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Blue Ventures receives prestigious Darwin Initiative Grant

06 March 2012, London. Leveraging markets to conserve mangrove biodiversity and alleviate poverty in Madagascar

The UK Government's environment department, DEFRA, today announced a generous grant for the conservation of critical mangrove forests in Madagascar, as part of its Darwin Initiative for overseas biodiversity conservation.

This new project will expand Blue Ventures' work with coastal communities in western Madagascar to develop innovative new approaches to mangrove conservation and coastal poverty alleviation.

As a result of the project, it is hoped that coastal communities in this impoverished region will be able to earn new income from the sale of carbon credits, enhanced productivity of crab and shrimp fisheries, and the sustainable supply of charcoal and timber.

Blue Ventures will work with the region's fishing communities to implement effective community-based management of mangroves so that they are able to supply these ecosystems services. Blue Ventures will also broker the equitable sale of the ecosystem services, guaranteeing that local people are able to improve their livelihoods.

DSC00651Local communities harvesting crab and shrimp from the mangroves

Madagascar's mangrove forests are extremely valuable ecosystems, not only for the exceptional biodiversity that they support, but also for the host of ecosystem services and goods that they provide, many of which are critical to the well-being of coastal people. Over half of Madagascar's population lives on the coast and mangroves play an important role in the well-being of many of these people, be they urban or rural. Yet, for the very reason that they provide so many valuable products, these mangroves are increasingly deforested and degraded.

"Diversifying cash income away from just fishing and forest exploitation will help to eradicate deep poverty in these communities. In addition the project will help communities to gain legal land and user rights to their mangroves – at present, these mangroves are open access. If coastal fishing communities are to be able to cope with climate change, there is an urgent need to sustainably manage the mangrove forest resources on an ecologically meaningful scale in the region. This project will make an important step towards achieving this goal."
Lalao Aigrette, Blue Ventures' Coastal Research Manager 

A key objective of the three-year project is to develop a simple model that can be easily implemented by other communities throughout Madagascar. A key innovation of the project is the way it combines different mangrove ecosystem services to develop several income streams for community participants. Dr. Garth Cripps, senior conservation scientist with Blue Ventures in Antananarivo, says: "this approach enables the project to overcome the significant policy uncertainty for REDD+, as well as the delay of several years before eventual carbon incomes flow, to bring communities more immediate benefits derived from local, internal markets."

"Until now, Madagascar's extensive mangroves have received very little conservation attention, despite being amongst the largest in the Indian Ocean, and critical to coastal livelihoods and biodiversity", says Dr. Al Harris, Research Director of Blue Ventures. To date most forest conservation efforts have focused on the humid eastern forests of Madagascar. "Thanks to the generous support of the Darwin Initiative, we can now begin to give these exceptionally productive habitats the attention they deserve."

The extensive mangroves of the western coast support several critically endangered species, including the Madagascar Fish Eagle, the Madagascar Teal and possibly the last populations of two species of sawfish in the Western Indian Ocean. These mangroves are also fundamental to the health of the extensive coral reefs that occur along the west coast. By contributing to the preservation of this significant biodiversity, the project will help Madagascar to fulfill the principal objectives of the convention on biological diversity .

DSC01221 The mangroves are hugely important for the local community



'Editors notes':

Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organisation dedicated to conservation, education and sustainable development in tropical coastal communities. Through our marine expeditions, volunteers from around the world join us on career breaks, student gap years and internships, working closely with our field research teams, in partnership with local communities. 

Blue Ventures' projects are focused in environmentally and culturally sensitive regions of the world. All project visitors are required to be aware that we are privileged guests in our host countries, towns and villages. We insist that all team members, acting as ambassadors to Blue Ventures, adapt their behaviour to recognise local cultural sensitivities. We have a responsibility to minimise negative impacts on local environments and communities where we work, as well as to provide tangible benefits to our host communities.

To find out more about Blue Ventures Expeditions visit our volunteer pages on our website.