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2019 Whitley Award
MIHARI Network
Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy Madagascar Coastal and Marine
MIHARI: A civil society movement to safeguard marine resources


While rich in biodiversity, many coastal communities in Madagascar are remote and lacking in basic amenities. Poor infrastructure means fishers struggle to sell their products, and children rarely have access to formal education. However, their intimate knowledge of the sea and their vested interest in its protection makes local communities best placed to guide management of their marine environment.


With few safeguards in place, marine resources have been rapidly depleted in recent decades. Under Vatosoa’s coordination, the MIHARI network have taken steps to reverse this trend by connecting over 200 community associations and NGOs along the country’s 5,000km coastline to share best practice and develop management guidelines. Some of the Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) established within the network have demonstrated that a shift towards more sustainable fishing practices can yield impressive benefits for both people and marine life.


Vatosoa is giving local fishers a voice. On the political stage, Vatosoa has championed the rights and needs of local fishers and their important role in marine management. In 2017 the network presented their proposal for fisheries policy reform to the Ministry of Fisheries and in 2018 the government made a commitment to work towards reserved areas for smallscale fishers.


  • Expand the network to support fishing communities in three new coastal regions in Madagascar.
  • Bring together leaders of 40 LMMAs for comprehensive training in the management and governance of their marine resources.
  • Work with government to secure legal status for LMMAs including the creation of a reserved area for small-scale fisheries.
  • Promote knowledge sharing between the 200 participating community management associations ensuring best practice in marine conservation and sustainable use.


  • In Madagascar 500,000 traditional fishers rely on marine biodiversity for livelihoods and food security.
  • Almost all of Madagascar’s 18 ethnic groups are represented in the MIHARI network.
  • 90% of the species on Madagascar are found nowhere else on earth.

“I feel incredibly privileged to work on behalf of Madagascar’s small-scale fishers and help them to defend their rights at a national scale.”

Image credits: Garth Cripps (fisherwoman, sailboat banner image)