People, place, planet | Andavadoaka, Madagascar
May/June 2012 Issue | Crystal Hoshaw
Blue Ventures is an award-winning marine conservation organization working with coastal communities to develop sustainable aquaculture practices. The group helps protect threatened marine environments and maintain biodiversity in areas where locals rely on the wealth of the ocean for their livelihoods. With less than 1 percent of marine ecosystems under effective protection worldwide, Blue Ventures is doing important work for fragile marine resources in the western Indian Ocean vulnarable to natural and man-made disasters, like here in Madagascar.
An essential aspect of Blue Ventures’ holistic approach is providing family planning and public health along with environmental education. In places where 50 percent of children are malnourished and reading schoolbooks under streetlamps, Blue Ventures implements programs to reduce poverty and provide education. In five years, it has given 500 children scholarships to attend schools. Educating communities about reproductive health also plays a big role, contributing to women’s equality by giving families the ability to plan their growth.
Founder Alasdair Harris tells of indigenous communities with an “ecological ethic that puts the world to shame” that have had to rely on destructive fishing practices to survive. Blue Ventures responds by developing conservation and management plans that empower communities to manage their own resources. Harris notes that leadership comes from within communities, drawing on traditional ecological knowledge that “couldn’t be replaced by 10 Ph.D.s.”
Photograph: Garth Cripps