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Velondriake Community MPA

Case Authors

Kate Crosman, Jennifer Lee Johnson, Amanda Barker, Julia Wondolleck and Steven Yaffee, Univ. of Mich.


The Velondriake Community Protected Area is a large network of marine and terrestrial protected areas along the southwest coast of Madagascar.

It was developed through the efforts of several non-governmental organizations working closely with local community members and building on traditional community values.

Management efforts focus on octopus, a commercially-important and fast-growing species. The initiative began as a temporary octopus fishing closure in one village. After seeing positive results, 22 other villages in the area eventually embraced the no-take zone and protected area concepts.

NGOs largely provide technical assistance with a goal of eventually having villages independently monitor and manage the marine resources. To provide an institutional structure, the villages formed a community-based association to oversee and enforce regulations and management.

The Velondriake initiative has become a model that was embraced by other villages along the Madagascar coast. As of 2010, more than 50 additional villages have instituted more than 100 fishery closures.


MEBM Attributes

  • Collaboration: Local communities set rules and regulations through a participatory management structure.


Mission and Primary Objectives


The Velondriake Community Protected Area works to achieve the following goals:

  • To promote sustainable fisheries management.
  • To develop strategies for nature conservation.
  • To promote economic development.
  • To improve solidarity and communications between local communities.
  • To develop regional environmental education initiatives.
  • To promote long-term sustainable resource use for future generations.
  • To develop regional capacity for ecotourism.


Key Parties

Lead Organizations

  • Blue Ventures
  • Wildlife Conservation Society

Key Parties

  • World Wildlife Fund Madagascar
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • COPEFRITO SA, primarily octopus buyer
  • Institut Halieuteque et des Sciences Marines at the University of Toliara


Program Structure

Velondriake Association

In 2006, the participants formed the Velondriake Association, a formalized, community-based organization responsible for enforcing local law and overseeing administration of the marine protected areas.

The Velondriake Association includes:

  • General Assembly: Community representatives of each of the 23 participating villages serve on the General Assembly, which defines the effort’s management plan and budget. The representatives are village elders or serve at the pleasure of village elders. They bring concerns from the village to the attention of the Velondriake Association and explain management actions to their communities. The general assembly elects members to three regional subcommittees, which implement management decisions. It also elects a central management committee that creates work plans and manages at a broad scale.
  • Executive Committee: The Executive Committee includes members of local governments, members of the central management committee, and representatives of the two NGOs, Blue Ventures and Wildlife Conservation Society.

NGO Role

NGOs provide advice and funding. Blue Ventures works with Velondriake under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding. It provides technical advice and supports scientific surveys, among other tasks. Eighty percent of the funding for Velondriake comes from an arm of Blue Ventures. Other funding comes from private funders, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, and foundations.


Motivations for Initiating Effort

In the early 2000s, the octopus fisheries in southwestern Madagascar began being exploited more intensively. An export market had developed. After a French company opened a new industrial processing plan, exports of squid and octopus doubled.

Meanwhile, the local population had increased and inland food production suffered. In response, domestic demand for octopus and seafood spiked.

In addition, the reef ecosystem that supported octopus showed signs of stress from agricultural run-off and coral bleaching.

As catches began to decline, several NGOs that were already on-site began strategizing on how best to protect the reef ecosystem. Two NGOs, UK-based ecotourism operator Blue Ventures and the Wildlife Conservation Society, facilitated an experimental, seven-month no-take zone for octopus with the village of Andavadoaka. The site was chosen by village leaders and the closure took place in 2004. When the conservation measures expired, villagers noticed that catches of octopus had increased and the mean size of octopus was larger.

The next year, in 2005, the closure was repeated and expanded to two additional sites. More villages became involved. By 2006, four groupings of villages had chosen sites and established permanent fin fish reserves, permanent and temporary mangrove no-take zones, and temporary octopus no-take zones.

At large-scale community meetings, villagers codified regulations and governance structures.

As of 2010, Velondriake had expanded to include fishing territories accessed by 25 villages.


Ecosystem Characteristics and Threats

The Ecosystem

The Velondriake Community Protected Area encompasses more than 800 square kilometers of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove and baobab forests in southwestern Madagascar, an area of high biodiversity and species endemism. More than 70 percent of Madagascan species are endemic.

Velondriake is home to 160 species of coral, 400 species of reef fish, and 240 species of mollusks. Dolphins, sea turtles and migratory whales also appear in the reserve.

The coral reefs of Velondriake include the northern end of the Grand Recif of Toliara, the third largest continuous reef system in the world. Velondriake’s mangrove forests provide key nursery and breeding habitat for fish, crustaceans and birds. They also shelter coastal communities from storm surges and mitigate erosion.


