Women and youth lead efforts to improve octopus fishery management in Madagascar

In the locally managed marine area of Velondriake in southwest Madagascar, more than 10,000 people are benefitting from a project supported by UK Aid Direct.

The project, run by Blue Ventures, is working to increase the participation of women and youth in local marine management efforts, while improving both the profitability and the ecological sustainability of octopus fishing for the communities involved.

Octopus is the most important cash crop for remote coastal fishing communities in this region. Women fish for octopus on reef flats at low tide using hand-crafted spears, but local management efforts have traditionally been led by local men.

Through the project supported by UK Aid Direct, these women are now acquiring important literacy and numeracy skills, and learning about local fishery laws so that they can play a more active role in local management efforts. In a recent election for the governing committee of the Velondriake locally managed marine area, a significant number of women were voted in, meaning that women now constitute 38% of committee members; impressive compared to female MPs in the UK, who take up 29% of seats in parliament.

Meanwhile the youth of Velondriake are also stepping into leadership roles, with a staggering 47% of governing committee members now being young people aged 18-25 years. These results reflect Blue Ventures’ success in engaging women and youth in marine conservation using reproductive health, coastal livelihood and education programmes as meaningful entry points, alongside the UK Aid Direct initiative to promote gender equality in fisheries management.

This landmark election is of great significance for locally managed marine areas all around Madagascar, since Velondriake is regarded as the first locally managed marine area in the country. What has unfolded in Velondriake demonstrates that long-term co-management between NGOs and community associations pays off, by instilling a sense of responsibility for marine resources and by nurturing local leadership necessary for effective governance.