On Friday 17 June we were invited by YSO Madagascar (Young reSearchers Organisation) to attend their fifth birthday celebrations. We’ve had the opportunity to work with the YSO on a few different projects recently including coral bleaching surveys, so we were very happy to be included in the celebrations. The YSO’s fifth birthday happened to coincide with World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought which has been commemorated every year since 1994 when the United Nations implemented the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Both of these occasions meant that last Friday’s celebrations were important to a lot of people.
So, what does an organisation of researchers, conservationists and scientists do to celebrate their birthday on World Day to Combat Desertification and why is it important? They plant trees, of course! The slogan for World Day to Combat Desertification this year is – Protect Earth, Restore Land, Engage People. And that’s exactly what the YSO aimed to achieve on their birthday with the help of the local community and a number of local NGOs. Early on Friday morning a taxi brousse brought our interns, volunteers and staff to the Songeritelo sand dune. The sand dune provides protection to the mangrove forests in Ambondrolava, where NGO Honko Conservation and Management and VOI Mamelo Honko are based, and in Ambotsike. However due to deforestation the motile dune system requires stabilization to preserve the barrier it provides. As the ReefDoctor team climbed out of the taxi brousse we could see that work was well underway. A line was forming in front of us through the field and to the edge of the water, made up of people from the nearby village of Songeritelo, YSO members, NGO Honko Conservation and Management and VOI Mamelo Honko, NGO Hunger Hilfe and GIZ –Page environmental magazine. We quickly joined the human chain and began passing Causina equisetifolia saplings, known in French as Filao, from the roadside down into the muddy banks where they were ferried across a stretch of water by pirogue. Once we had passed about 400 trees across, we all waded over and met the pirogues on the other side to unload all the trees and take them to the planting site.
After being welcomed to the planting day by a representative of the Mayor of Belalanda, the members of the local community and YSO, we were given a tutorial on how to plant the trees by Faustinato Behivoke, a member of YSO, and we got to work. Filao are salt tolerant trees found in sand dunes and form an important part of sand dune vegetation. They can be found growing naturally along the coast of the bay and provide, among other things, fuel for fires, dye for tanning and of course, stabilizing vegetation for sandy soil. It was tiring work but with so many people involved the majority of the planting was done in a few hours, after which we were treated to lunch.
‘Today, the land is considered a vital link in solving many other development challenges’ Faustinato explained to Lexpressmada.com who brought the event to national attention. Every member of the community benefits in some way from protecting the land or, in this case, sand dune whether it is from having access to managed resources like wood, having a food supply when juvenile animals survive under the protection that the mangroves provide or protecting land from coastal erosion. The activities of the 17th of June brought people from many different parts of the community together to protect a natural resource that can contribute greatly to the overall objectives of sustainable development.
Report by RD Comms Officer, Ivana Rubino