By Brian Jones, Conservation Coordinator, Madagascar
Living in paradise ain’t always easy. Sometimes you just need to… get away. Nowhere better to do that than in my hometown in eastern Pennsylvania in the middle of winter!
Contradictory as that may sound, by December of this past year the stress of a new job (a gasp “office” job!), a move to the bright lights of and bustling streets of Toliara and turnover of roughly half of BV’s project managers in the span of two months, had me yearning for a couple of inbox and to-do list-free weeks.
While my new job as Conservation Coordinator has far from relegated me to the status of pale-faced paper pusher, it has coincided with our push to get the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area inducted into the Malagasy system of protected areas – a major task.
That spells bureaucracy with a capital B. Jumping through hoops with a capital J… well, you get the point.
Velondriake is a member of an elite class of Nouvelle Aire Protégées (New Protected Areas) and represents a shining example of a shift in Malagasy protected areas legislation to include community-based management and sustainable resource use. The IUCN has been touting the importance of this type of protected area, which focuses on maintaining a healthy relationship between humans and nature, since the1980s. It took Madagascar two decades to join the party, but better late than never!
The Malagasy government has not, however, made obtaining the status of “protected area” easy, nor should they have. The preponderance of “paper parks”, which exist in name but practically contribute little or nothing to biodiversity conservation, tarnishes the image of protected areas worldwide. Even worse, they threaten to discourage funders from continuing to support the effort to safeguard Earth’s most important and fragile ecosystems. To avoid this, managers of new protected areas in Madagascar must present a convincing argument proving the ecological importance, social viability and long-term financial sustainability of the area before it can be granted protected status.
But I digress.
I’ve spent the past two weeks reconnecting with friends and family, recoiling at the mindless schlock on television (Honey Boo-Boo? Seriously? Rome is burning people), and reflecting on where life has taken me as I say goodbye to my 20s. There really is nowhere like home for the holidays. The cold winter air in my lungs, and the better part of a month free of being harangued by pushy rickshaw drivers has done me good. Batteries recharged, I’m ready to take on the new year with zest. I’ll need it in spades. 2013 promises to be an action-packed year here at BV: Two new protected areas to coronate, a new field site in the northwest, exciting partnerships with the private sector, fishers collecting data with smartphones, and much, much more. Anything is possible. Watch this space!