The sea ripples with shallow turquoise waters, split as far as the eye can see by tapered pirogues loaded with fishermen.
Welcome to Toliara – formerly Tulear – the coastal capital of southwest Madagascar and one of the most prominent import/export hubs in the country. Here, artisanal fishing has been practiced since the dawn of time. This is the region of the Vézos, where the people are better known as “nomads of the sea” because they used to roam the entire coastline – hemmed in by one of the world’s largest coral reefs – but now they have largely settled around Toliara.
Jule Naharesy is a fisherman from a nearby village. Assuming his responsibilities with utmost seriousness, Jule runs one of the many landing stages built in the region’s small fishing ports since 2005, thanks to the African Development Fund, which financed the $33 million Tulear Fishing Community Support Project (PACP).
Until a few years ago, Jule would work tirelessly from dawn to dusk, fishing and then trying to sell his catch, only to have to salt and process what he hadn’t sold at the end of the day—an additional cost and labor he simply couldn’t afford. His net income was severely compromised. “Before, in order to store the unsold program had to salt, dry or smoke them but the price would be lower than if they were still fresh,” says Jule.
Fishing makes up about 7% of Madagascar’s economy, supports over half a million jobs, and plays a crucial role in many rural areas. While marginal, these figures are collectively significant in a country reeling from a deep recession with a 7.1% contraction of real GDP in 2020, due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a national poverty rate of 77.4% as of 2020.
Thanks to the roll-out of the African Development Fund’s, PACP program, the Government of Madagascar has been able to provide fishing equipment, build fishing docks, build ice machines at the ports, offered micro-loans and trained rural fishermen wanting to build or grow their businesses, and provided technical training for the project managers.
The struggle of preserving the day’s catch is over now. The village’s fishermen can now keep their catch cool and therefore get a better price for it. ” If we did not have the landing dock here, we would not be able to store our products. So, the existence of the landing dock with ice-making machine has been very helpful. Most people here have become fish merchants,” says Jule, who, thanks to the training he received through the program, is making a better living with less effort.
Today, with the additional income he generates from his now expanded business, Jule is able to give back in his own selfless way. With a smile on his face, he says, “I used the profits that I got from the sale of ice blocks and fish products to clean our community well. The profit is not only improving my life, but that of the whole community as well.”