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Stronger together: Blue Ventures signs the MIHARI Network’s new members charter

Stronger together: Blue Ventures signs the MIHARI Network’s new members charter

At an official ceremony in Madagascar’s capital city Antananarivo, Blue Ventures signed MIHARI’s new membership charter, reaffirming our role in supporting the network and the locally managed marine area (LMMA) movement in Madagascar.

The charter details the commitments made between all organisations supporting the MIHARI Network, with the common purpose of developing and promoting LMMAs across the island. The signing event – during which 22 partner organisations added their signatures to the charter – was more than a mere formality; it symbolised both the maturing of the network and the consolidation of vital partnerships that MIHARI has nurtured since its creation five years ago.

The MIHARI Network was born in 2012 during the island’s first LMMA forum instigated by a core group of NGOs, including Blue Ventures. From humble beginnings, MIHARI has grown into a vast social movement championing the rights of small-scale fishers in Madagascar. To date, over 220 communities and partner organisations have joined the network, and this number is growing rapidly.

Recognising that a national network of LMMAs would be crucial to achieving long-term change in Madagascar’s small-scale fisheries, Blue Ventures actively supported MIHARI from the outset, and will continue to contribute to its operations as the network grows. In collaboration with other leading NGOs, our goal is to help MIHARI achieve autonomy through securing its legitimacy and long-term financial sustainability, while building its capacity to support under-served fishing communities.

The charter signing took place during the recent annual partners’ meeting in Antananarivo, during which each party received a certificate signed by the recently elected MIHARI president Hermany Emoantra and the national coordinator Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy. Also on the agenda were decisions on how to implement the network’s new governance structure that will include an elected board of LMMA leaders. This move will further increase the network’s legitimacy as a civil society platform representing coastal communities.

Blue Ventures’ Madagascar Country Director, Jean-Philippe Palasi (middle), with MIHARI’s National Coordinator, Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy (left), and President, Hermany Manahadraza (right).

These recent achievements follow a year of impressive growth for MIHARI, during which it launched a comprehensive database of LMMA initiatives, increased the size and capacity of its core team, trained dozens of LMMA leaders in a range of management skills, and its membership grew by over 40 new communities. A major highlight came during the national MIHARI forum in July 2017, when 173 representatives from fishing communities united behind a common cause – presenting three motions to the Government of Madagascar requesting improved fishers’ rights and governance of the island’s small-scale fisheries.

The year ahead is set to bring even bigger changes for MIHARI, with the creation of an ambitious agenda of work for the network’s growing secretariat. We will be working closely with MIHARI to develop its advocacy strategy to help raise awareness of the many challenges facing the country’s fishing communities.

Against a backdrop of growing grassroots support for local marine protection, 2018 is also a time of unprecedented challenges for Madagascar’s marine environment. A recent surge in the number of commercial licenses being granted to domestic and international fishing companies has increased tensions between industrial fisheries and the country’s small-scale sector. Although an agreement in 2017 between shrimp trawlers and small-scale fishers saw the creation of a 500 km² inshore no-trawling zone adjacent to the Barren Isles (Madagascar’s largest marine protected area), intended to safeguard small-scale fishing livelihoods and rebuild stocks for the industrial fishery, this progressive policy was discontinued after only one year following pressure from the trawling industry.

Madagascar’s small-scale fishers will need the strength that comes with being part of a large network to deal with these and other trials in the years ahead. We are proud to be a supporter of this inspirational movement, and look forward to meeting these challenges together.

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