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Madagascar communities unite to protect threatened coastline

February 26, 2024

Madagascar, the world’s third largest island, is home to huge numbers of plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth, many of them endangered. A recent Seacology project is helping two Madagascar villages protect threatened mangrove forests, seagrass, and coral reefs, including key nesting grounds of endangered hawksbill sea turtles. 

The Bay of Rigny is a striking example of Madagascar’s natural bounty, with dense mangrove forests lining the coast. The mangroves teem with wildlife and protect the communities from storm damage. But overfishing, poaching of turtles and their eggs, and the cutting of mangroves—driven by the country’s grinding poverty—severely strain these ecosystems. 

The people of Ampondrahazo and Ambolobozokely, two small coastal villages, were eager to reverse the damage and safeguard their coastline and waters. They need healthy mangroves and reefs to survive, because they depend on fishing to make a living and feed their families. They had already set aside two large coastal areas as reserves, but lacked the skills and resources to effectively protect them. They also needed clean drinking water and better school facilities. The school buildings were so dilapidated that classes frequently had to be canceled due to rain. 

They approached Seacology and Conservation Centered Community (C3) Madagascar, an NGO led by local women, with an ambitious proposal. In exchange for repairs to their schools, a new ranger station and training, and a new well, they would commit to greater protection of their coastal territory and enlist local people to support this cause.

We agreed, and in 2022, the villagers quickly put their plans into action. Following training sessions attended by hundreds, volunteers began regular patrols of the beaches, seagrass meadows, and reefs. The careful monitoring helped prevent turtle poaching during the critical nesting season. A group of women in Ampondrahazo established a mangrove nursery, raising thousands of propagules that were planted by new “eco guardian” youth groups. Our partners at C3 worked with villagers to design handouts and signage to explain the importance of conservation. Because many adults have not had the chance to learn to read, the materials rely heavily on visual, rather than written, information.

The investment by Seacology has markedly improved the quality of life in the villages. The villagers replaced one school and repaired the other. New toilets at each school, and a new well, improved sanitation and public health. The ranger station in Ambolobozokely will not only be a long-term base of operations for monitoring the protected areas, but also a place for all kinds of village gatherings. And with the education many of their parents never had, today’s students will grow up with the knowledge, tools, and determination to protect their unique home.

A new well dug with funding from Seacology will provide clean drinking water for the local people.

Our partners planted mangroves in an area twice the size that was agreed to in the project proposal.

New educational materials depict the activities that are prohibited in the conservation areas.

Recently trained rangers inspect evidence of turtle poaching on a local beach.