Paul Antion, Head of Programme Management for BV Madagascar, has lived within the small traditional fishing community of Andavadoaka in Madagascar since 2013, working alongside fishers to empower them to lead the management of their marine resources in a way that works for people and nature. He shares how far the Velondriake Association has come and how Blue Ventures supports community associations to thrive independently.

In December 2023,  I was excited to witness Blue Ventures Madagascar sign its first official subgrant with the Velondriake Association. It’s a small step, but it is significant and has been a long time coming.

Gildas Andriamalala, our  Madagascar country director, introduced me to Andavadoaka back in 2013. Blue Ventures had already supported the Velondriake Association, Madagascar’s first Locally Managed Marine Area, for seven years. In my first month, I remember one of our donors asking about our exit plan – when did we expect Velondriake to be fully autonomous and when could we leave? With the volunteer expedition programme running in Andavadoaka back then, we didn’t really expect to leave. However, we had dreamt of seeing the Velondriake Association have its own funds to lead and deliver grassroots marine conservation and resource management. After all, like many coastal communities, the inherent foundations for good governance and resource management already existed long before the arrival of international NGOs. 

At the time, we worked with  Velondriake as a group that needed our support, rather than a partner, and therefore held income from the expedition programme in an account in the UK. In 2016, however, we revised our goals to increase transparency and started giving these funds directly to Velondriake. We secured a small grant for them and convinced our private sector partners in alternative livelihoods to transfer funds directly to the association. We saw some amazing progress and also some areas for improvement.  Through these learnings, we adapt, make better decisions, and improve the quality of our work. 

In Madagascar, this subgrant to the Velondriake Association marks a movement, a change in thinking, that we are proud of. It shows our maturity as an organisation recognising this coastal community as a partner. It has taken 20 years to make this official, but as we say here in Madagascar, tsy mora ny manao raha, it is not always easy to get things done. With recent financial support, the association has hired a dedicated staff member – a former student Blue Ventures supported through the scholarship programme, to lead in reporting and financial management. 

Though the subgrant is small, and will not cover everything, investing in Velondriake’s autonomy has allowed us to begin the search for partners in other areas. Now we need to push harder as there are other associations and federations we have been supporting for years with the potential to thrive independently. They are small organisations with limited financial capacity, but with our shared values, proximity, presence, and permanence, they will make for great partners. 

Blue Ventures would not be what it is today if it didn’t have the trust of some flexible donors in its early days (and even now) who allowed us to try things, innovate, make mistakes, fail, get better, more refined, and more impactful. We are just starting our partner support journey here in Madagascar and are in the process of subgranting three other community associations. With the right resources at our disposal, we hope to see this expand rapidly in the near future.

Find out more about our work supporting communities in Madagascar here 

Posted by Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures is an award winning marine conservation charity. We rebuild tropical fisheries with coastal communities. On our Beyond Conservation blog you can hear voices from the front line of marine conservation written by our staff and volunteers.

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