Download FOCUS Issue 23: “To Live With the Sea: Reproductive Health Care and Marine Conservation in Madagascar,” from the Wilson Center.
Christine does not know how old she is. She has 16 children and lives on a remote island off the southwestern coast of Madagascar. She and her children, like other members of the Vezo ethnic group, depend entirely on the ocean for their survival. Her husband, a fisherman, struggles to catch enough to feed his family.
In this isolated area, most girls have their first child before the age of 18, and families with 10 children or more are commonplace. But since the marine conservation NGO Blue Ventures launched a family planning program in 2007, couples and women like Christine are able to make their own reproductive health choices.
Blue Ventures’ Vik Mohan, Rebecca Hill, and Alasdair Harris argue that their integrated approach, which combines reproductive health care and education with conservation and alternative livelihoods, offers these communities – and the marine environment on which they depend – the best possible chances of survival.