The Velondriake ecosystem faces threats that include:

  • Climate change: Rising water temperatures harm coral reefs and degrade habitat.
  • Agricultural and timber run-off: Run-off flushes pollutants and sediments from the land into the sea, degrading water quality and damaging coral reefs.
  • Fishing: Changes in the domestic and export markets increased demand for octopus, making fishing more profitable and putting significant pressure on the ecosystem.


Major Strategies

Community-Defined No-Take Zones

Velondriake makes use of an extensive system of permanent and seasonal no-take zones. The zones are defined by the participating villages and are the product of extensive discussions among village members. Each village creates a plan that is presented to the participating NGOs, which provide advice. Rules for the zones build on traditional legal and enforcement practices.

Alternative Livelihoods

The Velondriake Association is exploring the creation of alternative livelihoods for villagers, such as sea cumber and seaweed farming. Ecotourism also is an area of interest, primarily facilitated through Blue Ventures, which attracts young European travelers. The NGO trains local guides and provides some instruction in language and public relations skills. It is also developing a locally-owned eco-lodge.


Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation

Ecological and socio-economic monitoring of marine protected areas is conducted by Blue Ventures and villagers. Monitoring plans are developed with each community. Education and training are given to participating villagers. Ecological data is collected to establish baselines for long-term monitoring. Community members carry out ecological surveys. Monthly data is collected on octopus and fish landings. Other efforts involve monitoring village members’ attitudes of the marine protected areas.


Ecological Improvements

Stocks of commercially-important species, particularly octopus, have increased in the management area. Other species, however, remain vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, such as Napoleon Wrasse.

Increased Awareness and Concern

Villagers show increased awareness and concern for the ecosystem. Prior to the initiative, local villagers felt victimized by forces they believed were outside their control when their catches declined. Now, they can choose and enact management practices that contribute to their own success, providing a greater sense of stewardship over the marine resources.

Creation of a Community-Based Organization

The Velondriake Association is considered a legitimate community-based organization. It is grounded in villagers’ ownership of the process. It enables both top-down and bottom-up communication and could facilitate future initiatives.

Creation of a Model

The Velondriake initiative serves as a model for fisheries conservation in Madagscar. Other villages outside of the area are adopting the Velonriake approach. By 2010, in fact, more than 50 villages elsewhere along the coast had implemented more than 100 fishery closures.


Factors Facilitating Progress

The Velondriake Community Protected Area has been facilitated by the following factors:

  • Strong, Motivated Leaders Legitimized by Traditional Structures: Andavadoaka village president Roger Samba served as the key local facilitator. Educated and charismatic, he maintained extensive community networks and strong local legitimacy. He proved willing to take a risk and support the creation of the initiative.
  • Bridging Organizations Embedded in Local Context: Two NGOs that were already working in Madagascar provided the necessary bridges to local and national power structures. Wildlife Conservation Society acted as a bridge between stakeholder groups. WCS established relationships with local leaders to facilitate collaboration, smooth misunderstandings and provide invaluable input into the initiative. In addition, since 2005, WCS marine scientists have worked in Andavadoaka. They also served as on-the-ground liaisons between Blue Ventures and local residents. Secondly, World Wildlife Fund provided a bridge between the Velondriake initiative and the national government of Madagascar. WWF also worked with the national government to identify sites for new marine protected areas as part of a national goal for an expanded network.



The Velondriake Community Protected Area has encountered the following challenges:

  • Migration and Commercial Fishing: The community-based management approach faced difficulties from migratory commercial fishermen, who have more advanced gear and are more mobile than the artisanal fishers in the villages. The migratory commercial fishermen are less invested in the initiatives.
  • Limits of Traditional Power Structures: Local community-based legal systems work best on a smaller scale. Enforcing local law is more difficult in larger villages with greater levels of immigration. Because the traditional power structures also rely on face-to-face contact of village leaders, scaling up the Velondriake initiative to encompass multiple villages tests the capabilities of local leaders.
  • Logistics of a Remote Area: Many villages lack phone or radio coverage. Some can be reached only by sea. The Velondriake Association is participatory; meetings need to be arranged in advance to allow enough time for invitations to reach village leaders and for them to respond and travel to the meeting location. The Velondriake Association, for instance, scaled back its meetings to every six or eight weeks because village leaders found it too difficult to travel for monthly meetings.
  • Divergent Interests of the Villages and NGO Community: Divergent views of the initiative could strain collaboration between the villages and the NGO community. Villagers view the fishing restrictions as a way to protect the commercially-important species of octopus. The NGOs, on the other hand, view the closures as a means to protect and restore ecosystem integrity. Other questions about the initiative remain unanswered, such as when and how the NGOs can withdraw their involvement, and how the initiative can be recognized within a national structure.


Website Links

Blue Ventures:

Wildlife Conservation Society:

World Wildlife Fund: