by Sylvia Paulot, Blue Carbon Scientist, Toliara – Madagascar
For Mamelo Honko, a community based association for mangrove protection in Ambondrolava, southwest Madagascar, International Mangrove Day (held on July 26th) is one of the rare occasions to share publicly their efforts and plans with government officials and partner organisations. Mamelo Honko, meaning “to give life to the mangrove”, was founded in 2010 and engages with a number of support partners. They organised the mangrove day festivities with their long-time partner, the Belgian NGO Honko Mangrove Conservation and Education.
Different activities were planned for the day, including a visit to the mangroves, various games for the local communities & visitors and even a traditional dance contest. Prior to a tour of the mangroves, the Mamelo Honko president, Philimon gave a speech to introduce the Association and their work to the guests. He also thanked their partners for their support and reminded everyone present that before the start of their conservation efforts, half of the mangrove had already been lost, largely due to charcoal making, house building, fences and other uses. Through their hard work, however, Mamelo Honko has organised plantings to help restore the mangrove forest.
To maintain these conservation efforts, the Mamelo Honko Association, along with the NGO Honko, has undertaken various activities to create alternative sources of income for their communities. These include a mud crab farming project, beekeeping, and training sessions in basket making for a local women’s group. Though a lack of technical skills has meant that some of the projects have been slow to get off the ground, they are not discouraged, and the Association is well aware that there is no success without hard work.
Ecotourism is another activity the Association is keen to develop, given their strategic location near a national road, and being only 12 km from Toliara – and the fact that they possess the only mangrove boardwalk in the area. They aim to add more tourism facilities, like building more tracks, constructing a bridge to some of the smaller mangrove channels and adding chairs so that visitors can relax and admire the beauty of the landscape. These efforts, however, require investment and the Association faces ongoing problems with securing funding, according to Philimon.
A carbon project is another potential source of funding Mamelo Honko hopes to take advantage of. Since last year, with the technical support of Blue Ventures and Honko, the Association has taken the preliminary steps towards a carbon crediting project using the Plan Vivo Foundation standards.
For the Ambondrolava community this carbon project is mysterious, but full of promise. Although they have a basic knowledge of the project, the meaning of carbon and idea of generating carbon credits is still not well understood. For them it’s just another opportunity to reap the benefits of their conservation efforts, help them realise their plans and improve their livelihoods. Even if it is not certain, and involves a long, step-by-step process, the community is very enthusiastic for it. They may have found another big reason to conserve their mangroves and augment their efforts. In any case they have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.