© Kent Andreasen / WWF

How to conserve mangroves

A success story from the Kivalo village, Madagascar

July 26, 2022

It takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a village for successful mangrove conservation as the example of Justin Rakotomanahira and his grassroots community “Analamaitso tsy ho gnan’olo” (The Green Forest that is ours) shows. Over the past 15 years, the organization was able to restore 56ha of mangroves in Kivalo, western Madagascar. Today, the community serves as a leading example of nature conservation that benefits both the environment and the people.

“Mangrove conservation is not just for nature, but for us”, says Justin Rakotomanahira, president of the grassroots community. The slender man speaks with conviction, having grown up in a fishing family in Kivalo, a traditional village located in the heart of the Menabe Antimena protected area in western Madagascar. As a young boy he used to go fishing with his mother on the coastline, while his father would go out to the sea every day. Living in harmony with nature was his daily life, a healthy ocean and coastal biodiversity the basis for the livelihood for his family.

“I understand that we have to find a way to support ourselves, but if we don’t do the right thing for nature, our children will suffer because resources will disappear”

– Justin Rakotomanahira

Rakotomanahira was not fortunate enough to spend many years in school, but today he has mastered the sustainable management of mangroves. And the success of the 40-year-old father of seven and his community is exemplary: With a managed area of around 5000ha mangrove forest, the Kivalo mangroves rank among the healthiest most preserved in Menabe.

Monitoring, restoring and raising awareness

The main chores of Justin and his colleagues are to monitor the region, report observations in land-use changes such as illegal activities in logging or agriculture and implement sustainable fishing practices in the local communities. Reforestation and maintenance of the existing mangroves is part of their day-to-day business. However, the community organization also sees a crucial point of their work in sensitizing the local population on the importance of mangroves and how to maintain a healthy environment.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” (African proverb)

The intrinsic motivation and commitment with which Justin and his team pursue their work has drawn attention and various entities including WWF were inspired, wanting to collaborate with Kivalo village. Since 2010, WWF Madagascar is working together with the community organization, facilitating their access to information and providing technical support and resources for their actions. As a result, the infrastructure of Kivalo has improved greatly and the villagers now have access to clean water and sanitation facilities. The mangrove forests also serve as the main tourist asset, which in turn provides a living for many families.

“Our village Kivalo has changed a lot, there have been so many innovations. The whole community benefits. And above all, we have understood the concept of sustainable mangrove conservation. Mangroves are very important to the community as they provide food and income, address climate change and beautify the village and its surroundings.”

– Justin Rakotomanahira