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Three members of the MWAMBAO team were invited to Madagascar (alongside a small team from the Comorian NGO, Dahari) by our partner Blue Ventures (BV).  Ali Thani, Aliy Abdurahim and Lorna Slade spent 10 fruitful days in April in the area of Andavadoake where Blue Ventures have been working for 15 years, and where they were instrumental in establishing the Velondriake Marine Park.

BV have been supporting MWAMBAO over the last year in our work in Unguja, Zanzibar establishing village level reef closures for octopus in three villages.  We were interested to learn about their experiences in coastal Vezo villages which are culturally very different to the coastal communities we are used to.  We attended two village meetings in the area of Manjaboake who were re-establishing their village-level associations for octopus closures The meetings reinforced for us the importance of strong village governance in marine management and emphasized the difficulties faced when dealing with remote and transient communities as well as disenfranchised youth.  We joined some local women to fish octopus and glean sea urchins and reef fish.  We also compared our methods of data collection on the octopus fishery.

We then spent two days in the small town of Andavadoake where BV operations are based, and visited their impressive education centre and office complex, as well as their ‘dive volunteer operation’ which generates funds and biological reef data to inform Blue Ventures management interventions. We also visited SILC, a newly formed community savings group.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Tampolove where Tim Kluckow is establishing a state of the art facility for farming native species of sea cucumbers. This initiative replaces one that was operating previously and is being set up in partnership with the export company Copefrito who regularly supply juveniles for the villagers to rear.  The beauty of the enterprise is that it helps to conserve local seagrass beds, supplements the local populations of the high-value native species Holothuria scabra, and provides a livelihood for local families.  The visit emphasized the need for carrying out sufficient background research (into stocking rate, selection of species, orientation of pens etc.) to maximize the chances of success, as well as conducting social research to ensure that the involvement of villagers is socially accepted and is as equitable as possible.

The trip was a huge success, with much being learned and shared by all.  The Comorians and Zanzibaris managed to communicate with hand gestures and a mix of Kiswahili and French – in all at least 5 languages were involved on a daily basis.  We are very grateful to BV for the learning opportunity provided and we were very impressed by the commitment of their staff and how much they had achieved with remote communities that have very little access to outside help. We are positive that MWAMBAO and BV can continue to learn from each other and expect a return visit soon to Zanzibar!

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