The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


28 June 2018



Medical Director for Blue Ventures, Dr Vik Mohan, travelled to St Andrews University in 2014 to present the organisation’s integrated approach to conservation.

Speaking to local communities in southwest Madagascar, Dr Mohan and his team listened to the concerns of families as they struggled to maintain food security with ever-depleting marine resources. This core idea of listening was essential to the success and ongoing development of the project as Blue Ventures could get to the real issues at hand.

Through listening to these communities, Blue Ventures unearthed a huge unmet need for health care, and for reproductive health services in particular. Having no access to contraception, these women often had no choice regarding whether they would get pregnant or have children. As a result, maternal and child health was poor and providing for these often large families were placing a significant and unsustainable strain on the local food resource.  

Opening the first reproductive health centre was certainly not something Blue Ventures envisioned when they started off on their journey, but it shows how listening to communities instead of assuming the best solution can have a powerful impact on the results achieved. Allowing women to take control of their reproductive health, families could become smaller and more manageable, allowing for greater food security in the region and greater women’s involvement in the way marine resources are managed

Though it may seem a far cry from the marine conservation Blue Ventures was seeking to address, it is this dedication to listening to communities, unearthing the core issues and working to uphold their rights which has distinguished Blue Ventures in its goal.

Dr Vik Mohan addressed a TEDx audience in Exeter last year on this very topic and the development of Blue Ventures thus far. You can view the talk in its entirety through the video link below.

“Blue Ventures now has a staff of 200 people. I continue to work as the Medical Director, and my main responsibility is to support the scale up of this powerful approach to addressing human and ecosystem health, and supporting communities to become more resilient to climate change I was fortunate enough to give a TEDx talk on our work last year; an important part of our work is encouraging other organisations to adopt this approach in their work with coastal communities. We've now expanded our work to reach coastal communities in seven countries, reaching around a quarter of a million people to date. The St Andrews Prize remains one of the highest accolades we have been awarded for this holistic approach to marine conservation.”

Dr Vik Mohan, Blue Ventures

How listening to communities can help save our oceans - Vik Mohan