ANDASIBE, May 1, 2013 - The island of Madagascar is famous for its rich biodiversity. Thanks to an awareness-raising campaign, local communities now work toward protecting this valuable asset.
“I have been witnessing the deterioration of the climate for several years, and have concluded that the environment must be protected at all costs. This is why I am part of the effort to protect the forest in the Andasibe region,” says Hervé Paulo Ramanandraisetra. This 22-year-old man is an active member of the local protection committees (CLPs) established by the communities living in the areas bordering the 16,000 hectare-Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Located in the eastern part of the country, the park is well known for its orchids and its population of indri indri lemurs, the largest of the species.
The CLPs work in close collaboration with Madagascar National Parks (MNP), a nongovernmental organization tasked with managing Madagascar’s protected areas using World Bank financing provided in the context of an environmental program. Andriamandimbisoa Raoliharivao, Director of the Andasibe–Mantadia National Park, notes that “the goal of this collaboration is to involve the population in efforts to conserve the protected areas, through joint surveillance and joint management activities.” To reduce the pressure exerted by communities on natural resources, Raoliharivao believes that getting them involved in this conservation effort is critical.
CLP members (Hervé Paulo Ramanandraiseta included) conduct a 10-15 day mission each month and receive a per diem of Ar 5,000 (approximately US$2.50). Their goal is to make people aware about the importance of protecting the park’s natural resources. CLP members also take part in surveillance patrols, and contribute to the park’s management in collaboration with the MNP’s teams.
Surveillance activities cover the park’s fauna and flora, and entail such tasks as documenting the possible deaths of protected animal species, including the indri indri, and instances of forest clearing, illegal logging, or orchid theft. The CLPs cover 25-hectare surveillance blocks. They also collaborate with MNP officers to conduct ecological monitoring of fauna and flora across three dedicated sites, in order to ensure that there is no modification of species.
“If the forest disappears, tourists will stop coming”
Andasibe’s protected areas are receiving much attention because they are under considerable pressure from the surrounding populations. In the park’s northern zone in particular, deforestation, using slash-and-burn techniques (tavy), has been observed in recent months. In an effort to address this problem, MNP is strengthening its collaboration with the communities, representatives of public entities, and the private sector.
Community leaders are participating in this effort. Thus, tangalamena Dimasy, in his capacity as village elder, chairs the CLP in the village of Mahatsara, and uses all his influence to raise awareness among the residents about the need to respect the forest: “if this forest disappears, tourists will stop coming and we will have no more incomes, because we will have no jobs,” he says.
Olinka, a fisherman in Maroantsetra, remains somewhat skeptical: “First, we have to take care of the human beings. The lemurs, forests, and water must be dealt with afterwards, because if people are hungry, they cannot care for the environment,” he says. Ever mindful of the fact that protecting the environment may not appear to be uppermost in people’s minds, knowing that Madagascar has one of the highest poverty prevalence rates in the world, actors in the environment sector are scaling up assistance for income-generating activities. These activities are helping the communities to secure financial resources without having to exploit the protected areas.
For example, MNP is working with embroiderers, whose craft items are sold in the vicinity of the Mantadia National Park. The National Association for Environmental Action [Agence nationale d’actions environnementale ANAE] is providing technical support to the farmers to boost their productivity and thus discourage them from clearing forest land. The World Bank is also providing support for these activities.