Read Part One: Madagascar’s Forest Gem Works for People
Waking up to the call of the indri in Andasibe is reassurance that the forest is thriving. An ambitious project involving Conservation International (CI) and partners will ensure that local communities benefit as well.
During a recent trip to Andasibe, I visited several of the 24 nurseries involved in the regeneration of part of a large forest corridor in east-central Madagascar.
The project goes by the name TAMS, an acronym in Malagasy meaning “Bringing Back the Forest.” The goals are the restoration of natural forest of about 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres), the promotion of agroforestry and other sustainable agricultural alternatives in the buffer zones around the restoration areas (about another 2,000 hectares/5,000 acres) and increased carbon sequestration through the replanting.
LEARN MORE: Find out all about CI's work in Madagascar.
One of the seven groups taking part in the TAMS project is Association Mitsinjo, a local NGO that evolved out of community projects.
“We are integrating conservation with ecotourism, local development, sustainable agriculture and health,” said Mitsinjo director Rainer Dolch. The name of the association translates to “preparing for the future.”
Seeding for the Future
The future is now. Mitsinjo alone has five nurseries producing about 100,000 seedlings annually. These seedlings come from about 120 different species of native trees.
The goal this year is to plant about 200 hectares (500 acres), or about 200,000 trees. There are 70 people working as planters recruited from local community and another 15 working in the nurseries.
“We are already one of the bigger employers in the region and that in itself is an asset for local communities,” says Dolch. “The replanting jobs are good jobs, in the upper range of what people in similar jobs in the region, and better paying than if they were logging or making charcoal.”
Andasibe sits on a main road and a railway that connects Antananarivo, the capital, with the port city of Toamasina. The location creates pressure on the region because timber and charcoal can easily be extracted.
Logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have shrunk this particular forest corridor and perhaps its thinnest point is at Andasibe.
IN PHOTOS: Discover Andasibe, Madagascar
CI directly financed the preparatory phase of the project. Now much of the funding comes from the World Bank, with CI providing technical and supervisory support.
CI’s Jeannicq Randrianarisoa says the two major issues facing local communities are land insecurity and food insecurity. Traditionally, land ownership was established through tavy – or slash-and-burn agriculture. Thus, clearing the land by fire was an accepted ownership technique.
CI and its partners are working to establish a more legal and less destructive way of establishing land tenure and ownership. The replanting is aimed at providing jobs and food for residents.
Carbon Credits for the Community
The TAMS project also results in carbon being sequestrated via the fixation of carbon dioxide by the photosynthesis of the plants. “The carbon credits that we generate by sequestration are actually sold under the mechanism of the Kyoto protocol,” says Dolch.
The project is one of the first of its kind. Randrianarisoa says the 3,000 hectares are projected to produce about one million tons of carbon credits, or about $1 million in revenue.
Says Dolch: “This brings in a whole new dimension of income generating for the local population. The money that is generated by the carbon sequestration is used to implement project activities that benefit the local population through agroforestry and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods.”
READ MORE: In Madagascar, Pioneering a New Model
TAMS helps sequester carbon and mitigate climate change. “Once greenhouse gases are emitted, the impact is everywhere,” says Randrianarisoa. “The efforts we are making in Madagascar are having an effect all over the world.”
“This carbon project didn’t exist until a few years ago and all of a sudden we have a potential mechanism for really increasing dramatically the value of the standing forest and the areas that need to be reforested,” says CI President Russ Mittermeier.
“Every piece of remaining forest in Madagascar, arguably the highest priority hotspot on the planet, is important. So these community associations, for which Mitsinjo is a model, are demonstrating that this is an income generating alternative to merely having federal protection of land.”
As I leave the nurseries, I wonder aloud what may happen when the planting is completed.
“There is a risk, of course, that after there is no work in the nurseries that the people in the area will go back to their destructive activities,” concedes Dolch.
“That’s why the sustainable livelihoods activities are so crucial. With the money that is generated by carbon credits we are able to finance activities that provide sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture.”
One promising alternative is ecotourism.
Read Part Three: Ecotourism Drives Conservation