· Ho Avy

Growing for the future - reforestation in Madagascar

The Ho Avy project, based in southwest Madagascar, focuses on safeguarding biodiversity and people’s livelihoods for a sustainable future. 'Ho Avy' means 'future' in the Malagasy language.

1. Introduction

Ho Avy strives for sustainable and participatory community conservation and development in the unique and unprotected spiny forest ecosystem. Our goals are to reduce rampant degradation of the forest, conserve and restore the forest by building logistical and human capacity, and promote alternative livelihoods that are ecologically sustainable in the long run.

Three phases of the reforestation project

The project is divided into three phases. The first phase includes collecting seeds of indigenous plants that will be grown in nurseries, and the construction of two types of nursery.

In the second phase, local people (tree-preneurs) will be trained in planting the nurseries and nursery maintenance.

The third phase will be replanting the forest with trainees and is planned for the first quarter of 2010. Planting and irrigation will be part of community conservation actions and will be done on land protected by the local community association.

2. Project start and implementation

The ho avy project has achieved great progress since October, meeting the two major objectives for phase I, as outlined in the agreement between ho avy and Naturefund: 1. Seed collection for nursery planting and

2. Construction of two new nurseries.

Seed collection competition

An impressive amount of several thousand seeds of 75 native species has been collected by 12 members of FIMPAHARA, our local partner association, who have enthusiastically participated in a seed harvest competition. Children from the village have been enthusiastically participating in the harvesting of edible fruits (seasonal fruits such as kapik ny ala, lamoty and hazomafio). The seed collection competition is continuing following the phenology of individual species and will continue approx. until March.

350 seeds on action day

Ho avy launched a new reforestation season on 24th October 2009, when FIMPAHARA mobilized the Ranobe community to participate in an action day and plant a new nursery of 350 seeds from 13 native tree species, joining the global climate change action movement 350.org. Additionally, they transplanted 446 saplings of 18 native species from an existing nursery to their crop fields, as part of an agroforestry crop scheme.

Construction of two new nurseries

During November, ho avy and FIMPAHARA joined efforts towards a major expansion of the existing native tree nursery designated at growing trees for sensitive replanting of indigenous species. Over 1500 nursery plants were potted during November and an additional 35 native seedlings were planted by FIMPAHARA. We reached the capacity of the pilot nursery (1500 pots) within two weeks of this planting action. The second nursery for native, multi-purpose trees and trees for energy has been established next to the first nursery. Within the first two weeks of December it had reached its full capacity of over 2000 pots, enlarging the species pool by up to 50 species. The second nursery was constructed and planted in December, led independently by FIMPAHARA.

Germination success

We have been having great success with germination in the nursery, with up to 70% of all planted species doing well until now. This includes rare species that are difficult to propagate, such as Dahlbergia, Rose Wood and Pallisander, one of the most valuable species as it is over-harvested for its precious wood. Within just a couple of months, the saplings in the first nursery have grown 20cm on average. In our second nursery we have reached a high percent of germination after two weeks of planting. This is a very encouraging growth rate, which indicates a wonderful potential for early transplanting to our reforestation sites. The actual tree-planting date is dependent on the upcoming rainy season.

3. Challenges and solutions

Despite daily hardships in the village, political instability in Madagascar and an economic crisis lasting almost a year, enthusiasm amongst members of the community association FIMPAHARA, which is dedicated to planting trees, prevails and is very encouraging. The group seems to be well motivated and has done a wonderful job over the last few months, independently collecting thousands of seeds from native plants, and once again proved themselves to be skilled and experienced forest and agricultural experts.

520 hectares of forest for community conservation

FIMPAHARA and ho avy have delineated a forest area, which expanded from the original proposal of 80 ha up to 520 ha, which will be used for community conservation, ecological restoration and monitoring, and will be classed as a no harvest zone. This area is adjacent to the nursery. We are finalizing the agreement between FIMPAHARA and the local community authorities, to be incorporated into the WWF management plan for Ranobe, the new protected area.

Other tasks accomplished:

  • FIMPAHARA has taken an independent lead on nursery construction, making bags for the nursery which involves filling bags with soil mix consisting of zebo dung, rich lake soil and red sand.
  • The women of FIMPAHARA have spontaneously established home vegetable gardens, recycling gray water from dish washing, and continue building compost to be added to their new vegetable beds.
  • Ho avy and FIMPAHARA have frequent meetings to discuss tree-planting and guidance on monitoring tree growth and promoting the members of FIMPAHARA as tree-preneurs. Ho avy and FIMPAHARA are working jointly towards creating a community reforestation centre.

Phase I conclusion

The first phase of the ho avy project has been successful and a smooth transition is being made towards the second phase, in which FIMPAHARA will continue collecting seeds, receive further training in nursery maintenance, tree-planting and the monitoring of tree growth, and which will culminate in a training workshop as scheduled.

4. Keeping to the timeline and funding outlays

Schedule of activities

The current political instability in Madagascar means that logistical and security issues must be taken into consideration. This has delayed ho avy’s progress. Working step-by-step was necessary in order to earn local community support and protection so that all involved were able to feel safe working in the area. We continue to work as we feel that our efforts here are still very much needed. With this ongoing situation, ho avy assisted FIMPAHARA in holding all-day sessions in the village every week, leaving space for independent action, the accomplishment of goals and the cultivation of trust and responsibility. Due to the need for substantial flexibility in our schedule, several of our activities and reporting deadlines have been delayed. However, the projected schedule of activities in the field continues to run on time and is proceeding at a steady pace.

Funding outlays

The funds received from Naturefund have been used as far as possible in accordance with the terms of outlined budget, with a small number of amendments. We (ho avy) feel that we have used the funds to the best of our ability, ensuring that the project has progressed successfully in the field despite the conditions listed below:

  • Political instability and an economic crisis have caused significant rises in the price of services (communication and effective co-ordination), materials (timber for construction of the nurseries), food, wages of local people and transportation.
  • The economic crisis in the country has caused a shortage of equipment (e.g. plastic bags for the nursery), requiring the purchase of materials (plastic) and employment of local people for the making of bags for the nursery.
  • Security issues and the safe movement of ho avy members within the country. For effective transportation, ho avy have opted to rent a vehicle for one month at a time, where proportional funds outlined for public transportation were used from the Naturefund budget.
  • Exciting momentum of local community participation, requiring appropriate compensation (seed collection benefits, paid jobs for nursery construction), greater amounts of goods and equipment and the hiring of additional experienced consultants for the project.
One important constraint for the next phase of our project has been the recent cut of funding from other sources (the Humboldt’s Fellowship), making further funding from Naturefund an essential condition to carrying on into the second and third project phases. Ho Avy would greatly appreciate Naturefund’s support. More about Reforestation in Madagascar Go to www.hoavy.org

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