Women engaged in sea cucumber farming in Velondriake

The freedom to choose: integrating community-based reproductive health services with locally led marine conservation initiatives in southwest Madagascar

Laura Robson, Fanjavola Rakotozafy

Abstract


Madagascar’s diverse marine ecosystems serve as critical biodiversity habitats and are also essential to the livelihoods, food security and culture of coastal people, including semi-nomadic Vezo fishers based along the southwest coast. Commercialisation of their traditional fisheries, rapid coastal population growth related to unmet family planning needs, and lack of alternatives to fishing in this arid region are resulting in the unsustainable exploitation of coastal resources. In response to these challenges, marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures has developed an approach to community-based conservation and development that reflects the inextricable links between humans, their health and the environment. We describe how this model has evolved in the Velondriake locally managed marine area, home to approximately 10,000 people, over the last decade through strong cross-sector partnerships. It has entailed the integration of community-based reproductive health services with locally led marine conservation initiatives including temporary octopus fishery closures, permanent marine reserves and alternative coastal livelihood activities such as aquaculture. All of these programmes are underpinned by community education that engages men, women, youth and children in both health and conservation topics. The provision of voluntary family planning services in the Velondriake area is estimated to have averted more than 800 unintended pregnancies since 2007, and the temporary octopus fishery closure model has been implemented over 150 times along the southwest coast since 2004. Preliminary, anecdotal reports from community members and programme staff indicate that this integrated Population-Health-Environment approach enables couples to plan and better provide for their families, empowers women, improves food security and directly supports the sustainability of local conservation efforts. It is proving to be an easily replicable model for addressing community health needs and advancing biodiversity conservation efforts in some of Madagascar’s most remote and under-served areas.

 

RÉSUMÉ

Non seulement les écosystèmes marins de Madagascar abritent-ils une biodiversité exceptionnelle mais ils sont également intrinsèquement liés au mode de vie et à la sécurité alimentaire des populations côtières, notamment des pêcheurs semi-nomades qui vivent le long de la côte sud-ouest. La commercialisation des produits de la pêche traditionnelle, la croissance rapide de la population qui est en partie liée à des défauts en matière de planification familiale et l’absence d’alternatives à la pêche dans cette région aride se traduisent par une exploitation non durable des ressources côtières. Pour trouver une solution à cette situation, l'organisation de conservation marine Blue Ventures a élaboré une approche holistique qui considère les liens obligés entre les Hommes, leur santé et l'environnement. L’évolution du modèle élaboré pour l’aire marine de Velondriake est décrite ici ; elle concerne environ 10 000 personnes au cours de cette dernière décennie et des partenariats multisectoriels. Le modèle a intégré des services de santé reproductive avec des initiatives de conservation marine gérées localement, comme des fermetures temporaires de la pêche aux poulpes, des réserves marines permanentes et des activités génératrices de revenus telles que l'aquaculture. L’ensemble de ces programmes est soutenu par des actions d’éducation en mobilisant les hommes, femmes, jeunes et enfants sur des thèmes aussi variés que la santé ou la protection de l’environnement. Ainsi, on estime que la prestation des services de planification familiale volontaire dans la région de Velondriake a pu éviter plus de 800 grossesses non désirées depuis 2007, et des fermetures temporaires de la pêche aux poulpes plus de 150 fois le long de la côte sud-ouest depuis 2004. Des rapports préliminaires et anecdotiques de membres des communautés et des personnels du programmes indiquent que cette approche intégrée « Santé – Population – Environnement » permet aux couples de planifier et de mieux subvenir aux besoins de leurs familles, aux femmes de s’émanciper et aux familles d’améliorer leur sécurité alimentaire tout en soutenant directement la durabilité des activités de conservation marine gérées localement. Ce modèle s’est révélé être facilement reproductible pour répondre aux besoins de santé communautaire et pour faire avancer les efforts de conservation de la biodiversité dans les régions les plus reculées et les plus isolées de Madagascar.


Keywords


conservation; marine conservation; fisheries; population; health; reproductive health; family planning; livelihoods; development; Population-Health-Environment; sécurité alimentaire; pêche traditionnelle; ressources côtières; écosystèmes marins;

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v10i1S2

Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510