by Olivier Raynaud, Maintirano and Barren Isles Project Coordinator, Madagascar
September 19th to 21st 2012 found our little town in quite a frenzy as it hosted the National Day for Fishing and Aquaculture (JNPA). Typically, the narrow streets of Maintirano are rarely frequented by vehicles other than bike pousse-pousses and pedestrians, but during these three days they were swarming with hordes of massive four wheel drive vehicles. Its regularly peaceful epibars (small local bars) were packed all day and all night with the numerous visitors attending the event. Indeed, the JNPA launch coincided with the beginning of the Melaky games, an all-sport tournament held this year in Maintirano, which brought additional visitors and athletes from all over Madagascar.
On top of the abundant public, the three-day event welcomed many officials and was even attended by seven ministers of the Malagasy Transitional Government. The VIP stand erected on the Place de l’Independance was filled with the General of the Malagasy Army, representatives of the Centre de Surveillance des Pêches and all the regional authorities.
Facing this tribune, a startlingly neat arrangement of temporary stands was built, with room for all the participants, including regional representatives of the Ministry for Fishing and Marine Resources, NGOs, fish collectors and traders, numerous international and local associations, and of course, Blue Ventures.
Hence, the town was on its best behaviour and in tiptop shape. The tree trunks bore fresh white paint and the red sand ground had carefully been raked in preparation for a serene start to the day’s ceremonies. I was attentively manning the Blue Ventures display and stand, prepped and ready for any questions and the presentations we would give and Armel Bezafy, my sidekick and the Barren Isles Project Assistant Coordinator, was equally ready to field questions from the crowds of people.
Luckily the town’s preparation and hard work paid off and all of the event’s objectives were successfully reached. Blue Ventures and the other NGOs presented their work in the Melaky region, and the governmental authorities visited each stand, enabling all the participants to thoroughly explain their activity and work plan in the area, a key to establishing a working relationship with the various relevant ministries.
Armel described Blue Ventures’ approach to marine resources management to the Minister of Fishing and his disciples, and answered questions on our specific objectives and methodology for the Barren Isles; a great chance for a face to face meeting with the man in charge of the country’s fishing policies! In the end, the day constituted a proficient and enjoyable event that allowed us to clarify our work and objectives to the various authorities, and the general public.
The three days of intensive communication initiated a positive dynamic with many of the Barren Isles project stakeholders, and were a great opportunity to exchange with our partners and other local actors. Furthermore, the Journée Nationale de la Pêche et de l’Aquaculture provided Blue Ventures with a pertinent warm up session before we soon head off to hold public consultations to determine the future Barren Isles Locally Managed Marine Area with community stakeholders. Wish us luck!