Sakatia Island (ICCA), Madagascar

Two endangered species of sea turtle live in the waters around Sakatia Island, Madagascar. Credit: Jax137.

By Bakoliarimisa Tsiorisoa Mihanta, TAFO MIHAAVO, Madagascar

Among the 14 emblematic ICCAs in Madagascar, Sakatia Island’s Fokonolona (local community) territory of life covers 1,230 hectares and includes the Ambohibe forest reserve (12.4 ha), the Andranomatavy mangroves (10.5 ha), sandy beaches (7.2 ha) and a traditional fishing zone of 110 ha where two protected species of sea turtles live (Chelonia mydas and Eretmochelys imbricata are respectively endangered and critically endangered species, according to the IUCN Red List).

The first inhabitants arrived on Sakatia Island in 1883 and it is now home to 1,452 people, including eight ethnic groups (Sakalava Antakarana, Sakalava Boina, Antandroy, Mahafaly, Antanosy, Antemoro, Betsileo and Merina), and a small group of Europeans. The main sources of livelihoods are tourism, handicrafts, farming and fishing.

The island’s marine and coastal ecosystem is sustainably managed, conserved and governed by means of traditional rules called Dina, which have been developed over time and are overseen by customary institutions. The latter involve a traditional leader, a customary leader and a king of the island, and these are recognised and supported by the municipal and national governments. A community-based organisation was set up in 1995, and in 1998 it was given legal responsibility for natural resource management. The management transfer contract, which was signed by the communal municipality, the community-based organisation, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Ministry of Fisheries Resources and Fishing, is based on Dina rules.

Local culture plays a major role in strict forest conservation at Ambohibe, which is a sacred forest (ala fady). Likewise, the mangroves in Andranomatavy are protected from unsustainable exploitation. Customary rights to collect medicinal plants in the forests and mangroves are granted by traditional community and legal institutions. In July 2018, seagrass was planted and marker buoys were put in place to delimit turtle zones and prevent the decline of the two sea turtle species. The community is also working to control invasive bamboos, and to address the threat posed by a proposed new hostel, which is planned in a turtle spawning area that is part of a sacred site.

Sakatia Island is part of the TAFO MIHAAVO network, a national network of local communities managing natural resources. The network is expanding and seeking to collaborate in the establishment of national enabling policies, legal instruments and mechanisms. During 2019, TAFO MIHAAVO and MIHARI (Madagascar Locally Managed Marine Area Network) teamed up to secure indigenous and community areas nationally, through the full recognition of community rights to land and community-managed marine areas. There is currently a government initiative to develop a legislative framework on special status areas, including on areas subject to community land rights, and this offers an important opportunity.

A clear message coming out of the collaboration in Madagascar is the need to recognise all forms of community-based natural resource management, including the underpinning structures, rules and customary practices which have enabled local communities to manage the resources on their lands sustainably for generations. This recognition must consider, at least, two inseparable aspects: first, the need for recognition of ICCAs as well defined physical territories, over which legal status must be secure; and second, the maintenance and recognition of customary natural resource governance systems.

Climate change and food sovereignty in the Arctic

Drying salmon in Alaska, an activity impacted by changing weather conditions that are now not aligning with traditional harvesting times. Credit: Karen Kasmauski.

Inuit Circumpolar Council – Alaska [i]

The Inuit Circumpolar Council office in Alaska has facilitated a project that explores what impedes or supports Inuit food sovereignty and self-governance. In 2019, as part of this work, 24 Inuit indigenous knowledge holders gathered for a workshop exploring food sovereignty and self-governance in the Arctic. Throughout the discussion, participants underlined how the increasingly unpredictable weather patterns are affecting hunting and harvesting, and the challenges arising from regulations that are not adapting to the changes that are occurring.

Weather conditions are not aligning with traditional harvesting times. For example, it is important to harvest salmon when the weather is conducive to drying the meat and before flies arrive. The recent increase in precipitation during a time once known to be dry is requiring people to adapt to the time of harvesting. In other cases, people chose not to harvest because it was not possible to process the catch without waste. For example, in one community a decision was made not to harvest beluga because the animal could not be processed fast enough in the high temperatures.

Participants also shared their experiences of decreasing accessibility of food sources due to climate change: in one year, four Alaska communities declared harvest disasters because they were unable to access walrus due to sea ice conditions. For other community representatives, access to food has decreased due to erosion (unable to access or loss of hunting camps; loss of ground; and relocation), late ice freeze-up, early ice break-up, change in movement of ice, and unsafe weather conditions.

Participants noted that even with the change it is important to understand that animals have cycles (considering abundance, movement, etc.). As one participant shared, “Some years, we had pretty good season. And some years, look like everything is gone.” Other participants noted the importance of understanding and using our knowledge and rules. For example, when animals offer themselves and they are not taken, their numbers will decrease. Or when animals are disrespected, they will not offer themselves.

Throughout the meeting, participants stressed the need for involvement of indigenous knowledge and stronger co-management structures to have a holistic and adaptive response to the changes that are occurring.

[i] Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska (2019) Food sovereignty and self governance – Inuit role in managing Arctic Marine resources. Anchorage: Inuit Circumpolar Council Alaska.


Finding alternative uses for invasive species: the water hyacinth in Benin

Clearing water hyacinth from the lake. Credit: © Sébastien Roux/Reporterre.

Patrice Sagbo, Actions pour le Développement Durable, Benin

Native to South America, the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) has caused problems for local lake communities and the environment across East Africa. In Benin, it makes travel by canoe difficult, and affects the livelihoods of local fishing communities.

In recent years, local communities—especially women—have managed this invasive species by harvesting it for use as compost and crafts material. Longer leaves are washed and dried, before being woven into bags, rugs, hats and other objects which are then sold. The remainder of the plant is then combined with manure and sand and left to develop into a rich compost, which is eventually used to support agriculture, or sold.

Relational values with nature: the Jalai Daya in Kalimantan, Indonesia

John Bamba[i]

Among the Jalai Daya in Kalimantan, Indonesia, an ideal life can be achieved through living in accordance with the following cultural values:

  • Sustainability (biodiversity) versus productivity (monoculture)
  • Collectivity (co-operation) versus individuality (competition)
  • Naturality (organic) versus engineered (inorganic)
  • Spirituality (rituality) versus rationality (scientific)
  • Process (effectiveness) versus result (efficiency)
  • Subsistence (domesticity) versus commerciality (market)
  • Customary law (locality) versus state law (global).

Failure to achieve these ideals is believed to result in barau (a situation when nature fails to function normally, resulting in chaos). Barau comes about as a result of transgression of adat (customary practice), when the relationship with nature is broken.

[i] For further information on this case, please see: Bamba, J. (2003). ‘“Seven Fortunes vs. Seven Calamities:” Cultural Poverty from an Indigenous Perspective’. In Indigenous Affairs 1/03 – Indigenous Poverty: An issue of rights and needs. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.