We went on an expedition to understand more about how LMMAs members of the MIHARI Networkwork on a day-to-day basis. FIMIHARA is an LMMA association of 13 villages in charge of managing the bay of Ranobe and its supported by the NGO Reef Doctor. It is the most developed area for tourism in the region and it’s located about 30 kilometers north of the city of Toliara. FIMIHARA stands for Fikambanana Miaro sy Hanasoa ny Ranomasina and roughly translates to “Association to Protect and Enhance the Marine Environment”. Its main mission is to provide a channel for small-scale fishers to express their needs and grievances, plan and implement development projects for the bay, promote and train on alternative fishing techniques, and protect the natural resources of the area. So far, the greatest success of FIMIHARA is the establishment of two marine reserves, Massif des Roses and Ankaranjelita, which are both open to visitors and patrolled by guards who are paid by the association. The association operates on fees collected from visitors of the reserves, as well as on contributions from tourism operators in the region.

We visited two towns, Ifaty and Mangily, which are both members of the FIMIHARA. We spoke with leaders within these towns to understand the structure of the association, the challenges faced by the association, and how the association is addressing the challenges. We also explored the association’s successes and practices in protecting and sustainably using its resources.

 

Photo by Rebeka RamangamihantaPhotos by Rebeka Ramangamihanta

Photo by Rebeka Ramangamihanta

Photo by Rebeka Ramangamihanta

Photo by Rebeka Ramangamihanta

Photo by Rebeka Ramangamihanta

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

AVISOA FELIX, FISHERMAN AND MEMBER OF THE FIMIHARA STEERING COMMITTEE

By Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo By Nebiat Assefa Melles

Q: Can you please tell me about yourself?

A: I am originally from Belalandy but I was looking for a better life so I moved to Mangily. Back then, this was not as big of a town as it is now; it was all forest. My wife and I built a trano bongo (a hut) and started our family. Fishing was very easy; we did not need to go too far to catch a bucket worth of fish, but over the years, the catch has decreased with the increase in number of fishers.

Q: Since then, have you seen any signs of climate change?

A: Yes, I see the climate changing. It’s drier here and it rains less. [Climate change] is also affecting our fishing because more people go fishing. Some inland groups abandon agriculture and come to the coastal areas to start fishing, despite not having the traditional knowledge of the sea. They then use what is called draoto, or beach seine net, a fishnet that is as fine as a mosquito and not good for the sustainability of our marine resources. Moreover, when a cyclone arrives, we struggle, but somehow God always provides.

Q: What is your worst memory of a cyclone?*

A: My worst memory was during the cyclone Haruna in 2013. It really destroyed the Massif des Roses. I learned that the cyclones not only destroy what’s above water, but also what’s in the water. The coral reefs were really damaged because they only grow a centimeter per year. It took a really long time for them to grow back.

Q: What about the impact in your community?

A: The cyclone lasted for about four days. Many houses were destroyed; many of them were crushed by falling trees. No one died, but some were badly hurt.

Q: Did you know anyone who was hurt?

A: I knew many of them since they were my neighbors. The saddest [story] is of this woman whose back was injured from a falling tree. Another woman’s house was destroyed by a falling, big Ankao branch while she was breastfeeding her baby. They were laying on the bed, which was in the middle of the house, when it fell. She was scared [because] she was not able to get her baby when she fled. Fortunately, the baby was somehow protected and found safe.

*According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Madagascar is the country that is most affected by cyclones in the African continent, with an average of 1.5 cyclones annually and each strong cyclone affecting 700,000 people.

 

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

 

JEAN-PIERRE, CO-OWNER OF A DIVING CLUB AND MEMBER OF THE FIMIHARA STEERING COMMITTEE

Please note that the quotes included come directly from individuals interviewed. Sentences are edited a minimal amount to ensure clarity while maintaining the sentiments of the quotes as originally intended by the individuals

 

Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

#1

“The tourism operators should be included in the local management of the resources. It is easier to ask for money from hotels than to ask for money from individuals who live in the village. I’ll use a very clear and recent example: In 2018, we created a new reserve with FIMIHARA. This reserve was very costly. We had to pay for an inauguration, to bring in the authorities and journalists, and to hire an additional guard to work throughout the year. As a result, we ended up in the red at the end of 2018, and in 2019, we were not able to stay afloat. Our idea was to increase the ticket price [for the visit of the reserves] from Ar. 5,000 ($1.42) to Ar. 10,000 ($2.85), in exchange for advertising for the hotels. However, [the fokontany] made a decision to implement this decision in September, at a time when I did not attend the steering committee meeting, and when there were no hoteliers summoned. [This price increase] was incomprehensible for the hoteliers, as it was peak season for them. If I or a representative of the hoteliers were present, we would have said, “no, this is not feasible. If we [increase the ticket price], then we will immediately start war against hoteliers”. There must be representatives of the tourism operators [in these meetings] because the operators are part of the local community, and the hoteliers…are the first employers in the whole area. But you know very well that in Madagascar there is the colonial past that complicates the Malagasy and French relationships. [The integration] will only happen through the building of mutual trust. On the Malagasy side, this means more openness in what is meant by “community” and on the vazaha or foreigner side, this mean building and maintaining long-term trust with the Malagasy.”

 

#2

“FIMIHARA distributes fishing calendars* to the hoteliers every year. Most of them respect [the calendars] quite well. We also usually have posters, which we haven’t used lately, that allow us to target the tourists. For example, fishing of lobster closes around Christmas and New Year’s time [fishing closure for lobster is usually October – December]. If you don’t have a sign, people will take the lobsters no matter what. But, if you have signs in all hotels, tourists will realize that they should not order lobsters. If one hotel does not serve lobsters during the temporary closure time but the hotel next door does, then when the tourists go to the second hotel and see the lobster on the menu, some will order it, but others will raise the issue to the hotel. If hotels continue to ignore these closures, it will be bad marketing for them, and they will have to remove these prohibited items from their menus.”

*The Ministry of Fisheries issues the dates of the fishing closures before or by the beginning of the year. MIHARI then develops regional calendars to raise awareness about them (please see the example below) and distributes the fishing calendars to all the association members within its network every years. The members are then responsible for sharing the information with their communities.

 

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

CELINE, FISHMONGER, AND PRESIDENT OF THE WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION OF IFATY

Please note that the quotes included come directly from individuals interviewed. Sentences are edited a minimal amount to ensure clarity while maintaining the sentiments of the quotes as originally intended by the individuals

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

“The Tuléar Fishing Communities Support Project (PACP) built this wharf in 2014, so that fishers would have a place to weigh their fish once they return from the ocean. However, few people used the facilities for a while and they were not well-maintained. A few months later, the NGO Reef Doctorsigned a two-year contract for purchasing the algae from the farmers, but there was a disagreement about the price because the algae were not profitable for farmers. A kilo of algae costs Ar. 600 ($.17) and takes a month and half to grow. In contrast, fish can be caught in one day and cost 1,000Ar ($.28). While, in the past, 80 people could gather up to 2 tones of algae, [farmers] grew discouraged [due to the unprofitability of algae farming]. Then, Reef Doctor stopped collecting the algae and the company Copefrito took over. Following the last presidential election, the wharf’s management changed. Last October, the Ministry of the population came and appointed us–women as responsible for the wharf and [allotted us the task] of making ice to keep produce fresh. They also gave us equipment such as the fridges, the solar panels, and the batteries, and they trained us on how to use the equipment. There was a huge party for this inauguration”.

 

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Photo by Nebiat Assefa Melles

Celine showing us around the wharf and its newly added equipment

“The women’s association is slowly rearranging the wharf. We recently cleaned everything up, fixed the windows, and added the lights. The only issue right now is that the power from the solar panels is not strong enough because there are two fridges, and the storage batteries do not have enough capacity to store the energy [from the solar panels]. We are currently saving, as a group, to purchase a strong enough storage battery and more solar panels. Hopefully, we’ll be able to open up the place in January. The re-opening of this wharf would be a huge opportunity for women and the fishers. Our plan is [that individuals can use this as] a cold chain to store meat, fish, or any product that requires ice, for a fee. This will also represent an opportunity for [economy of scale], because big buyers usually require a certain amount, but cannot buy from individual fishers that are dispersed. This place can be the location where we gather all of the fish. This is not for one person, or women only, but to help all people out of their misery. If they come from the sea, they can store their product for a small fee—not too expensive, but affordable. We also think about starting a restaurant of renown here so that people can enjoy local food right on the sea. We’ll clean it up and make it an enjoyable place to eat and hang out. We could also sell necklaces here.”

MIHARI will be launching their FisherWomen Leadership Program in 2020, in celebration of the Women’s History Month. This will be a national summit for women in the small-scale fisheries sector and have fisherwomen like Celine come together to share-out, inspire each-others, elevate their voices, and organize around their issues in the sector.

Find the article on Rebeka Ramangamihanta’s blog