In less than a hundred years the forest cover of Madagascar, one of the world’s most important hotspots of biodiversity, has fallen dramatically. The remaining forests serve as the last local and regional refuge for numerous species and represent important natural resources for the local communities. These forests have become extremely fragmented, which makes them very sensitive to human pressure and the impacts of climate change.
Due to poverty and high population growth, lack of fertile land and water, political instability, as well as difficult climate conditions it is a daily challenge for the people to get a decent income in the rural areas. Often the only way to sustain a livelihood is to get it from the forest. Loss of forest is, however, causing increasing problems with e.g. access to clean water and resilience to extreme weather conditions. Thus, it has become increasingly acknowledged that preserving forests is one important piece of the puzzle in efforts of reducing absolute poverty and supporting sustainable livelihoods.
Project Manondroala – Protection, restoration and monitoring of forests in Madagascar
Project Manondroala was commenced in 2012. The main goal of the project is to collect new information on the state of forests in Madagascar and help the local people in protecting and restoring their extremely valuable forests. The protected forests are located in Eastern Madagascar.
The project has two main goals:
- supporting the reforestation of a degraded corridor between two patches of natural forest
- creating a forest monitoring system that enables the monitoring of the protected forests
In the core of the project are the cooperation and open information sharing between all local as well as national organizations in Madagascar wanting to protect their last remaining forest fragments.
Restoring the fragmented and degraded landscape
The reforestation part of the project is coordinated and planned entirely by the local environmental organization Mitsinjo. Their method has proved to be successful in integrating local people and increasing their income, meeting the needs for biodiversity conservation and scientific research, and creating multiple activities that support each other.
Mitsinjo manages two forest sites in Andasibe: Mantadia area (700 ha) and the wetland site of Torotorofotsy (9 900 ha). Mitsinjo’s tree nurseries produce as many as 100,000 seedlings per year, consisting of around 150 endemic tree species. The goal is to restore an area of 25 hectares of forest every year.
In addition to the reforestation work Mitsinjo also organizes environmental education for local school children, students and tourists visiting the area. For tourists there are also nature guide services available. The income that the association receives from ecotourism is used to finance all the activities from acriculture to health projects.
Monitoring with free satellite images
Are there any primary forest left? Is there illegal logging or e.g. gold mining occurring in the forest? These are some questions that have been left open in the earlier reforestation projects in Madagascar. This is because one of the central weaknesses in previous forest protection and reforestation attempts in Madagascar has been the inadequate monitoring of forests. Project Manondroala intends to tackle this problem by using a monitoring method developed together with a Russian partner organization Transparent World.
With the help of this method the local conservationists and nature guides collect field data on the natural state of forests and about the human impact in the area. They also learn how to upload forest data onto a computer, use GIS, and, eventually, monitor any type of deforestation and forest degradation. Unlike earlier methods, this method is based on satellite images freely available for anyone on the Internet. Because there are no costs in getting the data, it opens up great possibilities for local organizations operating with little resources.
The key element is cooperation
The main parties co-operating in the project are The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC), Russian environmental organization Transparent World, Madagascar Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (MICET) and local association Mitsinjo in Madagascar. We also collaborate closely with e.g. Centre ValBio research station in Ranomafana, University of Helsinki, and University of Antananarivo, as well as with various other non-governmental organizations on both local and national level.
How can I help?
If you want to contribute to our cause, you can:
- Make a donation to our project
- Join the work as a volunteer
- Plant trees with your Finnair Plus -points