by Cicelin Rakotomahazo, Socioeconomic Scientist, Blue Forests, Madagascar
Mangrove replanting is a new idea for the remote coastal population living within the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in southwest Madagascar. Until very recently, many people believed that mangroves grow only naturally, and very few understood that mangroves could, in fact, be hand-planted to aid regeneration.
This widespread misconception was recently addressed head on during the opening speech for the celebration of International Women’s Day held in the commune capital village of Befandefa. Seizing this opportunity to engage a vast audience (spanning 25 villages!), Marie-Louise, a conservation activist from the village of Lamboara, took to the stage to demonstrate her enthusiasm and desire to get women involved in conservation by sharing her experiences of mangrove reforestation conducted in her village last December. This had been the first mangrove reforestation event ever held in Lamboara, and her pride and excitement for the potential to regenerate degraded mangrove areas resonated across the crowd.
Befandefa, a small village about an hour south of Andavadoaka, is situated slightly inland amidst varied landscapes (mangrove forest, marsh and dry forests), where similar to many other villages in the region, mangrove fishing constitutes one of the main activities for the community. This village, like communities all across the Velondriake LMMA, is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Blue Ventures is supporting these communities to mitigate the impending impacts of climate change and improve capacity for future livelihoods. We took advantage of International Women’s Day in order to raise awareness and conduct mangrove reforestation, after our successful first experience with very motivated women in the village of Lamboara.
“Fishing for crabs, snails and shrimp in the mangrove is something almost all women do where I live,” stated Sabine in response to my question as to why she had chosen to attend this event, as she crouched down to gather her collected propagules into piles according to their species. “Women also manage the household income, and the change over time due to declining resources is obvious and worrying for all of us. On top of that, we are also the source of our children’s education, therefore, being part of this event to learn about mangrove reforestation to improve our future is really important for women in general and specifically for me and my family.”
Not only were all the women taking part incredibly self-motivated and determined in their efforts to collect propagules from their respective villages prior to the large replanting event, but their activities and participation were intensified thanks to the competition organised by our team. Across 10 villages in the south of Velondriake, women were responsible for collecting a mix of mangrove propagules (Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Ceriops tagal) and a prize was promised to the village that collected the highest number overall. Naturally, this generated quite a buzz and everyone made a huge push to collect as many as they could!
Our famous mangrove reforestation event was to be conducted at a large site called Betsorike, located just south of Befandefa. The event was preceded by a planting demonstration for all those that had never done this before, and then everyone set off in their lines to plant seedlings every two paces! It was incredible to watch and be part of, with all teams across Blue Ventures’ different programmes on hand to help out.
With the ultimate intention of communicating the work of communities here in Velondriake on both a national and international scale, we arranged for filmmaker Chris Scarffe to film the event from the air, using a drone, which was very novel and also motivated many women to take part in this event to showcase their work in Velondriake to the rest of the world.
At the end of 2 hours hard slogging through mud, in the baking sun, at the end of the afternoon everyone returned back along the dirt road towards Befandefa feeling utterly exhausted and yet ecstatic about our achievement – a phenomenal 23,152 propagules had just been planted, covering a total area of 4.28 ha– what an incredible achievement!
Exhausted – YES, elated – YES, ready for bed – ABSOLUTELY NOT… Women’s Day was far from over with plays, dancing and lots more excitement to come, and so we continued to revel in our triumph, celebrating the power and potential of women long into the night!