East-central Madagascar is home to many species found nowhere else on the planet, and to one of the boldest conservation initiatives designed to benefit communities.
Conservation International (CI) is working with the Government of Madagascar, the World Bank and other partners to address deforestation and mitigate climate change, and to create sustainable livelihoods for the citizens of this island nation.
The Andasibe-Mantadia corridor is one of the last remaining places in Madagascar with large areas of native rain forest. A garden of stunning biological diversity, this 405,000-hectare area is host to species of plants and animals that exist nowhere else in the world.
But the ongoing use of slash-and-burn agriculture due to the growing human population’s need for fertile land continues to be a significant threat to the forests and their biodiversity.
IN DEPTH: Conserving forests is vital to protecting species and reversing climate change. Learn about the work we are doing in the Andasibe-Mantadia corridor.
Around the world, the use of fossil fuels like coal and oil drives the modern economy, but scientists and world leaders in government and business now acknowledge that industrialization and global commerce are contributing to climate change, affecting the health and viability of all life on the planet.
At the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain, CI is presenting a program on engaging indigenous people in climate change.
A New Project Brings Hope
Decades of deforestation have left eastern Madagascar with only 8.5 percent of its original forest and isolated the Analamazaotra Special Reserve, which is the most visited protected area in Madagascar.
The ongoing project, employing about 200 local people, involves connecting three forest fragments. The National Association for Environmental Action (ANAE), one of CI’s partners, coordinates the field activities of this unique project, which involves many stakeholders from government officials to local farmers.
ANAE organizes research on forest restoration and sustainable agricultural practices and then trains the members of seven local associations that participate in the project. In addition, the government is working to clarify land ownership issues, which need to be clearly established in carbon trading projects.
The trees planted to restore the forests will absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, providing carbon credits to the project that are sold through carbon markets. Thus international investment in carbon sequestration will provide a source of income for decades, benefiting local communities in the form of local employment and investment in sustainable and more productive agriculture.
LEARN MORE: CI works with people around the world to help protect the environment. Read about some of the communities we've worked with and the progress we've made.
Claude Rakotoarivelo, a local project technician, explained that there are 24 tree nurseries, each capable of producing 20,000 seedlings. When seedlings are ready, they are transplanted into the areas being restored.
By helping to recreate the corridor, local communities not only protect Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity, but they also benefit from the sale of carbon dioxide absorbed by the forests of Andasibe-Mantadia.
Dr. Daniela Raik, CI’s natural resource management adviser, said the project has been a success even though “we’ve met with challenges of all sorts.” She says that residents “have even donated land of their own, to be planted with native plant species.”
One challenge was to ensure the viability and sustainability of agriculture.
“At first the people were reluctant because they wonder where they can plant their crops,” says project adviser Baoarilala Ramavalisoa. “But with the [project] demonstration sites, they see it’s possible to do companion planting, where you can plant forest trees as well as rice and corn.”
“I believe that planting trees will improve the forest and improve people’s lives,” predicts tree nursery technician Jules Randrianatoandro.
As for understanding the problems brought by climate change, residents have been quick to grasp the effects of global warming.
“We are talking in terms that are relevant to their lives,” Raik says. “As far as climate change, they understand how the forest relates to rainfall. When the forest is intact, there is a healthy, reliable cycle of rainfall – they really feel connected to this.”
“Cyclones cause erosion,” explains Joseph Andrianjaka, deputy mayor of Andasibe. “That’s why restoration is important.”
Some of the benefits of the project cannot be measured in economics. One local resident says simply, ““I am happy with the project because it will help bring back things I saw as a child.”
READ MORE: The Sweet Smell of Success. Discover one community's choice to protect the forest.