dune planting

Protecting Mangroves Through Dune Stabilisation

On the road to Ifaty from Toliara, you will see a huge patch of sand which looks like a giant arm reaching for the sea. This is the Songeritelo sand spit and under the appearance of a beautiful landscape you absolutely want to photograph, hides a growing threat to the neighbouring mangrove ecosystem.

Songeritelo dunes

Songeritelo sand spit is not as stable as it may seem. It has been growing northwards at an alarming rate of 45 m/year since 1949. This rate has increased over recent years (to almost 90 m/year between 2011 and 2017) probably due to major deforestation and erosion inland. The channel that brings seawater to the Ambondrolava mangrove system, located to the east of the sand spit, is under threat from dune mobilisation; the potential reduction in seawater supply in the coming years threatens the balance of the mangrove ecosystem. Mangrove forests are complex environments in which trees and shrubbery live within brackish water. The Ambondrolava mangrove is home of a large variety of crabs, birds, fish and other crustaceans. It acts as a nursery ground for fish and invertebrates, provides a variety of ecosystem services (such as sediment and pollution filtration, coastline protection, carbon storage), and provides a livelihood for local communities. The mangrove ecosystem balance, and the livelihood of local communities who depend on the mangroves to survive is under threat from the evolution of the Songeritelo dune system.

However, on Saturday 17th June, there was some unusual activity taking place in the dunes…..

dune planting

More than 60 people, from the YSO (Young Researcher Organization of Madagascar), Reef Doctor, IH.SM (Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines), and Ambotsibotsike and Songeritelo villages, along with the deputy mayor (adjoint au maire), representatives of the chef de région, DREF (Direction Régionale des Eaux et Forêts) and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit – German cooperation) crossed the channel on foot or by pirogue to take part in a dune stabilisation planting event. The YSO, a student’s association of the IH.SM, along with Reef Doctor Honko Project organized, for the second year in a row, this massive planting event as a first step to stabilise dunes and reduce the threat to the mangroves. This great initiative was supported by the GIZ, WHH, IH.SM and club Vintsy Vatohara. Similar to last year, the event was organised to coincide with the United Nation’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

dune planting

dune planting

dune planting

Around 4000 saplings were planted in total, the three main species included filao (Casuarina equisetifolia), sisal (Agave sisalana) and lalanda (Ipomoea pes-caprae). Sisal are well known to help stabilise sandy areas and lalanda also contribute to this objective. The filaos were planted to help sisal and lalandas in their ecological job by acting as a fixing agent. Over time, the filaos should grow tall and wide enough to act as a solid barrier against the wind, which would help stop the movement of the sand and hence the advancement of the dune.

dune planting

dune planting

dune planting

dune planting

dune planting

 

After a few hours of toil, around 2500 sisals, 200 filaos and 1000 lalandas were planted on the dune. After a morning of hard work, everyone was very tired but happy about the great achievement and were rewarded with a copious lunch prepared by the women of the villages. Regarding the maintenance of the saplings, the local communities are tasked with irrigating and protecting the replanted areas, and Reef Doctor Honko Project will frequently review the progress. More actions will be undertaken in the near future. Stay tuned for updates on the dune and progress of the plantation event soon!

Reported by Karin Moehler & Antoine Lechevalier

dune planting

seagrass

First Seagrass Protected Area Established in the Bay of Ranobe

Over the last three years the Darwin Initiative-funded Sustainable Livelihoods Programme has been a huge part of Reef Doctor operations, and seaweed and sea cucumber farming are now part of everyday life in the seven villages where the project is run.  Aquaculture was introduced to these villages in attempt to alleviate poverty and to reduce stress on an ecosystem that is coming under increasing pressure from dwindling biomass and increasing migration of people to the coast from inland areas of southwest Madagascar as living conditions become more and more difficult in the semi arid drought prone land.

Initially sea turtle hunters and beach seine fishers were approached for inclusion in the project over people engaged in other fishing activities because of the destructive nature of their fishing practices and damage these practices cause to marine ecosystems. By targeting turtle hunters the project had the two fold affect of engaging the hunter in a project that could lift them out of poverty and could work towards turtle conservation in the area by providing an alternative income generating activity.  By reducing the number of beach seine fishers in the area, the project helped to allow time for juvenile fish who live in seagrass near the shore to reach maturity and reproduce, and to limit damage to the seagrass itself.

