Case study - Sustainable rainforest management in Madagascar

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  • Sustainable rainforest management in Madagascar
    • Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island, located off the east coast of the African continent.
      • Deforestation has been extensive since the 1950s. Now only about 20% of Madagascar's land area is forested - one-half the amount that there was in 1950. Each year 1400 hectares is deforested.
    • Government policies
      • Most rainforest in Madagascar is owned by the goverment. Twenty years ago the Madagascan goverment set up a scheme for local communities to manage their own resources sustainably.
      • International advice was that sustainable rainforest management would only succeed if local people were in charge. One very successful project is Association Mitsinjo.
    • Tavy and deforestation - around 80% of deforestation in Madagascar is due to tavy, which is a type of 'slash and burn' agriculture. Trees are cut down on a small plot of land and the undergrowth burned, and then crops are planted. The nutrients in the soil are quickly exhausted and weed growth takes over. At this point the farmer often decides to clear another plot.
    • Population growth and deforestation
      • In the 1940s, inoculation programmes resulted in a big drop in Madagascan infant mortality. This produced a rapid rise in the population, from 4 million people in 1950 to 20.7 million in 2010. Over the next ten years, Madagascar's population will increase to 30 million.
      • Madagascar's population puts pressure on the amount of land available for agriculture. The pressure to feed growing families means that farmers try to get more from their tavy plots, but this exhausts the soil fertility faster, meaning that more plots have to be cleared.
    • Logging and deforestation -  the second main cause of Madagascan deforestation is commercial logging. The the 20th century the Madagascan government sold rainforest timber to get money to pay the interest in international debt. There are now strict controls on logging, but a lot of illegal TRF logging still goes on this is because:
      • there is high demand for rosewood, a rainforest timber that is very dense, pink-coloured and fragrant.
      • Madagascan people are very poor and illegal logging pays well
      • there is corruption - police and government officials often allow illegal logging in return for money
    • Ecotourism - Association Mitsinjo started 15 years ago when a group of wildlife guides, employed to take tourists round the Analamazoatra reserve, planned a community-based nature tourism association. Money from tourism brings in one-third of the association's income each year. Its members patrol the 10000 hectares of their reserve area to look out for illegal logging and snares for animals. This has been very successful in preventing illegal logging and hunting.
    • Rainforest services - Association Mitsinjo also manages a rainforest restoration project, which began in 2002. In return for help with improving their crop yields, local farmers agree to set aside some of their land as a nursery for growing young rainforest trees. More than 1 million new trees have been planted, from 150 local species, on an area of 1000 hectares.
    • Sustainable agriculture - Association Mitsinjo has educated farmers about a sustainable alternative to tavy, called System of Rice Intensification. Using this technique, more food is grown and there is no need to clear more land.
    • Social benefits - AM is involved in funding better healthcare, including a health clinic,and environmental education in the area. If children learn about the importance of the rainforest now, then they may grow up to care for it in the future.
    • Problems - The area has 14000 inhabitants, most of whom are living un poverty. Those not in the association are trying to make a living from activities such as logging and tavy agriculture. The association also depends for two-thirds of its income on international and organisations. It is not financially sustainable without aid.


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