Madagascar is planting 60 million trees in an attempt to restore the country’s lost forests as the island celebrates 60 years of independence this year.
Madagascar is embarking on an incredible journey to make the island green again, as from January 19 the planting campaign begins to plant a whopping 60 million trees thanks to the actions of President Andry Rajoelina.
The president made a statement at the launch in Ankazobe district, northwest of the capital, Antananarivo: “The government has the challenge of making Madagascar a green island again. I encourage people to protect the environment and reforest for the benefit of future generations.”
Madagascar is the oldest island in the world and the fourth-largest, spanning 146 million acres. It is home to an astounding range of plants and wildlife but between 2001 and 2018, it lost about one-fifth of its tree cover which has been primarily driven by a shift in agriculture, known locally as tavy.
Tavy is the term for the slashing and burning of agriculture which is practised in the country, it translates as “the fields so cultivated”.
The destruction of the Madagascar forests means that many creatures could be facing extinction as this is the only place in the world that they are found.
And it isn’t just the forests that have suffered from deforestation, even the country’s national parks have witnessed significant deforestation which means they are one of the major priorities of this planting campaign.
To extend the mission to remote areas, the government is commissioning aeroplanes and drones that will drop five tons of seeds from up in the sky.
A nationwide effort has been made to amass seeds and populate nurseries. It has seen participation from NGOs, schools, government ministries and even the army.
Close to 200,000 seedlings have been gathered from various nurseries for the launch event and have been transported to the Ankazobe site on trucks. It is estimated that 100 million seeds have been rounded up by regional centres of the environmental ministry and its partners. It is reported that the seeds have been distributed free of cost to institutions and associations from government-run nurseries.
This launch has made it clear that the government is trying to strike that balance between planting endemic and agroforestry species, some of which are exotic.
Plenty of fruit trees have also been planted, as the president hopes that if the yield is good he can export the produce.
The planting season will last till April, and by this point the president wants 60 million seedlings to be planted across 99,000 acres.
Almost 80 per cent of the country’s population doesn’t have access to grid electricity and felling trees are common practice to be used as charcoal for cooking.
Observers have stated that it will be a difficult process turning the tide on deforestation, especially when the country’s poor are using the felling trees on a daily basis.
However, there is a plan to recruit 50 people that will oversee the saplings and monitor the project’s progress as the area is at risk of forest fires, which could wipe out any advancements made. This involvement from local communities is vital for the project to be a success.
Ratsimbazafy of GERP said: “If the authorities do not have a clear and efficient strategy to fight against deforestation and fires, then Madagascar won’t return to forests.”
This view has been echoed by Alliance Voehary Gasy, which is a coalition of Malagasy environmental NGAs. It has been expressed by the coalition that a large scale effort is fantastic, but that the government need to do their part too. It has been noted by some that the government do not take strict action against those that break environmental rules. The campaign could fail in its objectives if the government officials fail to do any action against this.
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