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.
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.
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!
Blog by Communications Officer Ivana Rubino