier to reach by donkey than by car. Meetings are led by local Afghans, who have been trained by Counterpart, and all attendees are provided with education materials tailored specifically for them- the average Afghani voter.

The lasting impression from my time in Kabul was the dedication and passion of our local staff. They want to see the STEP program succeed – they want to help build a country where their fellow citizens are educated and have a voice in their government. They were constantly discussing how STEP could educate more people and motivate more Afghanis to participate in the civic process. Every discussion and every decision was centered on how STEP could do the greatest good.

They work tirelessly, despite the obstacles before them. The recent Parliamentary elections took place in a physically insecure environment, and Afghanistan’s future seems to get hazier with each day, something that has nothing to do with dirt in the air. It has everything to do with a lack of security, a lack of justice and an infestation of corruption.

Counterpart’s STEP team does everything it can to promote the ideas of good governance, citizen participation and democracy in this insecure environment. And, just like cleaning away the layer of dust, there is always more work to do: another village to educate, another training to lead, another civic education brochure to distribute. Just like with the dust, STEP’s task may seem to never end, but because of the hard work and dedication of the STEP staff, Afghanistan’s future is not so hopeless.

Learn more about our STEP program in Afghanistan.

October 27th, 2010 | Tags: Afghanistan, Brian LeCuyer, civic education, dust, elections, Kabul, STEP, trip report | Category: From the Field | Leave a comment

Counterpart Repeats Popular New World Handicrafts Trade Show in Guatemala

As in the previous two years, Counterpart International and USAID co-hosted the third annual New World Handicrafts Central American Trade Show. The event, organized by the Guatemalan Exporters Association’s (AGEXPORT) Arts and Crafts Commission, was held at Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala on September 8th and 9th, 2010.

This year’s show featured:

  • A showroom filled with 100 stands selling high quality handicrafts from all over Central America;
  • Seminars hosted by international experts covering topics such as “Participation in International Trade Shows,” “Fashion Trends of the American Market,” and “AZO Dyes and their Implications for the Export Market”; and
  • Seven conferences held during the trade show that touched on important design trends and market intelligence topics, in order to provide market intelligence information to artisans and exporters.

The two day event generated on site sales worth $350,000 for the 100 artisans, while sales from negotiations and orders following the event are projected to generate well over $700,000.

Each year Counterpart introduces innovations to the Trade Show based on feedback from artisans and exporters. This year, Counterpart included workshops in the months leading up to the Trade Show, in order to better prepare artisans and exporters on event expectations and what types of products and commercialization materials to showcase to increase revenue. Each year the event becomes increasingly popular, which has allowed Counterpart to better tailor the show to the vendors’ needs, thus maximizing the experience for all.

The Trade Show provides a boost for local Central American handicraft producers, securing a more stable livelihood. The producers can also use this opportunity to extend their reach, linking their small business in Central America to larger, international designers and buyers. For example, this year, Counterpart and AGEXPORT provided technical assistance in design improvement and process mainstreaming to the Association of Parents and Friends of Handicapped People (ADISA), a special group from the Lake Atitlan region in Solola. ADISA is a group of disabled young men and women who have endured different challenges due to their condition and, after completing basic education, generate income for the organization and their families through handicraft production. Through Counterpart’s support, a group of international designers worked with ADISA members to produce a new line of products, which was showcased at the New World Crafts and other trade shows by local exporter and now partner in business, La Casa Cotzal.

Counterpart has been working in Guatemala since 2003, teaming with local communities to create economic opportunities around tourism – one of the country’s key drivers. We work closely with AGEXPORT, international design firms, local universities and handicraft designers and exporters to produce and sell new products in international markets. Counterpart’s programs have helped create more than 2,100 jobs, train nearly 5,000 people and strengthen 800 tourism businesses and organizations.

For additional information, you may visit, or read about Counterpart’s Community Tourism Alliance in Guatemala on our Web site.


October 26th, 2010 | Tags: ADISA, AGEXPORT, artisans, event, Guatemala, handicrafts, sustainable tourism, tourism, trade show | Category: | Leave a comment

Counterpart Supports Wheelchair Training in Georgia

On October 20-22, 2010, Counterpart International joined with Latter-Day Saints Charities (LDS Charities), Women of Georgia and the Coalition for the Disabled to conduct Training for Trainers sessions for rough-rider wheelchairs manufactured in Georgia.

Rough-rider wheelchairs are inexpensive, yet durable wheelchairs designed for rough terrain. They are rugged and repairable, ideal for bumpy, city streets or mountainous, country roads.

Counterpart’s team in Georgia provided a training facility - conference room with kitchen and bathrooms - and helped to manufacture several benches and foot stools for the sessions, as well as transporting many of the disabled persons to the training site. Counterpart involved eight of our partner organizations in the training session and organized all their transportation and training arrangements.

Trainers arrived from Salt Lake City, and after providing intensive training for three days, rough-riders were distributed to 40 physically active disabled persons.

The physically disabled must endure a variety of issues, such as a lack of mobility, the inability to financially support themselves and their families, a lack of access to social services (health care, education, etc.) and the general stigma that they are no longer contributing members of society.

Now, with rough-rider wheelchairs, these persons can enjoy increased and dependable mobility and an enhanced sense of pride and self-reliance.

After the distribution of wheelchairs, representatives from LDS Charities presented Counterpart’s Country Director, Irakli Saralidze, with a plaque for our successful cooperation in humanitarian activities in Georgia.

Learn more about our global humanitarian commodities distribution.

October 26th, 2010 | Tags: commodities, distribution, Georgia, humanitarian commodities distribution, LDS Charities, partnership, training, wheelchairs | Category: | Leave a comment

Residents of Galavani Community in Georgia Celebrate Running Water


The Galavani Community, located in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region of Georgia, has two main water collectors on the slope of the mountain to supply its villagers with water. These collectors were significantly damaged by recent floods that ravaged the area; they were collecting only 40 percent of the available water resources. The main 460 metric-ton capacity water reservoir, located at the bottom of the mountain, was also in need of serious repair and cleaning. Pipes were corroded and leaking. Without sufficient funding, villagers had improperly installed a water distribution tank, and it quickly became unusable.

What We Did

Through the Department of State’s Small Reconstruction Project initiative, Counterpart purchased and installed a 25 metric-ton capacity water reservoir with distribution tank and valves, replaced 1,850 meters of rusted pipes. With additional funding provided by Latter-Day Saints Charities, fences were installed around the reservoirs, the main district pipes were replaced, an additional 6,600 meters of rusted pipes were replaced with new PVC pipes and the new reservoir was covered with a thermal insulator. The Mtskheta-Mtianeti Governor’s office helped to rehabilitate the clogged 100 mm water pipe connecting the new reservoir with the main water collector and provided grader equipment to even and fix excavated roads.

Now all 400 village residents have access to clean and safe water. The residents will also be able to use the water to irrigate their vegetables throughout the summer to supplement their income and better provide for their families.

To learn more about Counterpart’s Small Reconstruction Projects throughout the Former Soviet Union, visit our Web site.

October 21st, 2010 | Tags: DOS, Georgia, LDS Charities, Small Reconstruction Project, SRP Georgia, water, water supply | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

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