Conserving Aquaculture to safeguard Food Security in Madagascar

Caption: Ramahefalala Ravo Sedera oversees the on-boarding process of fishery observers aboard all fishing vessels operating in the Malagasy waters.

Fish is the preferred source of protein for close to 400 million people in Africa alone. While the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts an increase in the world’s fish consumption by about 19 per cent, representing 29 million tonnes by 2026 compared with the base period (average 2014-2016), it predicts a declining intake in Africa, where population growth is expected to outstrip its fish supply. A separate report by World Fish Centre projected that Africa will require 2.6 million tons a year to feed an estimated 1.7 billion people, by 2030. The evidence highlights that there is an urgent need to protect this highly depended on resource, especially in regions where livestock is relatively scarce.

In Madagascar, aquaculture occupies a significant place. Despite poorly recorded statistics, available data suggest that fisheries account for around 3% of Madagascar’s GDP, with other studies suggesting that underreporting on fish is as much as 500%, over the past five decades. Over the years, aquaculture has grown the country’s economy and played a significant part in improving the income of smallholder fish farmers and making fish available on local markets. It has also created job opportunities with conservative figures indicating over 100,000 people employed.

Ramahefalala Ravo Sedera, a native Malagasy, believes that he has an integral role to play in the conservation of aquaculture for the sake of future generations. For the last ten years, Ravo has been working with the Madagascar Fisheries Monitoring Centre, a government agency tasked with monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities in the country’s jurisdiction. He oversees the on-boarding process of fishery observers aboard all fishing vessels operating in the Malagasy waters. Ravo was promoted to this role after graduating with a Masters in Maritime Policy from the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, in 2016 and returning to his home country.

Armed with new knowledge, Ravo went back to Madagascar ready to contribute to sustainable development in his field of work. He was moved by how small-holder fishing communities used destructive industrial fishing vessels and employed unsustainable practices thus undermining the vulnerable ecosystems on which the country heavily relies on for foreign exchange.

Before 2016, the fisheries industry in Madagascar was governed by a plethora of decrees and orders, leading to a significant decline in the number of investors and fishers investing in the industry. However, nine years of intense deliberations and hard work culminated in the enactment of new legislation – Fisheries Act 2016. This law became the primary instrument that regulates how the fisheries industry operated in the country and symbolised new dawn for aquaculture in the country.

As a result of his award-gained training, his review of laws from other jurisdictions, and his experience from working at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources, Ravo has gained an additional leadership responsibility. He is currently leading a team that is reviewing the country’s Fisheries law. Together with his team, they are working to ensure that the enacted legislation is harmonised with international code and practise.

Ravo asserts, ‘Our challenge was to offer a regulated playing field which would boost national and foreign investment in fisheries, and in turn contribute to the country`s development.’ As a result, the Fisheries Act 2016, which guarantees food security by emphasising the need to preserve fish as a natural resource, needs to be aligned with accepted international rules and practices, bearing substantial economic benefits for the country. It will also attract investors to finance business in Madagascar, and at the same time, combat illegal fishing while guaranteeing the greater sustainability of our resource,” he says.

In addition to developing a regulatory environment that is conducive to safeguarding aquaculture in Madagascar, there is need to increase awareness on the vital part that oceans and inland waters play in providing food and nutrition security as well as employment for current and future generations. This awareness raising will enhance the opportunities for aquaculture to grow significantly, improve smallholder fish farmers income and avail fish for local markets.

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