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Published on 18/12/2015

Madagascar: strengthening the role of communities in the governance of marine protected areas

Marine protected areas concern less than 3% of the planet’s oceans and less than 1% of Malagasy waters, which are extremely fertile, with coral reefs that are among the largest in the world. Over half of the country’s population lives near the coast and depends on marine and coastal ecosystems for food and income. In a context of poverty and increasing pressure on these resources, at the World Parks Congress in Sydney in November 2014, the President of the Malagasy Republic committed to tripling the number of marine protected areas. In April and May 2015, 94 New Protected Areas were defined and given definitive status. Several of these are marine and coastal areas and communities are included in their management.

In this context, on 15 September 2015 in Antananarivo, in partnership with GRET and WCS, the General Directorate of the Sea organised a consultation meeting on the governance and methods & rules of participative management of the New Protected Areas (NAP) in the sea and on the coast of Madagascar. Approximately forty people actively participated in this workshop: representatives from ministries, technical departments concerned by the management of protected marine areas and the managers of marine NAPs. The workshop discussed the main results of a study commissioned by GRET as part of the project entitled Hafafi “Biodiversity, development and local governance: a model for new marine and coastal protected areas in Madagascar”. This study provides a diagnosis of methods of governance and management mechanisms, and of the role played by communities in managing marine and coastal NAPs, based on literature review and studies conducted with various players involved in the management of protected marine areas in Madagascar.

During the workshop, the participants agreed on the usefulness of establishing a single Regional Strategic Orientation Committee (COS) for all Marine Protected Landscapes, in order to simplify the multi-layered institutional structure coordinating the management of marine protected areas classified “Protected Landscape” (IUCN category V), while at the same time strengthening the involvement of local authorities. It was also suggested that the current position of the Madagascar Protected Areas System (SAPM) be reviewed and the role of science for the marine protected areas be strengthened, by creating a scientific committee for marine protected areas. The State’s role of regulator and moderator was recalled, and several suggestions were made to improve it, notably the finalisation of law enforcement procedures to deal with infringements. The resources necessary to make dina (traditional local agreement to establish shared rules) more effective need to be examined to strengthen local communities’ sense of ownership.

Forums need to be defined to pursue experience-sharing on community structuring models. For certain marine protected areas, it was decided to draw on traditional existing structures (olobe), especially the fokonolona, by strengthening its legal basis. For other marine protected areas, a specific association was set up. Given that in reality the “real” deciders in a village are few in number, the issue of leadership is essential. The question of including or not including “migrant” fishermen in the management of marine protected areas was also discussed. It was suggested that this term be replaced by “seasonal fisherman” or more technical terms, according to the type of migration. The need to strengthen capacities and provide support to local communities in the long term was repeatedly highlighted.

In conclusion, the General Directorate of the Sea has committed to using these recommendations to draw up draft implementation decrees for the CoAP, concerning marine protected areas, currently being prepared.

For more information on the Hafafi project (in French)
Download the summary of the study (in French): “Gouvernance et gestion des nouvelles aires protégées à Madagascar – Exemple des zones d’intervention du projet HaFaFi”