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Northwestern University

Publication Date

Fall 2007

Program Name

Madagascar: Culture and Society


“God intended us to fish, and we will fish until the end,” the elderly Vezo fisherman explained, shrugging his shoulders as if in resignation to an unavoidable truth (Niry). For a people whose history, culture, and economy have revolved around the sea for generations, the idea of preservation is just not palatable, he seemed to be saying. The momentum of tradition, in other words, cannot be stopped. Yet in 23 Vezo fishing villages in the region of Andavadoaka, along the southwest coast of Madagascar, communities have collectively established seasonal and permanent restrictions on critical fishing grounds that together make up an 823 km2 marine protected area. What prompted these fishermen, one might ask, to voluntarily impose regulations and limit access to the resources they and their ancestors once used freely? Over the course of the past decade, fishermen in Andavadoaka, a village about 45 km south of Morombe, and the surrounding communities, have experienced significant declines in the average yields of octopus and fish. Over-harvesting and both anthropological and climate-induced reef degradation are threatening populations of marine species, and with them, the future livelihood of the communities. In 2003, working together with the London-based NGO Blue Ventures (BV), the inhabitants of Andavadoaka agreed to establish a trial no-take zone (NTZ) beside the near-by island of Nosy Fasy. After seven months of restricted octopus harvesting, fishermen found that populations and average size of the species had greatly increased. News of the success in Andavadoaka prompted many neighboring communities to follow suit, and within a year, eight seasonal reserves for octopus, fish and sea cucumber were established in the region. These communities recognize that the marine resources they depend on require careful management—in other words, if there is no change in the attitude voiced by the old man, “the end” may be much closer than their ancestors could have imagined. In 2006, an association was established to oversee the growing community-based management efforts and provide a structure to address the concerns of fishermen in the region. The Velondriake association, which means “to live with the sea”, is composed of a committee of elected representatives from each of the participating villages, which are further subdivided into three administrative bodies by geographical region. Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) joined the Blue Ventures team in providing technical and administrative support. The preservation efforts of the villages are soon to gain the status of Marine Protected Area, which will include seasonally and permanently restricted coral reef, mangrove, sea-grass, and baobab forest habitats, as well as special management areas intended for the development of aquaculture and ecotourism (Harris). The planning and zoning for this extensive marine park was carried out by the representatives of Velondriake themselves. Despite the many successes, not all community members feel that the preservation efforts of Velondriake have improved fisheries or enhanced their lives in a significant way. Others are simply not prepared to give up traditional practices, and believe that it is their right to fish as they always have. At the same time, the Velondriake committee is working to better serve the community by responding to concerns, and improving and expanding its program and policies. This past November, representatives gathered for a two-day conference in Andavadoaka to address, among other things, the problems and priorities reported in a recent survey conducted in the villages, and to discuss upcoming development projects. This study will analyze how and to what extent the participating communities are benefiting from the protection and regulation of marine areas, and how local development initiatives can be improved and expanded to better integrate local needs and enhance the quality of life. The first section of this study presents a normative economic evaluation of the preservation efforts on the community. The opportunity costs, in this case the benefits forgone in not pursuing traditional fishing behaviour, are weighed against the benefits of preservation and the social costs that are avoided as a result. The second section examines the social impacts and implications of preservation in the region. The perspectives and attitudes of village inhabitants towards the actions and objectives of the Velondriake association are analyzed in the context of Vezo society and culture. Drawing on these evaluations, suggestions are made for how the association can improve relations, build trust, and better incorporate the concerns of villagers in community management. The final portion of the study, which investigates the opportunities for further development of the local economy, explores the means by which the association and the participating communities can improve the overall quality of life in the region.


Natural Resources and Conservation | Oceanography


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