Indeed, protecting seagrass, an important foraging habitat for turtles, in the Bay of Ranobe is another important objective of our Darwin Initiative funded-Sustainable Livelihoods Programme. In the second year of the project, stakeholders throughout the bay attended monthly meetings to discuss creating a seagrass protected area (SPA). This aspect of the project required agreement and a commitment from village elders in Ifaty and Mangily, Fi.MI.HARA, the local fisher’s association and various local businesses to become a reality. Following a considerable amount of discussion it was agreed by all the stakeholders that the first SPA in the Bay of Ranobe would be created. In fact, discussions were so successful that the total area of the SPA is be 950 hectares, which is over twice the size of the targeted area of 400 hectares originally planned! The entire SPA is a restricted use zone, which means that only certain fishing activities can be carried out in the area including some fishing with restricted fishing gear using hook and line. However beach seining is strictly prohibited within the SPA. Meetings are now ongoing to make 150 hectares of the SPA a strict protection zone where no fishing or marine gleaning activities can take place whatsoever.

village seagrass meeting

Currently seagrass monitoring in the bay takes place every three months. The waypoints required to build a comprehensive map of the seagrass areas of the bay were explored and prepared by the science and aquaculture teams throughout 2016 and you can read about the process and the importance of seagrass to the environment in our blog dated 5 October 2016. The seagrass mapping project allowed the team to decide on the best location of the seagrass reserves and zoning. Monitoring will continue every three months in order to collect data that will allow the team to assess the health of the SPA.

seagrass survey

The creation of this SPA, the first in the Bay of Ranobe, is a very significant step forward for sustainable fishing practices and conservation in the Bay of Ranobe. There are now three marine protected areas in the bay, which cover two degraded reefs and the seagrass area close to the shoreline. These areas are guarded and maintained by the communities that rely upon the bay for their livelihood.

seagrass

mangrove replanting 2

Mangrove Replantation Project Huge Success!

Conservation and development projects often take years to complete and indeed some are never ending. That’s why we’re delighted to tell you about one of our projects that has not only been completed in a very short time but has exceeded the aims set out when the project began!

As you may be aware Reef Doctor Honko is the branch of Reef Doctor concerned with mangrove conservation and since January 2017, when Reef Doctor Honko was born, a lot of conservation has been going on. Particularly in the villages of Ambondrolava, where Reef Doctor Honko is based, and in Andrevo, a village to the north where sea cucumber farming takes place. The Mangrove Replantation Project is the first complete project undertaken by Reef Doctor Honko and we are very happy with the results! What’s more, there will be many projects in the near future focusing on replenishing the mangrove forests in these and other areas.

mangrove replanting

The project focused on replanting degraded mangrove forests in Ambondrolava and Andrevo. These villages are important targets for replanting because they both have existing mangrove forests that have been degraded through over exploitation. This project was co-funded by FRDA, the Darwin Initiative, the Rufford Foundation, WHH Toliara, and ADES Toliara. The project was implemented in collaboration with CDR (Direction Regionale Des Ressources Halieutique et de la Peche), DREEF (Director Regionale de L’Environment, de L’Ecologie et des Forets), and IHSM (Institut Halientique et des Sciences Marine). The aim of the project was to replant 12 hectares of degraded areas of mangrove forest at both sites with 120,000 propagules from three species of mangrove; Rhizophora mucronata, Ceriops tagal and Brugriera gymnoshiza.

mangrove propagules

mangrove propagules

Planting began on the 4th of March in both areas and over the course of three planting days an impressive 51,426 propagules were planted over 5.32 hectares in Andrevo, and 88,630 propagules were planted over 8.84 hectares in Ambondrolava! Only two species of mangrove were planted, Rhizophora mucronata and Ceriops tagal but the total area planted was 14.19 hectares. Expectations were also exceeded by the planting of 140,056 propagules rather than the 120,000 that were initially planned!

communtiy planting event

mangrove replanting 2

The local community associations in both villages, VOI Mamelo Honko and VOI Andrevo took charge of the collection of propagules and were also very involved in each of the planting days. These associations are also tasked with monitoring the growth and progress of the propagules on a monthly basis and protecting the replanted areas. Reef Doctor Honko will review progress every six months and we look forward to letting you know how the mangroves are doing then!

Update by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino

mangroves

mangrove replanting

Twice the Celebration, Twice the Awareness

Tuesday 21 March was International Forestry Day and celebrations were so big here in the Atsimo-Andrefana region of southwest Madagascar they were spread over two days! On Friday 24 March, we attended a huge celebration in the village of Antanimeva in the district of Morombe, which was attended by the Minister for the Environment, Ecology and Forests, Dr. Johanita Ndahimananjara, together with associations from across the district.

International Forestry Day

International Forestry Day

We had an early start on Friday morning with the Reef Doctor car and the IOT (Indian Ocean Trapang – breed and sell juvenile sea cucumbers for sustainable livelihood farms) car leaving camp in convoy at 5:50am. We travelled for 3 hours inland to reach Antanimeva over some very bumpy roads with some amazing lush green scenery. The earth is so red in this part of the country that it looked like red velvet cake and made the trees and grasses seem even greener. The theme of the celebrations was ‘From the Forest to a Green Economy’. As the residents of Antanimeva and surrounding villages rely on agriculture, rearing livestock and charcoal production for subsistence this made Antanimeva the best place to celebrate the day and raise awareness of biofuel and sustainable forestry. Biofuel is a fuel produced through biological processes such as agriculture rather than through geological processes. Some renewable biofuels are made using biomass such as rice husks or zebu manure making them very suitable to forest areas of this region.

