Young farmers in Madagascar are working to stop food production from destroying the island’s rich rainforest.
Ahead of a new agreement to protect the planet’s biodiversity being drawn up in Paris next week, BBC News Science Correspondent Victoria Gill met young farmers in Madagascar who live at the front line of the tension between humans and the natural world.
The young people are leading a small but vital revolution by transforming how people farm in order to save their forest. They’re learning new skills to farm sustainably so that Madagascar doesn’t lose any more of its forest.
Conservation organisation Madagasikara Voakajy is recruiting and training young volunteers in 10 villages around the forest. The charity is providing young people with tools and seeds, as well as the new skills and knowledge to help them to protect endemic Malagasy species and their habitats.
The training consists of how to make compost as a fertiliser and how to rotate crops to produce a better yield. These modern farming techniques enable the same plot to be farmed each season, eliminating the need to move into the forest. And they produce higher yields.
Madagascar’s various ecosystems are home to more than 250,000 species of plants and animals most of which do not exist anywhere else.
The role of humans is posing serious pressure on the island’s ecosystem and a threat to its biodiversity. Deforestation in Madagascar has lead to the loss of about 80% of its original forests and the primary forest now covers only about 12% of the country. Deforestation in Madagascar is largely the result of three activities – slash-and-burn agriculture, logging, and the production of fuelwood and charcoal for cooking fires.
Historically and culturally known as “Tavy”, slash and burn, which is the primary cause of deforestation on the island, involves setting vegetation alight after being cut down, creating potential land for rice cultivations.
One of the pockets of Madagascar’s rainforest that’s still intact, Mangabe forest is now a protected area. In Mangabe, communities live alongside one of the richest, most diverse rainforests in the world, where they make their livelihoods entirely through farming. It is in Mangabe where the conservation organisation, Madagasikara Voakajy are starting to train young people to farm sustainably.
Voahirana Randriamamonjy of Madagasikara Voakajy told the BBC: “If the forest is lost, many things will be lost. It’s not just about the wildlife. Without the forest, there will be no clean water for people to drink, the soil will lose its fertility and be eroded away. The forest even provides medicine. It takes hours to walk to a doctor from these villages, so people rely on natural remedies that grow here.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com