Climate change adaption in southern Madagascar

by Paubert Mahatante, Roger Samba and J. Paul Getty Scholar, Toliara, Madagascar (introduced & adapted by Jo Hudson, BV Science Intern, UK)

In this blog entry Paubert Mahatante, Roger Samba and J. Paul Getty Scholar discusses proposed research in the south of Madagascar, to study the effects of climate change on the local people – with the aim of implementing marine conservation projects. Happy reading!

(i) How does the proposed work advance and apply knowledge for climate change adaptation?

The Androy region, in the deep south of Madagascar, is not well known and has been subject to variations in climate for centuries. In the 20th century the region suffered from periodic famine due to drought, as the native Tandroy people rely heavily on agriculture for their principle food source. Recently, the rainfall has become unpredictable which has affected the farming calendar.

Climate change is forcing many people to find different ways of coping with the erratic meteorological conditions. At the moment the area’s marine resources are not well utilised, and if managed in a sustainable way could be a viable alternative if crops fail. It could also act as a preliminary pathway for introducing marine conservation projects in the Androy region.

(Left) Paubert in Lavanono in 2010 (Right) Cyclone Joël in Lavanono, 2010

(ii) Goals and objectives

The Vezo, a nomadic fishing people from the south-west of Madagascar, introduced the Tandroy people to fishing when they immigrated to the region in the last few decades. Since the Vezo’s arrival, the Tandroy have started to fish, and became especially interested in learning fishing techniques after successive years of crop failures. Some coastal areas have already experienced an increase in pressure on marine resources; for instance in Lavanono the indigenous people have been harvesting marine species (for subsistence and commercial purposes alike) without heed of species conservation statuses (mainly molluscs & crustaceans). However before any conservation work can be done, the fishing activities need to be monitored and then managed. In this respect, an assessment into the impacts of climate change on marine resources needs to be undertaken so that effective management & conservation measures can be implemented.

(Left) Fishing survey in Ikotoala (Right) Shells collected by villagers in Soamagnitse

 (iii) How does the proposed work seek to address the critical questions?

At present the farming activities in the Androy region face many problems in terms of climate change, and the utilisation of the area’s marine resources is one of the possible adaptions.

This would necessitate a change to people’s habits e.g. diet and traditions. In this capacity an integration of traditional knowledge and new information relating to climate change science will be required. Thus as a contribution to development of Androy, one of the poorest regions in Madagascar, we need to implement strategies to ensure food security, as well as finding alternatives to current fishing activities so to reduce pressure on molluscs & crustaceans.

(Left) Talking to the fishermen, for the need of conservation (Right) Women collecting shells and other molluscs in Lavanono

(iv) Clear definition of activities

During the proposed research, a series of studies involving stakeholders will need to be undertaken, so that the current coping mechanisms for climate change can be identified. These studies would include extensive interviews with local people and an analysis of any current research in the area. This will build an overall representation of what climate change mitigation is being done both by local people and the government, as well as what actually works. These social surveys will also help to ascertain local knowledge; seasonal variations such as winds, currents and rains, in addition to perceived changes in marine resources. All this will help to understand the local situations before implementing conservation measures.

(Left) Fishing activities in Ikotoala (Right) Shark catch in Ikotoala

Field work activities, among other things:

  • A fisheries survey campaign over 24 months
  • Identification of focal species
  • Identification of potential marine resources
  • Identification of other coastal and useful marine ecosystems
  • Assessment of the perception of climate change by the fishers communities.
  • Assessment of the impact of climate variabilities on marine and coastal resources
  • Assessment of the impacts of exploitation on marine resources
  • Assessment of the fishing techniques and gears suitable to the local conditions
  • Assessment of traditional ecological knowledge
  • Socio-economic surveys within the sites of intervention

About Guest author

Guest authors include expedition volunteers, independent researchers and medical elective students.