SALAMA ATIALA: HEALTHY FOREST
In 2014/2015, we kicked off our fire management project. We assembled a fire management team consisting of 18 hired local residents from the three core communities. We cut firebreaks to protect forest fragments from uncontrolled fire. We have trained our fire management teams in fire monitoring techniques, including how to record instances of fire using a handheld GPS. We combine these practical measures with conservation education. Our experience has underlined the importance of fire management and fire prevention education programs in this region. We are inspired to continue and expand our work, with an even stronger focus on alleviating fire in Ankarafantsika National Park.
We work to cultivate and plant new trees in Ankarafantsika National Park. We focus on two types of restoration, restoring fragmented landscapes to create corridors that connect existing fragments to continuous forest and erosion control through forest restoration where we plant trees to reduce the impact of erosion. We hire and train local community members to work with our on-the-ground Planet Madagascar staff members to identify target plant species, collect seeds, build and manage tree nurseries, and plant seedlings. Community members benefit through a salary-based program, thereby providing them with much-needed revenue and by receiving the direct benefits of erosion control through forest restoration.
We believe that conservation education is critical to the success of our programs.
Lambas for Lemurs
Lambas for Lemurs was Planet Madagascar’s very first conservation education projects and so holds a special place in our hearts. It is a conservation education program created by Megan Shrum and Travis Steffens. This project was rooted in a widespread cultural tradition—the use and importance of a sarong-like cloth called a lamba. Lambas are square cotton clothes worn by men and women as skirts, wraps, scarves, and head wear and they are printed with traditional images depicting culturally-relevant scenes and messages about Malagasy life. We created and distributed lambas with images of lemurs and a message of conservation to individuals in 12 communities. Leaving behind these lambas served as a tangible reminder of the conservation program for these community members.
We have also provided training programs for local adults on how to implement conservation education programs for the children. This type of engagement has left the communities with capacity to continue to educate their children and themselves on the issues facing the local wildlife and their own livelihoods.
We are proud to have partnered with Chris Scarffe, an Emmy nominated, independent filmmaker, to create an educational film to add to our toolkit. The film provides Malagasy communities with information on the key threat to lemurs in their communities (fire), and strategies on what they can do to help prevent fire by highlighting fire management solutions that our organization, in partnership with local communities, plans to implement. The film is in Malagasy language, with a Malagasy host, and screened for a Malagasy audience.
Each year, we hold an annual “responsible fire education day” in the communities in Ankarafantsika to educate how to burn responsibly, and we have placed signage about the impact of uncontrolled fire along frequently used trails near the fire management zone.