The remote rural communities of Sakalava ethnicity living within Nosy Hara Marine Park are among the poorest in Madagascar and the logistical barriers that prevent easy access to the site have led to their general exclusion from national development programmes. Social inclusion is a key factor for the success of our program. Social exclusion has contributed to the underperformance of programs that offered livelihood improvement opportunities in exchange for environmental stewardship. The majority of community members are completely reliant on a subsistence lifestyle, making them extremely vulnerable to environmental change and shocks to natural resource availability. Inclusion will be possible through this project by creating access to microfinance and thus the potential of significantly improved livelihoods.
Women in developing countries are commonly marginalized and often not adequately considered in mainstream development projects. At our rural project sites, both men and women play different productive, economic and social roles. There are gender differences in resource use patterns, access to land, natural resources, equipment, labour, capital, outside income, and education, and in the control of these resources. Participation of women in natural resource use is rarely fully acknowledged and tends to receive little, if any, economic remuneration. By focusing on women’s cooperatives, providing training and access to markets, women will be fully empowered to generate income for their communities and therefore socially included. Women are often involved in multiple activities (such as combining aquaculture with vegetable gardens or fish- smoking), whereas men’s work is often clearly focused on one set of inter-related activities. Thus women are more likely to accept and develop alternative sources of income. Increased access to healthcare facilitated by this project will significantly affect the perception of women’s role in society and promote their inclusion in the long-term future in decision making processes. The project offers benefits for women but this will not cause concern amongst men because their activities will continue to be of critical importance to the community. Our approach to both social and gender inclusion is innovative because the system is voluntary but linked to individual performance. This means it is accessible to all and anyone committing to ensuring performance targets are met will reap the rewards thereby providing everyone the opportunity to remove social and gender barriers.