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. In support of this ReefDoctor has developed a programme of community development encompassing 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 and manage their resources.
ReefDoctor’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, ReefDoctor 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 7 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 across a regional scale in 2013.
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 ReefDoctor 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. We have also created a marine museum in Ifaty with displays and information explaining how the reef ecosystem functions, and how the reef provides income and sustenance for the people of Ifaty.
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, ReefDoctor, 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 aims of this measure are to promote sustainability and alleviate poverty by empowering women to manage their reproductive status and reduce unwanted pregnancies.
Tourist Education and Awareness
The fishermen of Ifaty village are not the only people that use the reef and lagoon of the Bay of Ranobe. Both Ifaty and Mangili are popular tourist destinations for visitors to the area and home to a great number of hotels. Several dive centres operate in the area, and local fishermen / guides make their pirogues available for hire to tourists that wish to go snorkeling or surfing. Educating tourists about the fragility of the reef is an important part of promoting reef conservation.
To achieve this, we are working with local hotels and dive centres to create resource materials on responsible tourism, snorkeling and diving to ensure that visitors to the area understand the importance of the reef to the villages it supports, as well as the impact that they themselves can have on the reef.
We have created laminated marine species identification guides for the marine protected areas which have been distributed among the dive centres and to the local pirogues so that tourists can identify what they see on the reef. Our ‘Watch What You Eat’ campaign informs local hotels and restaurants on various closed fishing seasons and minimum landing sizes for certain seafood so that they can adhere to these important fisheries management measures that have been implemented in the bay. Future plans are in place to involve the dive centres and tourists in basic coral reef surveying to help strengthen our database and expand our surveying area to the more remote regions of the Bay.
In addition to our alternative marine-based livelihoods programme, ReefDoctor also hopes to ensure that all sectors of the community explore the potential for new diversified incomes which do not exploit marine resources. ReefDoctor help to create a Women’s Association in June 2007 and to date 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 ReefDoctor staff and they now produce Madagascan and marine themed handkerchiefs and tablecloths which have proved to be popular souvenirs amongst tourists in the Bay.
Postcards: ReefDoctor 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.
Future plans will focus on teaching the women to grow and maintain vegetable plots to save money and improve their diets. We would also like to encourage them to grow their own herbal medicines as they currently rely on expensive western medicine for minor ailments when traditional sources can be just as effective.
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.
ReefDoctor’s presence in Ifaty, and 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 ReefDoctor and its staff. In August 2008, ReefDoctor, 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. It also gives the school an opportunity to run educational marine films such as the Blue Planet and Finding Nemo.
To expand on this, ReefDoctor is currently exploring a variety of marine management opportunities that can generate income for the village as a whole that can be channeled into community developments such as school improvements, medical facilities and new water supplies.