Conservation without the integration of the daily life of the local population will not work. Alternatives livelihoods are essential to help make conservation work. We not only promote alternative sources of income, but we also seek the benefit of improving management strategies of existing livelihoods. We maintain and continue to expand a strong network of partners to market the products coming out of these alternative jobs (e.g. selling honey and artisanal woven products to nearby hotels).

Alternative livelihoods provide an alternative source of income to reduce human pressure on the mangrove forest for communities with a strong dependence on forest wood and animal resources. Instead of focusing on one or two potential alternative livelihoods, Honko works to promote a variety of options for groups, families, and individuals to promote resilience and find livelihoods that are a good match for different environmental and cultural contexts. Honko’s projects include:

Apiculture (beekeeping)
In addition to running several hives at Honko’s base in Ambondrolava, Honko has trained multiple community members who now own and continue to maintain hives in their own households. Honko has developed strong partnerships with nearby hotels and NGOs that show great demand for mangrove honey, providing a secure market for this alternative livelihood. First using the Langstroth hive model, in 2014 Honko has started experimenting with the Kenyan top bar hive due to its significantly lower cost and easy replicability.

Tilapia farming
Honko has experimented for many years with village-based tilapia farming as another alternative livelihood, with support from WWF, to reduce fishing pressures in the mangrove. Despite setbacks with the 2013 cyclone, Honko continues to test the feasibility of this activity through a research-based approach with technical support from the University of Tulear’s Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines (IH.SM) and financial support from Fonds Regional pour le Developpement Agricole (FRDA). This project will train four community members in farming techniques, with hopes to expand to other villages in the future.

Artisanal products
Since 2010 Honko has supported and trained the women’s association of Mamelo Honko in reed-weaving techniques using a locally-available reed (lesser cattail, locally known as vondro), normally collected in large amounts and sold at a market-bottom price, to produce colorful, high quality artisanal products. By using this reed to weave products to be sold, earning a larger profit, the women effectively increase the value of the reeds and lessen human pressure on both the reed wetland and the mangrove forest. Honko continues to support training on new techniques to help the women sell their products to passing tourists through their roadside shop, helping their business reach self-sustainability in the near future. Learn more about the women’s association under Conservation Capacity.

Honko’s ecotourism program, boasting 1km of boardwalk through the mangrove and two additional off-boardwalk circuits, currently supports two local guides that have been trained in mangrove ecology and leading tours to international visitors. This program helps spread the word on mangrove conservation to visitors from all over the world and shine a light on the problems they are facing worldwide, all while supporting local livelihoods. Honko’s local guides have also begun training in bird identification and leading birding tours to attract birdwatchers that are already frequent visitors to the nearby spiny dry forest. (Learn how to visit us here!)

The ecotourism program is continuously expanding, with over 60% increase in number of visitors from 2013 to 2014.

Alternative fuel wood
Mangrove-dependent community rely greatly on mangrove wood not only for construction, but also for fuel wood (firewood and charcoal). Honko’s new alternative fuel wood initiative, with primary support from the Phoenix Zoo, aims to promote alternative, community-managed sources of fuel wood near villages and reduce overall fuel wood consumption through fuel efficient cooking stoves (produced locally by the Association pour le Développement de l’Energie Solaire Suisse – Madagascar; ADES). The expected outcomes are reduced human impacts on the mangrove forest at a local level, reduced overall demand for fuel wood (natural or planted), and increased awareness of the health and environmental impacts of fuel wood consumption. 

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Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education - Ambondrolava, Tulear (601), Madagascar
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