Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, the National Coordinator of the MIHARI Network, is a 2019 Whitley Award finalist. On May 1st in London, United Kingdom, Vatosoa received the award, which recognises the work she and MIHARI have been doing on behalf of Madagascar’s small-scale fishers since 2014. It is a great achievement for the entire Network.
In Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, some 500,000 people depend on small-scale fishing for their livelihoods. With coastal fisheries under ever-increasing pressure, effective management is essential for safeguarding both marine wildlife and the communities who rely on it for survival. MIHARI, a civil society organisation, helps isolated fishing communities to share best practice, and raises the voices of small-scale fishers to seek better management of marine resources in Madagascar.
Vatosoa, a motivated and committed leader
Vatosoa is a born activist. In her fight for more equity in her local community, she always dreamt of becoming a lawyer. Unfortunately, she failed the entrance exam for the law degree, so instead she pursued her other passions by studying geography and environment. This setback was one of the hardest moments in her life. However, she is now at the head of a growing civil society movement and represents small-scale fishers at the national level: “This extraordinary twist of my life goes beyond my wildest dreams” she said in her acceptance speech before more than 600 spectators at the Whitley Awards Ceremony.
Vatosoa with Her Royal Highness Princess Anne
Vatosoa accepting the Whitley Award at the ceremony
Following her studies in geography, Vatosoa was selected for a two-month training course in ocean governance at the University of Dalhousie in Halifax, Canada. There, she discovered a new passion for the marine environment. She increased her experience with the accomplishment of a research project with a project of the United Nations and the Nippon Foundation on strategies to improve the management of fisheries in Madagascar. From there her passion became a vocation. “It became clear to me that effective conservation would require communities to engage in marine management,” said Vatosoa.
Back in Madagascar, Vatosoa was appointed National Coordinator of the MIHARI Network. That is when the biggest adventure of her life began. “More than anything I want to work with these communities to help them protect and conserve their natural resources and marine environment, as I have seen the challenges they face and the need for better management,” affirms Vatosoa.
Today, Vatosoa continues use her passion to build the Network and drive for a better future for the ocean and the coastal communities who rely on it for survival.
MIHARI: small-scale fishers’ voices are better heard
As our mission for sustainable management of marine resources in Madagascar advances, the Whitley Awards achievement is a fantastic boost.
Celebrating its seventh birthday this year, we are reminded how much MIHARI has grown: Starting with 18 community associations in 2012, we are now a large family with a membership encompassing more than 200 community-based LMMA associations and 25 partner organizations.
The Whitley Award prize is an important opportunity for the network of locally managed marine area (LMMA) managers in Madagascar. Thanks to this prize, MIHARI will be able to expand its scope in three new coastal regions (Atsinanana, Vatovavy Fitovinany et Atsimo Atsinanana). It will also allow training of 40 LMMA leaders in marine resource management and governance. The Whitley Award will sustain collaboration with the Government and will facilitate the establishment of legal framework for LMMAs. Finally, the prize will support knowledge sharing activities between the 200 LMMA management associations, encouraging adoption of best practices in the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment.
“I am delighted about this triumph. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far. This is an incredible opportunity for MIHARI to make itself known and especially, this is a door that opens for a better future for small-scale fishermen and a better management of marine resources.” Hermany Emoantra, National President of MIHARI Network.
The Whitley Award success is the result of the close collaboration between all stakeholders in marine and coastal conservation in Madagascar. We still have more work to do. Let’s celebrate this victory together and join forces for sustainably managed marine resources in Madagascar!