Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) presented Ann Kloulechad Singeo the 2020 Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. Environmental Award during its 19th Anniversary Dinner Gala, in recognition of the significant contributions she had made to conservation and management efforts in Palau through her efforts with Ebiil Society.
Ms. Ann Singeo is the second recipient of such award since it was first established in 2018 and a second female recipient of such award. The first recipient was Carol Emaurois in 2018. Coincidently both women are from Ngarchelong State.
PICRC issued a call for nominees and over 130 people submitted nominations. Over 35 nominees proposed were reviewed for an award and Ann Singeo of Ebiil Society was chosen as the winner.
Being a recipient of such award was not something Mrs. Singeo anticipated. Her work with Ebiil Society is a passion that expanded beyond mere science to a learning process that merge traditional knowledge with science. “We were finding that the information that our people already knew about our environment was being validated by science.”
Ms. Singeo attributed her interest in opening learning center at Ebiil to an inspiration from late Rita Olsudong, a former Palauan archeologist. “We would go hiking in the woods with our kids and she would bring only one machete. I asked her, what were we going to eat? Should we bring a cooler?” Ms. Singeo recounted how with one machete, Rita was able to show them how to get drink from coconuts and food such as nuts (miich). She said that this made her realize that there was much to be learned from the traditional way of managing the environment and resources.
Ann said they started the first class with no budget and with Ann handling the environmental course and Rita conducting the cultural aspect of it.
16 years later Ebiil Society now educate about 800 students each year. The science education is combined with hands-on experience, cultural application, woven and merged with oral history or legends. The student gain not only the scientific know-how but an in-depth sense of identity with environment around him or her.
“For example, studying about watershed, we brought girls to taro patch. Lot of the conservation management practices are incorporated in the traditional management of taro patches. The practices not only teach the scientific aspect of managing ecosystems but they also teach cultural values that are intrinsic part of taro patch for women in Palau. ” This is one of the examples that made Ann resign from formal post and take on the work with Ebiil Society for the last 16 years.
“How can we teach people to conserve a reef if they have never seen one? This is one of the reasons why we teach kids about our environment the way we do so that they will understand the value of what they are conserving,” added Ms. Singeo.
The program utilizes local experts and community members in their instructional programs. This adds richness and depth to the program. “At the end of the day, there is a sense of ownership of the program within the community and this is very important,” said Ms. Singeo.
Ebiil Society, was formed in 2005 for people of Ngarchelong working together to achieve permanent closure of Ebiil channel. Since then it has expanded to cover entire Palau with two main program objectives, environmental learning and environmental restoration, utilizing the same learning method of merging science with traditional cultural knowledge. (L.N. Reklai)