This activity is incentivizing Malagasy women in Madagascar to become environmental stewards. “Creating Resilience for Climate Change in Malagasy Coastal Communities” offers small development rewards for sustainable management of natural resources, preserving the natural environment and reducing poverty at the same time. Local governments have already asked for the project to be extended to neighboring communities.
20 conservation ambassadors trained
10,000 people in three communities benefitted
“Ecolodge” designed to develop sustainable tourism
In coastal communities of Madagascar, 90 percent of families depend on fishing for everyday survival. But climate change has made the future of coastal fisheries uncertain. Strong storms and cyclones are already flooding homes and low-lying coastal zones, while corals in the reef systems fish thrive upon are becoming bleached. Wells supplying the communities with freshwater turn salty in the dry season and fill with silt from runoff during the wet season.
Although the region is a designated national marine park – being home to endangered species such as sea turtles and dugongs – a lack of resources prevents conservation regulations from being enforced. As fish stocks dwindle, communities face a precarious future; and the fisheries, depletion or collapse.
Creating Resilience for Climate Change in Malagasy Coastal Communities is an environmental stewardship project headed up by UK-based Community Centered Conservation. The initiative provides small incentives to villages, such as regular monthly midwife visits or a new freshwater well, in return for proven environmental protection.
Among the three communities of the Mangoaka commune where the project operates, paid conservation ambassadors work with park rangers to monitor and evaluate the state of natural resources where the communities fish. Data is gathered on specific indicators, like sea turtle carcasses found and numbers of dugongs captured in fishing nets, and then compared to results from previous intervals. If environmental performance is more than 90 percent, the incentives are extended to the community.
Helping the planet
The environmental stewardship program has successfully protected coral reefs and mangroves, fish stocks and habitats, as well as endangered species like sea turtles and dugongs. Protection of coral reefs, in turn, acts as a natural defense against the cyclones that pound the Madagascar coastline each year. As a result of the co-monitoring, communities have become more aware of their own resource use, and sustainable practices are catching on there.
The communities are directly benefitted by the stewardship incentives they receive: While previously women often gave birth while walking to the nearest clinic, a midwife is now on call in some communities. Installation of new wells is increasing the availability of freshwater to inhabitants, addressing various health issues and improving quality of life.
Design of an “Ecolodge” – consisting of rustic bungalows oriented toward environmentally and culturally sensitive tourism – could benefit the communities if constructed, as they currently aren’t able to host the tourists who do arrive. Women, who traditionally fish on foot at low tide or make handicrafts to sell to the occasional visitor, would then have more diverse sources of income.
Pressures on coastal communities are ubiquitous all across Madagascar, indicating that the same design could work in other fishing communities as well. Since it’s largely self-contained, relatively little funding is needed to sustain the initiative in the long-term – and what cash is invested brings a strong return. All these factors make the project ideal for replication; in fact, mayors of neighboring communities have already requested extension of work to their areas.
Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.