Interview realized with Sophia Rakotoharimalala, Executive director of the association Cetamada.
Can you present in a few words your association ?
Cétamada is an association of non-profit Malagasy right created in May, 2009.
Our goal consists in conserving the populations of marine mammals and their housing environment in Madagascar. For that purpose, the association makes a commitment in an approach of sustainable development by implying the local populations in its actions and by generating sustainable income for communities.
Our activities are centred around 4 sectors of action:
– The supervision and the promotion of a responsible and sustainable ecotourism
– The education and the raising awareness to the environment and to the marine heritage
– The development of community activities
– The scientific research
What brought to you to undertake your approach ?
Situated in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is the fourth biggest island of the world. Nevertheless, in spite of his distant image of tropical paradise, the Malagasy children face immense challenges because the country remains one of the poorest of the world. The person in charge of the World Bank in Madagascar recently spoke about the Big island as being ” the poorest country of the world “. The political crisis is not foreign to it. Since 2009, the standard of living of Malagasy strongly decreased and more than 90 % of the population lives at present under the poverty line (less than 2 dollars a day).
Madagascar also suffers from chronic structural problems, of which a very important lack of infrastructures. The difficulties are considerable. Only 30 % of the population lives in cities, whereas 70 % live in rural areas. Except the urban areas of the country, communities are often isolated and taken away, cut by the insufficient road networks which leave many children and women without access to healthcare of basic health. Saint-Marie does not escape this reality.
The island Saint-Marie (Nosy Boraha in Malagasy) is an attractive tongue of land (60km of length for 5km of width) long and narrow filled with romantic stories. The legends and pirates’ tales are many there. This piece of heaven is known for its authentic and protected character, what makes it one of the tourist places favored for the tourist which venture in Madagascar. Populated 21 000 inhabitants, Saint-Marie consists of small more or less isolated villages. The road infrastructures are very limited because there is only a 30 kilometer tarred road for the whole island. It is particularly difficult to move in certain places, all the more when the rainy season started. Although Nosy Boraha still escapes the effects of the mass tourism, it feels the fatal effects of the economic crisis, which does not stop pushing the country. The fact of being away from the political jolts of the capital allows the inhabitants of saint-Marie to weaken a little the brutality of the realities of the Big Earth.
The wealth of the environment and the local biodiversity is an asset which has to serve as support in programs of community development of the community of the island. The population of the Holy island Marie lives in almost 90 % of the tourism and the fishing on the coral reefs of the island.
Cétamada, which is anchored on the ground for several years and which acquires year by year of the fame, owes propose programs of community development aid for the alternative in the fishing. The conservation of the marine environment is at present more than a necessity especially for an island, as the case of Saint-Marie.
The island Saint-Marie is very known as a place of migration of humpback whales during the southern winter (in June until October), what brings more than 5 000 tourists a year in the region (approximately 50 % of the annual tourism). However, the socioeconomic context is influenced by the very low level of life in Madagascar.
Nevertheless, Cétamada set up economic devices so that the local community is involved in the projects of preservation of humpback whales: opening of a home-made factory of byproducts (ex: baskets it rafia, wooden sculptures) and implementation of a sales network, in particular through hotels. It aroused a real interest for the preservation of humpback whales and an awareness of the existing natural heritage. A tangible improvement of the development of the community was noticed with regard to other coastal regions of Madagascar.
Can you share a project which ended in positive results or which is bearing fruit?
Project of training of the local guides. The association conceived a code of conduct for the responsible and respectful observation of marine mammals (humpback whales, dolphins) in Madagascar. This document allows to popularize an inter-ministerial order dating 2000 fixing rules of observation. In partnership with the Ministry of the Tourism, the association trains every year of the ecovolunteers the role of which is to frame the tourist exits of the partner operators of Cétamada, to collect scientific data and to participate in the community actions of raising awareness.
Is there a current project for which you need a quite particular support?
Project of vocational training center. This vocational training center will be the place where the villagers 17 fokontany = districts, the pupils of the private and public schools, the children of orphanages, piroguiers, women fishermen, the tourist guides can follow vocational trainings in sewing, basketwork, weaving, sculpture, paint, computing, joinery, beekeeping and fish farming. We shall need financial support.
Have you an advice to be given to the people who would like to get involved for the protection of the biodiversity?
The situation of the biodiversity is enough a criticism in spite of there is new discoveries of species every day. Imply the local population – communicate through the supports of raising awareness – raise awareness the communities of the wealth which they possess.
A watchword to be shared?
The animal and vegetable species reflect the health of our environment. By protecting them, we shall protect the future of our children.
Web site of the association
Interview made on the 16th of february 2015.