Ashoka Fellow Al Harris' marine conservation organisation, Blue Ventures, is one of 12 finalists competing for this year's prestigious World Challenge award, an international competition organised by BBC World News and Newsweek magazine to champion projects showing enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level.
The judges selected the finalists from over 800 nominations, recognising Blue Ventures’ work in Madagascar as a powerful demonstration that social enterprise can be an effective engine for developing sustainable conservation initiatives. Projects pioneered by Blue Ventures include the creation of the largest locally-managed marine reserve in the Indian Ocean. This work has guided national fisheries policy, and been adopted as a template for similar projects at national and regional levels.
“As a social enterprise we are driven by our mission to create new and sustainable approaches to financing and implementing conservation initiatives,” said Gildas Andriamalala, Blue Ventures' outreach officer in southern Madagascar. “These initiatives give local people a chance to determine their own future, and our work is helping coastal communities in some of the country’s most deprived areas deal with the challenges of dwindling marine resources.”
Blue Ventures is working in some of Africa’s poorest coastal regions to develop alternative livelihoods for local fishing communities. Their work also seeks to give people the knowledge and power to participate in making decisions on issues that directly impact their futures. As well as creating ambitious protected areas that benefit biodiversity and fisheries, Blue Ventures’ programme portfolio encompasses sustainable aquaculture, family planning, social marketing, and environmental education.
Blue Ventures generates almost all of its conservation funding independently, through volunteer expedition programmes. These programmes support a team of over 50 full time conservationists and staff worldwide. These conservationists are now among the leading authorities for community-based marine and coastal conservation in Madagascar and the western Indian Ocean region.