By Zo Andriamahenina, Association Support Coordinator
For the week leading up to World Mangrove Day, I was feeling pretty stressed and nervous. A moment was drawing near that my team and I have worked towards for over two years. Ten coastal communities from around Ambanja in northwest Madagascar were about to sign contracts empowering them with full responsibility over their natural resources.
Let me explain why this is such an important moment for these communities. They will finally have the power to apply dina – community-based laws – that make sense for their context. For example, the sustainable harvest of mangroves is essential for the communities that depend on mangrove wood for their housing or cooking, but other communities can agree to have stricter harvesting restrictions due to their higher incomes or alternative livelihood options.
Once detailed mangrove management plans had been produced by all ten communities, the Minister of Environment, Ecology and Forests agreed to come to the village of Ansakomanondro on 28 July to sign the contracts.
About 100 community representatives gathered on the night before the signing to get to know each other and share their experiences in natural resource management. This was a unique and remarkable moment, and everyone was full of excitement for the next day.
The signing event didn’t disappoint, and I could see great pride in the eyes of the community representatives as they put pen to paper. The official signing was followed by a quiz and knowledge sharing stalls from BV and our partner organisations Aga Khan, the MIHARI Network and WWF Madagascar.
This was an emotional and proud day for me, having worked with these communities for so long, but I will leave you with with a quote from the speech of BV’s Regional Manager Cécile Schneider, that accurately reflects how I feel about the future.
This is not the end of the process, but the beginning. We must all continue to support one another and work together to ensure that this new management system is a success.”
You can read the full story of the contract signing here.
By Dolce Augustin, Blue Forests Coordinator
Four years ago I started working with BV in the southwest of Madagascar to implement a community-based mangrove carbon project called Tahiry Honko, a first in Madagascar! The challenges of setting up this project were huge, but the blue forests team and the coastal communities worked together to build strong foundations for sustainable mangrove management. I have always wanted to share these achievements with other Blue Ventures sites, and now I have the opportunity!
A few weeks ago I joined the blue forests team in BV’s fifth and newest site in Madagascar, the Bay of Mahajamba. I am so excited to work in this area, because it contains the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the whole country. There are also many threats to these ecosystems, and I believe that there is huge potential for the blue forests programme to make meaningful change here.
For the last five weeks I have been going on scoping missions to communities in the Bay of Mahajamba, and the people I’ve talked to have been excited at the prospect of working together. For me, helping to develop and expand sustainable resource use and management with these communities can’t come quickly enough!
The local authorities have also expressed their support, so we are now assessing which areas of mangrove forest are restoration priorities, and how best to set up a fair and durable management system tho protect these unique ecosystems and the livelihoods of the people who depend on them.
By Caroline Holo, Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Officer
The majority of our work in Maintirano concerns the communities living in and around the Barren Isles, so we do not currently have any projects specifically about mangroves. However, the mangroves on the mainland are still of vital importance to the coastal communities and fisheries here, and we felt that they needed to be celebrated.
We organised a small awareness-raising event on World Mangroves Day, with the help of our partner WWF Madagascar and the Regional Department of Environment, Ecology and Forests, who both have mangrove conservation projects in the Melaky region. This event was youth-focused, and took place in Les Oliviers Middle School in Maintirano.
We talked to a gathering of 50 students about the importance of mangroves, why these ecosystems are under threat, and what we can we do to protect them. We also invited the local radio station so that they could broadcast this talk throughout the region. We also talked about our regional work with fisheries and community health to help raise public awareness of ongoing projects.
We distributed comic books to the students that were created and donated by Sawfish Detective. These books tell the story of the sawfish – Akio Vava in Malagasy – an endangered species that finds refuge in mangrove ecosystems and that could disappear if the mangrove degradation continues.
The response of the students throughout the day was simply incredible. Their enthusiastic participation in the mangrove quiz at the end of the day showed how much they had engaged with the talk, and our team were still answering questions long after the event was over.
By Cicelin Rakotomahazo, Blue Forests Coordinator
In the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in southwest Madagascar, World Mangrove Day is celebrated every year, but this year was a special occasion for me. I have recently taken up the role of Blue Forests Coordinator, and it’s now my job to organise the World Mangrove Day event in coordination with the Velondriake Association.
Bringing together the communities within Velondriake is always a big task, but this year we were also hosting special guests from the UK – the UK Ambassador Phil Boyle and two representatives from the UK’s department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – as well as local NGOs and regional Government representatives. Thanks to the support of my hard-working colleagues, the event was organised without too much stress, and the day was an amazing celebration of mangroves.
The event took place in the village of Befandefa, and the community hosted with a joie de vivre that impressed all the visitors. The women’s group performed dances and sang songs, and the Mayor spoke with a rousing passion that touched the hearts of everyone there, describing mangroves as “the greatest treasure that will be inherited by our children”.
The event was also a vital opportunity to showcase the conservation efforts of the LMMA communities, and guests to Velondriake were invited to visit stands explaining the importance of mangroves to coastal communities, and the mangrove conservation projects in the area.
The celebrations continued with everyone wading into the mud to replant mangroves in an area chosen for reforestation. Thanks to the help of all the attendees, 15,314 propagules were planted across 2.91 ha! Not bad for an afternoon’s work. After this there was even more dancing, this time with everyone joining in, followed by a friendly football competition.
I’m so proud of what a success the day was, and how enthusiastic the communities were to share their conservation efforts. I hope the excitement and joy of the day helps motivate us all in our continued efforts to conserve mangroves in Velondriake.
Cover image: Leah Glass
We would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the GEF Blue Forests project for their support of our blue forests programme.