This market-based initiative is engaging indigenous Madagascan women to better manage fisheries, while providing them with desperately needed family planning services. “Fostering Ecological and Social Adaptation to Climate Change in Southwest Madagascar Through Integrated Fisheries Management and Community Health” teaches women in the coastal communities that temporary fishing closures benefit them in the long term, while allowing community members to make a small profit off selling birth control.
12,000 people in the target area
8,000 family planning consultations held
150 temporary fishing closures
60 percent total increase in catch as a result of fishery closures
Indigenous Vezo communities in the remote southwest coastal region of Madagascar are seminomadic fishers who rely almost exclusively on the marine environment for their food and livelihoods. Hunted octopus, purchased twice a month by a small group of private export companies, is a major source of cash for the Vezo, particularly for women because they are able to fish on reef flats by foot using simple spears.
But climate change is threatening the environment these octopus live in – and the well-being of these communities – through coral bleaching, and more frequent and intense cyclones and droughts. At the same time, these communities face a serious lack of family planning services. Growing families are placing additional pressures on dwindling natural resources, bringing the societies there to a bottleneck.
Blue Ventures is working with communities in Madagascar’s Velondriake marine area – and particularly with Vezo indigenous women – to temporarily close octopus fisheries. Results from regular monitoring have shown that this is allowing octopus stocks to recover, boosting productivity of the fisheries and increasing later catches. Blue Ventures facilitates buy-in from the octopus exporters by highlighting the business benefit of the closures: they’ve demonstrated a 60 percent increase in catch, with no loss in revenue during closure periods.
At the same time, Blue Ventures also responded to Vezo community demand by supplying couples with family planning products so that they can freely choose the number, timing, and spacing of their children. Contraceptives are provided to community distributors, who sell them within their village for a small profit.
Helping the planet
The initiative’s fishing closures are allowing the marine ecosystem to regenerate, leaving it more resilient to climate-related changes like coral bleaching. The temporary closures also act as important stepping stones to broader conservation initiatives that underpin ecological adaptations to climate change, by inspiring communities to establish permanent marine and mangrove reserves. Providing birth control will also benefit the environment, as fewer unplanned children mean reduced consumption of natural resources.
Enabling women and couples to better plan and provide for their families is improving food security and allowing for greater investment in education. Smaller and healthier families who are sustainably managing their natural resources are able to make more money and improve their quality of life, as evidenced by proven increases in housing size and key household assets in the project area.
The project has already been scaled from just one pilot village, to being implemented in more than 40 communities along southwest Madagascar’s coastline in just five years. Plans are to further expand it to 20 more communities. The initiative can be adapted to various ecological and social contexts – for example, Blue Ventures is also supporting communities in temporary closures of mangrove fishing grounds, aimed specifically at increasing mud crab production.
The project’s market-based approach of pinning sustainable natural resources management to increased profits creates a win-win situation suitable for expansion, particularly in areas with dual pressures of dwindling natural resources and increasing population. In fact, the temporary fishery closures have proved to be easily and rapidly scalable in themselves, going from one single village in 2004 to more than 150 closures held in Madagascar so far.
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