A number of different organisations attended the event and stalls were set up under shade in the baking sun for each organisation to share information about forestry, sustainable livelihoods, wildlife sanctuaries and biofuel.  Reef Doctor took the opportunity to introduce the residents of the area to the alternative charcoal we have been working on. The charcoal is made of approximately 35% charcoal dust mixed with zebu manure and small amount of wood chips, sawdust or filao needles. We were delighted with the turn out and in the interest in the project. The really exciting news is that the Minister for Environment, Ecology and Forests liked the project so much that she requested that we work with DREEF, the regional branch of the Environment, Ecology and Forests to promote the idea of alternative charcoal throughout the region. Following a busy but very gratifying day the Reef Doctor team bounced home on the bumpy road to get to bed early and continue the celebrations the following day a little closer to home.

International Forestry Day

International Forestry Day

International Forestry Day

We had another early start on Saturday and made our way to Andrevo at 6am to plant mangrove propagules. Despite the early hour seating and shelters were set up and music pumped from the speakers on the beach. The crowd started to gather and there was a full house, well beach, by the time the Minister, Dr. Johanita Ndahimananjara, the Mayor of Belalanda and the Mayor of Morombe arrived. Following speeches and a presentation of beautiful handmade miniature pirogues to the officials the real business of the day began. The Junior Reef Doctors joined the Reef Doctor staff and interns and it looked like half the village of Andrevo was out and ready to plant. With such a huge crowd it only took a few hours to plant a large area of mangroves and the hard work was done by 10am. The event then moved to Toliara with many of the attendants in tow but for many of us it was time to head back to camp for a late breakfast, happy in the knowledge that the beautiful mangrove forest in Andrevo will be a lot bigger in a few years!

mangrove replanting

mangrove replanting

International Forestry Day

Blog by Communications Officer Ivana Rubino 

Reforestation of the Atsimo Andrefana Region

We are very excited to announce the launch of the official campaign for reforestation of the Atsimo Andrefana region! The 66,283 km square region spans from the Southwestern tip of Madagascar to roughly 250 km north of the Reef Doctor base in Ifaty. Therefore, it was to our delight that the Regional Department of Environment, Ecology and Forests (DREEF) chose to team up with Reef Doctor and develop a project right here in the Bay of Ranobe!

Weeks ago, alongside DREEF we visited the small village of Ranobe. Having been involved in tree planting projects in the past, and bearing a name that in Malagasy means “BIG WATER”, we felt it was an ideal location to inaugurate this tremendous regional wide reforestation initiative.

A town situated 6 km from the coastal highway, it is quite the rugged road to get to the village of Ranobe. Not even the ever-dependent local mode of transport, the taxi brousse, can make its way to Ranobe during the rainy season!

Residents are dependent on Zebu led carts to make the journey to the closest town once a week and attend a market for goods. Generally, this involves community members of Ranobe travelling with what little resources they have for an income such as vondro (grass like reeds used for building huts) and wood cut down from their forests for charcoal and construction, or some of the products grown around the village such as corn, cassava and sugarcane, when the weather provides stable growing conditions.

Initially we were excited to see the rains return for one final push before the end of the rainy season to support all of the trees we would be planting for this event but during the many back and forth deliveries of our trees, we started to change our minds. We chased goats in torrential downpours, drove through puddles metres deep, and mud that would spin you every which way. To top it off, the cactus has grown so high, that in certain places it engulfs the entire truck, and you have to be sure to keep your limbs well tucked away in the vehicle!

After many meetings with Village Presidents, Regional Mayors, community members and site visits to the degraded forest that was to be planted, on Monday February 20th the event kicked off with a training day for community members. They were taught the importance of planting indigenous species in the forest rather than introducing non-native trees, as well as demonstrations of proper planting techniques.

 

From Tuesday to Thursday, the community members were up before sunrise and back in the forest just before sundown to beat the heat, and plant 2,800 indigenous tree seedlings! The local women would sing and dance each time we arrived with more trees throughout the week and the community had come together and planted trees they had already been growing around their schoolyard and throughout the village to create a tree lined driveway into the grounds where the event would take place. On February 24th, a huge turnout of roughly 500 people made the journey out to Ranobe from all around the region to support this wonderful project!

The Reef Doctor team was there bright and early to help set up the event. Woman’s groups from around the region had prepared a dance and were very eager to get the Reef Doctor team up there dancing with them in front of the crowd! Speeches from local and regional authorities commenced to spread awareness about deforestation and the importance of this initiative and then the excitement began as everyone in attendance walked into the forest and planted roughly 700 trees!

DREEF is committed to reforesting an astounding 3,000 hectares! Although this will only reforest roughly 20% of the current regional deforestation estimates, it is an exciting commitment to reforestation of Madagascar’s largest region. Reef Doctor provided 2,200 trees for the event, which amounted to one tree planted per Ranobe community member.

Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting new venture into terrestrial conservation, the reforestation of one of earth’s most unique forests, and to learn more about what Reef Doctor is doing not only to reforest indigenous trees, but to combat the causes of deforestation!

Report by Project Leader Jackie Brunton