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Project on crayfish market of Miarinavaratra
WWF, the global conservation organisation, is –amongst many other places in Madagascar- active in the Fandriana-Marolambo forest. This forest is rapidly disappearing because of the need of natural resources by local communities. Therefore, WWF has set up a project called ‘Fandriana-Marolambo forest landscape restoration’, which focuses on the causes of forest degradation and possible restoration strategies in partnership with local authorities and communities.
WWF gave me the opportunity to participate in a part of this project. Together with Moira Hough (US), I was working on a project focusing on the crayfish market of Miarinavaratra, a commune within the Fandriana district. This project was set up because of concerns about a drop in crayfish numbers.
Especially during summer when crayfish are more abundant, crayfish are an important part of the Malagasy diet. Almost all crayfish for consumption in Miarinavaratra, are caught in high numbers in the Fandriana-Marolambo forest. They are sold locally, and/or exported to the capital Antananarivo where good money is being paid for large specimens. Crayfish are highly dependant on a healthy state of their forested habitat, but due to habitat loss, the population seems to diminish.
WWF is concerned that a drop in crayfish numbers may lead to a population that is too small to sustain itself, which will have catastrophic effects on the existence of the crayfish species. This means that in the future, crayfish may not be available as a food source for the local community. Moreover, the loss of a species within the forest ecology will lead to a whole cascade of ecological changes.
Our work involved mainly doing surveys among people from local communities, to examine changes over time in the crayfish population size, and looking for signs of over fishing. Additionally we spent some time in the forest to become acquainted with the fishing methods used.
Together with WWF-agent Heritiana Rakotomalala, Moira and I visited eight local villages to raise awareness of nature conservation by giving presentations. We were warmly welcomed: we were offered a chicken, or invited to a reburial as a way of thanks or appreciation. This was a unique experience and I feel very honoured to have visited these villages, and to have met these wonderful people.