ENVIRONMENT

Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute: a frail environment to save in Madagascar

 

Taking into consideration the notion of Sustainable Development, ignoring environmental issues is misleading the path to a country’s development. In Madagascar, the future of tourism rests on its natural beauty therefore protection of this environmental uniqueness and beauty should be a national priority. While Government itself is not always in a position to do so, strong partnerships with NGO’s is a common practice in place. Since 2013, Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI) has been closely operating with the local community in the Northern region in Nosy Komba to preserve the environment in an area not yet overwhelmed by mass tourism.

 

Marine conservation partnership with local and national actors.

 

MRCI attracts hundreds of volunteers every year

to work on local projects on Nosy Komba island. One successful strategy undertaken as part of their marine conservation project is to create artificial reef structures. MRCI now has several different structures in place including concrete domes, cinder block tunnels and iron rebar pyramids. The tunnels in particular have proven successful. After only fifteen days, the entire structure came alive providing habitat and protection for many multi-coloured juvenile fish.  This method contributes to increased coral reef size and assists in the rejuvenation and recovery of the area.  Along a 500 meter length and 300 meter width, the marine protected area was gracefully welcomed by local community as a no-fishing zone.   Additionally, the « Turtle Watch » project started in July 2017 and aims to monitor turtle populations surrounding the region by the creation of a detailed turtle reference book.

 

Through diving and snorkeling surveys, the NGO collects constant marine wildlife biodiversi data for national and international scientific partners including CORDIO and CNRO. The partnership of MRCI with the National Center for Oceanographic Research (CNRO), a 40 years old public institution.  The two organizations signed a three year - partnership agreement in July 2017 to advance sea water quality and marine conservation research projects in general. As part of resource pooling, MRCI offers diving equipment and the use of its research vessel « The Spirit of Malala », a 50 ft dive boat to CNRO as needed, while CNRO would put at disposal experts such as biologists and environmental experts.

 

« English training courses given by MRCI volunteers to CNRO staff are very helpful for us … » said ROBILAHY Jean Edmond, CNRO Deputy Director. So far, a reef transplantation pilot project was jointly realized followed by monitoring activities. In addition to this, MRCI offers international PADI diving training to local Malagasy research people. In March, Mihary Ramiandrisoa, Senior Programme Officer at C3 Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands Programme based in Diego Suarez, earned her PADI open water dive certification free of charge through partnership with MRCI. In exchange, she provided invaluable training to MRCI staff on turtle and sea grass monitoring methods.

 

A step into marine plastic pollution solution

 

MRCI works to sensitize people to marine plastic pollution issues which haven’t spared Madagascar’s coasts. Through regular beach and village cleans led in conjunction with local communities, they are working to both clean up the island and raise awareness about the environmental problems plastic waste creates. The NGO has partnered with Plastic Oceans, an international award-winning documentary organization. Appointed to be their representative in Madagascar, MRCI is currently translating the movie into Malagasy language to be broadcast in local villages to teach people about the danger plastic represents to the ocean. This is expected to be completed by May or June 2018. The long-term goal is to involve local government and establish a recycling plant in Nosy Be.

 

Forest conservation to preserve a unique biodiversity

 

  Forest conservation is held in parallel with an agroforest concept.  To do so, the Community has leased an area to MRCI for a period of 20 years. The NGO is working on re-planting endemic species and commercial crops such as coffee and vanilla for the benefit of the community. Volunteers help around 50 farmers with sustainable agriculture plantation work. To improve the health of the forest and help with regrowth, they clear the invasive plant species, lantana, from overgrown areas where it chokes out other native plant species. They also collect seeds and run a plant nursery to help replant trees and other native species in the forest.

 

Additionally, they or conduct biodiversity field surveys of reptiles and amphibians within both transects and plots, point count and species accumulation surveys on birds, and comparative behavioural surveys on both habituated and wild lemur groups on Nosy Komba. MRCI receives guidance and advice for the Agroforestry project from Patrick Ranirison, a member of the Botany department at Antananarivo University; personal projects or studies from university students are highly encouraged.

 

For MRCI, the development of Madagascar goes hand in hand with environmental conservation. After all, forest and ocean are the Blue and Green Economy’s pillars …

Published on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 10:17
Written by F. RAFIDIHARINIRINA
SAME RUBRIC