Ashoka Fellow
Costa Rica,
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Omar Rodríguez Solano was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
As a marine biologist involved in earlier government projects to save the seas, Omar saw that the missing ingredient needed to improve the deteriorating marine environment was the involvement of coastal communities and fishermen. He identified local schoolteachers as a means to educate the community and promote practices, both on land and in the sea, to protect the ocean’s marine life and coral reefs. He translated the complicated technical description of the problems into practical, common sense explanations that he explained to primary school teachers in coastal towns. The teachers incorporated this material into their curriculums and began to incorporate  reading about the sea into their daily classes, use seashells in math class, and introduce class projects about the sea. As teachers became more committed and children learned more, they gradually became important new actors in their communities, promoting healthier practices and opening new dialogues with their families and local fishermen. Omar holds festivals in the communities to celebrate the best student projects and teaching techniques, which broadens and deepens the communities’ recognition and understanding of the issue and has helped spread his ideas to neighboring communities.
Government officials noticed the groundswell of local support and began sponsoring these innovative school and community programs more substantially. In response, enthusiasm has grown and communities have begun to clean their beaches, implement more sanitary practices to reduce seawater contamination respect fishing regulations, and mitigate the harvest of undersized clams. Eventually, many ecosystems in the Gulf of Nicoya began to show signs of improvement.
By converting the local community members and fishermen from substantial polluters to protectors of the environment, Omar has proven that community involvement is a critical component in reversing marine life degradation. Furthermore, Omar has planted the seeds to spread this approach to ten countries in Latin America.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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