In September 2016, Eric Alson and Roger Samba, representing LMMAs from the North and South of Madagascar respectively, travelled to Hawaii to take part in the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
A Unique Voyage
In response to the invitation from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to attend their World Conservation Congress, MIHARI representatives Eric Alson and Roger Samba, and Network Coordinator Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy flew to Hawaii to give the LMMAs of Madagascar a voice at the world’s biggest meeting of conservationists. Both Eric and Roger are very knowledgeable MIHARI representatives, Eric has 10 years of experience as the Antanamitarana LMMA Manager in northern Madagascar, and Roger was one of the founders of the original Velondriake LMMA in the south.
'Move forward together': Peer to peer learning
E Alu Pū, which means “move forward together”, is a network of community-based, grassroots groups and families from around Hawaii, and E Alu Pū events began in 2002 with the aim of “ensuring the vitality of resources for use by present and future generations”. This particular gathering, led by KUA Hawaii, took place on the weekend before the IUCN Congress, and 60 indigenous communities came together in Kahana to discuss natural resource management.
Our three MIHARI representatives were participants in a workshop concerned with renovating Huilua fish ponds in Kahana. The precedent of the workshop was that communities around Hawaii could benefit from learning directly from each other how to best restore their aquatic resources. The workshop highlighted the capacity of humans to overcome technical challenges by utilising good organisation and a motivation to work together. Both Eric and Roger were very impressed by the attitude of the communities participating in this workshop:
“Malagasy people are a smiling and welcoming people, but here in Hawaii this positive state of mind is even more ingrained, and is definitely a way of life” noticed Eric with surprise.
This giant gathering allowed for the building of relationships between natural resource community managers, as well as giving our MIHARI representatives the opportunity to learn about how community conservation is achieved in Hawaii. Eric and Roger both appreciated the importance placed on working together in harmony, and on respecting cultural traditions in natural resource management.
Having greatly enjoyed taking part in and learning from the E Alu Pū gathering, is was then time for Eric, Roger and Vatosoa to join the IUCN congress.
Recognition and sharing on an international scale
Roger and Eric were both surprised to discover that the LMMA concept is not unique to Madagascar, but is already well known and used worldwide. They were also very glad to see that the IUCN considers the MIHARI LMMA Network to be of great importance. Indeed, in this year’s agenda, community management of resources was highlighted as a key topic for discussion.
MIHARI gave 7 public presentations on the huge progress in Madagascar, and the increase from 1 LMMA in 2006 to more than 70 LMMAs, 10 years later. We also presented the advantages of having a network for the local communities who manage marine areas, and the activities that the MIHARI network has promoted to in order to improve food security and LMMA livelihoods.
New partnerships were born from these presentations; including the official integration of MIHARI as an ICCA Consortium member, an international network that promotes the appropriate recognition of, and support to, the territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCAs). We also got the opportunity to meet some members of the LMMA Network Pacific.
Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy was very pleased with how the congress went, saying:
“During our conversations with the other LMMAs and networks that attended the IUCN Congress we realised that we have many things in common, but also that we can learn a lot from them. This congress has highlighted the importance of “savoir-faire”, the advantages of working together, and the necessity of integrating LMMAs into marine resources management.”
Back to Madagascar with much more knowledge
Thanks to this congress, our MIHARI representatives are looking forwards to sharing all the lessons that they’ve learned with their communities:
“I’m planning to invite my communities for an ideas session to share what I learned and to focus on finding ways to adapt it to LMMAs in Madagascar. I’m going to build fish ponds, both to help sustain resources and to leave a good inheritance for our children.” Said Eric enthusiastically.
Roger, more pragmatically, explains his plans for a program that includes assembly meetings, a large promotion on the radio, a regional newspaper article, and various LMMA visits, before concluding, with emotion, that: “ travelling to Hawaii was a huge step forward for LMMAs. It’s the voice of our communities that we brought to the congress and passed on.”
As for Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy, the teamwork she saw initiated during the E Alu Pū gathering touched her, and motivated her to strengthen relationships and collaborations that already exist within the big MIHARI family.
“All the good practices received from the different community networks during this congress will be shared during MIHARI regional forums, and in the network communication materials” she said.
The journey to the World Conservation Congress is one that will be kept forever in the minds of the MIHARI representatives who went, and they would like to thank the IUCN, MIHARI, and every person from their communities for letting them attend the congress. They believe that they helped raise the voices of Malagasy LMMAs to an international scale, and hope that what they shared and what was shared with them will help influence the future for a long time to come.