Madagascar: Women plant mangroves to protect ecosystem

| May 25, 2020

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When the women of Ampahazony, Madagascar go to the beach to look for their husbands’ boats nowadays, they notice that the sails are further and further out at sea. Fish stocks are lower, so fishermen must venture further out and stay at sea longer. The decline in fish is due in part to the destruction of mangrove trees. So the women have created an association called “Manangy Miranga” and are planting and protecting mangrove trees. They built a nursery near a spot mangroves used to grow and are collecting planting materials from surviving mangroves. They hope that caring for mangroves will lead to an increase in fish.

It’s 9 a.m. in Ampahazony, a town about 20 kilometres from Mahajanga in the North West region of Madagascar. Along with other women and their children, Mrs. Rafaravavifeno is already at the beach. The women go regularly to greet their husbands and sort fish before selling them at the market.

But they are increasingly worried about their livelihood in this part of the country where fishing is the main source of income. The men are catching fewer and fewer fish.

Mrs. Rafaravavifeno says, “Ten years ago, at this exact time, we could see the boat sails lined up on the horizon, but now they go further and further out.” It is impossible to see the sails from the beach these days because the fishermen must stay at sea longer to search for fish.

The decline in fish is due in part to the destruction of mangrove forests. A civil society organization educated the community last October on the importance of mangroves to the marine ecosystem—and the challenges that mangroves are facing. After this information session, the women of Ampahazony decided to create an association called “Manangy Miranga,” which means “Women’s empowerment.” The members are planting mangroves to protect the marine ecosystem and ensure the repopulation of ocean species like fish.

Mangroves require sandy-muddy soil, so the association created a nursery right next to the site where mangroves used to grow. The members collect seeds or planting materials from surviving mangroves. They raise the seedlings in the nursery for two or three months.

The goal of the women’s association is for the community to restore and sustainably manage the mangrove forests in their village. By conserving mangroves, they can increase their fish catches by 8,000 tonnes per year.

While There are laws protecting mangroves from being cut down, but people still resort to cutting as a source of income when fish stocks run low.

A fisherman named Mazava explains why he cuts mangroves. He says: “There are laws governing mangroves between public actors and the local community. But as the fishing is poor, we are trying to find another alternative to have a surplus of income by cutting the mangroves to make charcoal, wood for construction, and firewood.”

But now that he has been made aware that mangroves support marine resources such as fish, Mazava will be part of the restoration effort. He says, “I will volunteer to ensure the security of the surrounding mangrove forest.”

Like Mr. Mazava, many fishers now understand the importance of mangroves and are ready to help the Manangy Miranga association succeed in restoring them.

The decision made by the wives of Ampahazony fishermen is a welcome one. Restoring the mangroves is the most effective way to address the destruction of the marine ecosystem, and thereby preserve the livelihoods of the people of Ampahazony.