Coral reef health is intricately linked to fisheries and the activities of local coastal communities; therefore, any sustainable management programme must consider socio-economic development. With this in mind, Reef Doctor, over the last decade, has implemented a variety of community development initiatives, including the following:
Developing an understanding of the marine environment and how it works is key to introducing the concept of effective marine management. Working with the local education system makes it possible to begin this education while children are in school, paving the way for future generations to understand the marine environment and effectively manage their resources.
Reef Doctor’s schools education programme began life working with a school director and the Ministry of Education of Toliara (DREN) to help ensure that marine science was taught in Ifaty’s school. This included employing three additional teachers for the school to reduce class sizes and allow a more age-targeted level of learning. In 2004, Reef Doctor created a specific marine curriculum for schools in the Bay of Ranobe. In 2006, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, and after training 34 teachers, this curriculum was implemented into seven public primary schools, teaching 900 children about their local marine environment. The organisation PACP (Project d’Appui aux Communates des Pecheurs) started overseeing this project in 2012 and plans to implement the marine curriculum on a regional scale.
Reef Doctor has also been running ‘Kids Club’ since 2003. This is a bi-weekly event held in the Reef Doctor classroom for the school children of Ifaty. With the help of Reef Doctor volunteers and interns, the interactive sessions aim to educate the children on various marine biology and environmental topics. In 2013, funded by the Julie Ghosh Memorial Scholarship Programme, we implemented ‘Junior Reef Doctors’ to provide extracurricular environmental lessons to selected school children from Ifaty.
While school education plays a crucial part in facilitating marine management for future generations, there is also a
need to communicate the present and future marine management problems to the rest of the community. To achieve this Reef Doctor has worked with the local community, holding education workshops and discussion groups with the villagers, organised with their president. This has included presentations on the marine environment and results from our fisheries assessment to show how basic marine management can help local fishermen improve yields. Reef Doctor also runs a English-language courses (beginner to advanced) for local adults to provide them with new skills for potential employment.
Uncontrolled population growth is in direct conflict with sustainability. In response to a lack of access to medical services and contraceptive medication across the Bay of Ranobe, Reef Doctor, in collaboration with Blue Ventures (BV), has implemented BV’s family planning initiative. This has created a distribution point for heavily subsidised contraceptive products. The aim of this measure is to promote sustainability and alleviate poverty by empowering women to manage their reproductive status and reduce unwanted pregnancies.
In addition to our alternative marine-based livelihoods programme, Reef Doctor also hopes to ensure that all sectors of the community explore the potential for new diversified incomes which do not exploit marine resources. Reef Doctor helped create a Women’s Association in June 2007, to date this has resulted in several successful alternative income projects including:
- Honey: obtained from the Spiny Forest located behind the village, honey has been bottled and sold to tourists.
- Embroidery: members of the women’s association were taught to embroider by Reef Doctor staff and they now produce Madagascan and marine themed handkerchiefs and tablecloths for the souvenir trade.
- Postcards: Reef Doctor produced batches of postcards which were distributed to the women to sell to the tourists.
- Solar Ovens: capturing the suns energy to provide a clean source of fuel through use of solar ovens allows families to reduce their energy costs and at the same time protect the environment by reducing charcoal consumption. We have provided two villages with solar ovens alongside cooking classes to enable the women to bake bread and cakes which can then be sold on to tourists.
In order for any conservation and marine management programme to succeed, local populations need to see a general improvement in socio-economic conditions resulting from new practices and ideas. This means that the additional incomes created by any such programme must be seen to generate visible development for the village as a whole.
Reef Doctor’s presence in Ifaty, and its relationship with the University of Toliara, has already resulted in new buildings and development on the University of Toliara’s land, employment opportunities for local people and increased income for local services from Reef Doctor and its staff. In August 2008, Reef Doctor, The Rotary Club and EDF installed solar panels on Ifaty’s school roof to provide lights to expand classroom times and provide a venue for village meetings and events. This has also provided the school an opportunity to run educational marine films such as the Blue Planet and presentations on the work of Reef Doctor for the whole village. Reef Doctor also implemented a successful fundraising scheme to help rebuild the school kitchen after the devastating effects of cyclone Haruna in 2013.
Furthermore, Reef Doctor envisions that the implementation of the Darwin Initiative-funded aquaculture programme will generate income for the village as a whole that can be channelled into further community improvements.