This article was written by Malavika Vyawahare and published on the 18 November 2020 in Mongabay. Malavika describes the work undertaken by a community association to improve the health of the ecosystem of a wetland. The organization won the Equator Prize in the category “Nature for Water.”
- A community association charged with managing Lake Andranobe in central Madagascar has won this year’s Equator Prize from the UNDP in the category “Nature for Water.”
- The association’s efforts, including implementing fishery closures, regulating water use, and reforestation, have led to increased fish catches and helped revive the lake ecosystem.
- As in the rest of the world, Madagascar’s wetlands are often overlooked in conservation priorities, despite the fact that freshwater species are even more threatened than terrestrial or marine biodiversity.
- The prize highlights the benefits of community-driven management, which often works better than initiatives undertaken by outsiders but also carries considerable challenges.
For centuries, Lake Andranobe in Madagascar’s central highlands has nourished the surrounding communities.
Over the past 16 years, its dependents have come together to restore the ailing lake. Now, that community-led initiative, the organization Tatamo Miray an’Andranobe (TAMIA), has won the United Nations Development Programme’s Equator Prize this year in the “Nature for Water” category.
“I am happy that the efforts of the community have been recognized,” Henri Rakotoson, a fisher and president of TAMIA, said about the award. “The prize gives us hope to go on.”
While the accolade has buoyed villagers, what has sustained their campaign are rewards from the lake itself. Fish catches more than doubled, from 8 tons in 2014 to 20 tons in 2019, according to data TAMIA collected. That has allowed Rakotoson, like many in nearby villages, to send their children to bigger towns for higher education. “One of my sons is pursuing a degree in environmental studies,” the 48-year-old told Mongabay.
Anchoring the future hasn’t been easy.
When the association was formed in 2004, Lake Andranobe was in dire straits. Fish stocks were falling, the lake’s watershed had shrunk dramatically, and vanishing green cover meant water levels never recovered.
“Madagascar’s wetlands support an incredible biodiversity,” said Tomos Avent, head of international programs at the U.K.-based Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), adding that they are disappearing faster than the country’s vaunted forests. Since 1960, more than half of the wetlands dotting the island’s expansive high plateau have vanished.
A wetland is not just a lake;
it is any ecosystem where water dominates and defines the landscape, including mangroves, marshes, and river deltas. These are vital and accessible stores of the Earth’s freshwater, most of which is locked away in remote ice sheets.
Globally, biodiversity is declining in freshwater ecosystems faster than in oceans or forests; an estimated one in three freshwater species is at risk of disappearing, WWF’s 2020 Living Planet Report warns. Over the past century, two out of every three wetlands have ceased to exist, cleared and filled in for farmlands, industrial zones and cities.
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