World Mangrove Day is celebrated globally on 26 July, but for Blue Ventures’ blue forests team in Ambanja, northwest Madagascar, celebrations were delayed until Saturday 28. This was to coincide with the signing of natural resource management rights contracts by ten local communities and the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests (MEEF), a critical moment that was the product of two years’ work from the communities and the blue forests team.
On the morning of the event, attendees gathered in the village of Ansakomanondro near Ambanja. The Regional Director of MEEF and members of the ten community associations (Communaté Locale de Base – committees responsible for natural resource management) came together to sign the contracts. They were also joined by regional authorities, Blue Ventures staff, and representatives from partner organisations Aga Khan, the MIHARI Network and WWF Madagascar.
These contracts are the official proof of the transfer of management rights from the Government to each community, empowering them with the legal responsibility for their natural resources. In preparation for the official transfer of rights, the blue forests team has spent the last two years with these ten communities to produce mangrove management plans detailing protected areas and sustainable harvest quotas, as well as outlining the terms and responsibilities for each community. These documents accompanied each contract, and were a crucial building block in making this day a reality.
Speeches were given by Sabine Raherijaona, the Regional Director of MEEF, and Cécile Schneider, Blue Ventures’ Regional Manager for northwest Madagascar, who celebrated the communities’ commitment to the sustainable management of their natural resources.
“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.” – Cécile Schneider
A formal contract signing ceremony followed these speeches, and the rights were officially transferred. These communities finally have a chance to take the management of their resources into their own hands. Importantly, they can apply dina – community-based laws – that are appropriate for the local social and environmental context. For example, the sustainable harvest of mangrove wood is essential for those communities who depend on it for housing or cooking, but other communities with access to alternative livelihood initiatives and higher incomes may be able to implement stronger harvesting restrictions.
Since Blue Ventures started working in this region five years ago, its community association support programme has been providing training and tools to prepare community members for full management of their natural resources. This new governance system is the result of their dedication, and the many hours of discussion that Blue Ventures has had with the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests on their behalf.
This event marks a new era in locally led resource management for the region. The Blue Ventures team will continue to support the community associations as they put their plans into action, by providing training to help them disseminate and enforce the new regulations, and through awareness raising activities in coordination with the regional authorities to help explain the science behind the mangrove and fisheries legislation.
Now, with the full support of the authorities, and having built a strong relationship with the communities, we are confident this new management system will bring long-lasting benefits for the region’s mangrove-dependent populations.
By Zo Andriamahenina, Association Support Coordinator
Find out more about our integrated approach to community-led mangrove management