2. Day, 18.08.2016 – travel preparations
In the morning Chris Birkinshaw picked me up at the hotel. For many years now Chris has been working for Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) here in Madagascar. MBG is one of our local partners. First he opened out the map and discussed the travel plans with me. After leaving Antananarivo we are going to Sambava, then to Ramena y finally back to Antananarivo.
One of my main tasks here is not only to visit the project area and to build the project structure and coordination, but also to network, to create confidence, to get to know the people and … to create ideas together. Most of all I enjoy the whole process of creating ideas.
Increasing price of vanilla - unpleasant consequences
To give you just one example, in the morning having a cup of coffee: Chris and me, we are talking about the project in Makirovana, a region where primarily vanilla is produced. The price for vanilla his going through the roof at the moment. Suddenly poor families have enormous amounts of money.
At the moment they have two options: a) they bring their money to the bank… but there, it will not last long because the grandma or the uncle twice removed gets wind of the money very soon and ask for financial support. The tooth hurts, the child is sick or the land has burned down. Family bonds are tight and the money quickly is divided up between the relatives. Possibility b) The men drink away the money. Mostly, case b) happens. The alcoholism in the region is high.
What about afforesting the degraded land with the method of dynamic agroforestry, materialized by MBG together with the local municipalities? The objective is to create a natural forest from that you can get wood later on and sell it. A family could invest parts of their income in the natural forest plantation. When the wood will be sold in some years, they receive a regularly share which they can use, for example, for the education of their children. Just an idea, but a good one, isn‘t it? At least, Chris likes it.
Nice, little, dilapidated houses and a market on stairs
We start off to the centre on foot. Chris does not have a car because he does not like the chaotic traffic. For that reason I have the chance to see more - we pass many beautiful, little and dilapidated houses of the French colonial times, but also cold and new concrete buildings. Three floors at the most, high rise building hardly do not exist. Some years ago I spent one night in Antananarivo and I had the impression, the city would be small. What a mistake, the city is huge, three million people are living here. We are reaching a market on some stairs where we are looking for a bank. The next few days I will spend outside in the country and we have to pay for transport, food and the night. As soon as we got the money, I am much more relaxed and I take some pictures of trees, people and market stalls.
In the afternoon I visit the office of MBG. Together with Christian, the head, Marina, Fid, Chris and „name I have forgotten“, we introduce and get to know each other and … sow ideas :-). MBG is a good partner. For 30 years now they operate in the country and, except of Chris, they are all Madagascan employees. Apart from many other projects, they also work on the taxonomy of plants. Although, loads of the land in Madagascar is already destroyed, they discover approximately 100 (!) unknown plants every year.
Saving the forest of Ankafobe?
They tell me from a region with an absolutely incredible forest in the highland of Ankafobe. Meanwhile, the land is so degenerated – Christian „There is no place in Madagascar that is worse.“ - that there is hardly no hope to save the forest. „Why don‘t we try the dynamic agroforestry there?“, I ask. In the highlands of Bolivia they have transformed a semi-desert into a forest with the method.
Their eyes begin to lit up. So, I‘ll visit Ankafobe on my before last day to have a look at the location and to take pictures. On my last day, shortly before my flight back home, we want to get together again to go on dreaming. That is how the sowing of ideas works.
Tomorrow I start being in the woods; access to Internet: moderate – reports from the journey, maybe. Good night and see you soon.