Four regional forums widen participation in the network, with a strong focus on local issues
2015 has been a landmark year for the MIHARI network due to wider participation in discussions about Locally Managed Marine Areas via the organisation of four regional MIHARI forums in distinctive geographical areas with a high concentration of LMMA initiatives. These regional forums involve representatives of fishing communities, decision-makers, authorities and managers of LMMA and the aim is to strengthen the network by providing more opportunity for regional exchange, sharing common problems, increasing the sense of community participation and overcoming the problems of isolation.
Forums at the regional level were seen as the best way to expand participation in the network, and also make the national forum more effective by building a sense of community among LMMA leaders at the local level, and sharing experience within a similar context first. Each forum follows the same format: presentations by the LMMA, discussions between members on specific topics, site visits, and the development of action plans.
The first regional forum was held in Morombe in the south, from August 14 to 16, involving the LMMA regions of Atsimo Andrefana and Anosy, and the organisation was led by MIHARI partner organisation Blue Ventures. Discussions during the three days of the conference mainly focused on the use of Dina (local customary laws) to manage natural resources, and the challenges in its application. According to Guy Rakotovao of Blue Ventures, the forum was very valuable in enabling effective networking between forum members in the south.
North western forum
This forum was held in Mahajanga from 7 to 9 September 2015 and organised by GIZ and DELC. Participants came from Boeny and Diana regions. According to Razafy Michel, a representative of the Boanamary LMMA: "We no longer feel isolated or forgotten with the MIHARI network. We are optimistic about improving our condition as fishermen. However, we strongly hope that what was discussed at this regional forum will result in action. "
The Director of Madagascar National Parks (MNP), Nosy Hara, personally made the trip from Mahajanga to Nosy Be to attend the forum and remarked: "This is the very first time I have attended one of the MIHARI forums. It has made me realize that this kind of event is of immense importance because it enables representatives of the LMMA communities to work out together how they can address the challenges faced in their respective LMMAs. These representatives are often forgotten or ignored. I put my hope on this MIHARI network to be their voice and to fight for their objectives."
North East Forum
This region, which includes the Analanjirofo region, was organized by WCS and took place in Mananara with the participation of representatives of 25 associations in the Bay of Antongil.
The last forum in advance of the national forum was organized by WWF on 24, 25 and 26 September 2015 in Morondava, engaging the LMMAs of Melaky and Menabe regions. This regional forum was marked by the support of the Network of Conservation Educators & Professionals (REPC) who have provided training for LMMA community leaders. All participants also had the opportunity to participate in the reforestation of mangrove forests in Ambato sur Mer, where 45,000 propagules have been planted.
The MIHARI national forum, held in Mananara in mid-October 2015, was greatly enhanced by the new regional forums. Some LMMA representatives had been previously a little reticent and did not say very much during the regional forums. However this was reversed once they were in Mananara. According to Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, the MIHARI network coordinator, this is due to the relationships made as a result of the forums, which is of course the objective of MIHARI. She also said that through the regional forums, LMMA representatives had already become accustomed to speaking in front of large numbers of people and chatting with regional dignitaries. This led to their more effective participation in Mananara.