The MIHARI team recently met the leaders of four of the Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in Northwest Madagascar, and heard about their way of life, their visions for the future, and the challenges they face in their leadership roles.
What is a LMMA leader?
When we hear the word “leader”, the initial image in our minds is of wealthy and powerful company executives or CEOs, but in reality being a leader can be something very different. A person shows true leadership if they can guide, influence, or inspire a group of people or an organisation.
Taking this definition into account, there are clearly many great leaders in the world of LMMAs, and one need look no further than amongst the members of the fishing communities. The leaders here have the traditional know-how and the charisma to influence hundreds of people in their fishing practices, and communicate effectively with everyone involved.
All four of the leaders that we met gave very good first impressions, they were all well spoken, caring, and determined to make a difference.
Edmond Ramadany from Ambilobe, is a sixty year old man, distinguishable by his kindness. Félix, from Ambanja, is much younger, has a fiery temper and a much more sonorous voice. Eric, from Nosy Be, is always the happiest in every situation, smiling and singing whenever he gets the opportunity. Finally, there’s Razafy Michel from Mahajanga, a sixty year old man who is very well known and respected within Boeny communities.
What sets them apart?
All four of the leaders are fishermen, so they understand the challenges faced by fishing communities. Most livelihoods aren’t weather dependent, but fishing is intrinsically linked with the strength and direction of the wind and the roughness of the sea.
Edmond tells us about an ideal day’s fishing:
“I wake up at 4am and go to pray. Then I go back home and patch the holes in my net before going fishing for 2 to 3 hours, depending on the weather. What I love the most is to fish mackerel in April, as that’s the time of year when the Easterly wind “Varatraza” is blowing. We leave with a team of 30 to 40 pirogues, with two to four people in each, and we can catch between 661 and 881 pounds of mackerel per pirogue during sunny days!”
Feeding their families, and educating their children is a daily challenge for each of them, so during days where there is a fickle wind, Edmond and the other leaders devote themselves to different professions, and this is what sets them apart as leaders in their communities. Eric is an education consultant and vice president of an association, Edmond is a stone seller, Félix is a tour guide, and Razafy Michel is a farmer.
These four men did not become LMMA leaders by chance, each one has his own vision of their role as a leader within their respective communities.
Eric sees the oceans as a gift from mother nature, one that must be respected and protected by the community. Razafy Michel believes that his many years of experience can help the LMMA: "Ever since I was young I’ve always liked being involved in agriculture and fisheries associations."
Félix is more pragmatic about his role as a leader:
“We are seen as leaders because we are able to convince community members with our explanations, and can encourage those who are not yet part of the LMMA communities to join. When we speak, we know exactly how to address people and how to get the message out."
All four of the leaders have succeeded in convincing their respective communities to respect various regulations, as stipulated in their “Dina.” They have also managed to mobilise their peers into establishing temporary and permanent fishing closures.
Their leadership role also involves managing conflicts within their communities, and making sure that any external pressures are faced head on. Finally, the leaders are trusted to represent their communities in decision-making and negotiations, and deal with any constraints that are preventing the protection and management of their marine resources.
Good leadership can be measured by the trust placed in the leaders by their communities. Edmond Ramadany, for example, has been an LMMA member since 2000 and has always been re-elected as the President of his community in every election.
The challenges they face
Despite the natural leadership qualities of the four leaders, sometimes lack of knowledge in certain fields makes it more difficult for them to carry out their missions. Skills that require advanced study, such as French, are not always at a high standard, and each leader has something that they want to improve on.
Razafy Michel for example believe that improving his negotiation skills would make it much easier for him to collaborate and work with the Authorities on his terms.
Support is needed if the LMMA leaders are to overcome these challenges and, with this in mind, MIHARI plans to conduct training sessions to help them increase their skill sets. The main objective is for each leader to have enough self confidence that they can be the focal point for their LMMA. Sessions will focus on key skills like leadership, communication, negotiation skills, and association management, as well as various specific themes such as governance, “Dina”, and adapting to climate change.
It has been a pleasure to meet with the four LMMA leaders from the Northwest. They have all been really successful in carrying out their roles and responsibilities, and their leadership skills are very impressive. However we believe that all LMMA leaders will benefit from attending MIHARI’s training sessions, as their natural skills will be enhanced and they will be equipped with important new skills as well.