Traditional culture has a strong hold on the fascinating island state of Yap. Almost every village still has traditional men’s and women’s houses that serve as centers of village life. In these gathering places, village issues are discussed and traditional skills are taught to the next generation. The residents of Balebat Village, working with local NGO Yap Community Action Program, sought a grant from Seacology to renovate their women’s center, which was badly damaged by a typhoon.
Reverence for the natural environment is also an integral part of Yap’s cultural tradition. The people of Balebat want to protect approximately 300 acres of mangrove forest next to the village. The area supports a large variety of sea life, but local people have noticed an alarming decline in fish, clams, and crabs. They want to protect the breeding ground of these important species.
In the protected area, no activities of any type will be allowed—no fishing, no timber cutting, and no hunting for clams and crabs. The area is located on the village shoreline, making it easy to monitor. Anyone who violates the rules will suffer the traditional penalty: His or her land will be seized and turned over to the community.