They are a group of 41 women, belonging to a cooperative called Tontolo Maitso in a small, Madagascar community in Ankarafantsika National Park, in the NW of the country. The group of women have been hard at work, cultivating the seedlings. Every day, members of the group tend to the plants. They water them, and check to ensure there is sufficient light, and enough space to grow. The seedlings look green and lush now—healthy—and it’s no wonder: the women in the cooperative are experts, having worked on this project for the past year. Soon, the women know, these plants will be ready for transport.
This is not your ordinary gardening project. These seedlings consist of trees, many that are native to Madagascar, which will provide habitat to the unique wildlife in the country, the endangered lemurs and birds only found in Madagascar and nowhere else on Earth. The women are working as part of a forest regeneration project run by Planet Madagascar, a Canadian non-profit organization. Thanks to generous support from Civilized Adventures, Planet Madagascar and the women’s cooperative have grown 10,000 new seedlings this past year. Once transported and replanted, 6,000 of the trees will become part of a self-sustaining 75-hectare corridor of forest.
The corridor connects two forest fragments where lemurs and other endangered species are known to range. By connecting the fragments, the amount of habitat that is available for the wildlife to range will increase.
Madagascar is a global conservation priority because it has lost a great deal of forest cover—approximately 44% between 1953 and 2014—and, as a result, the wildlife that relies on these forests are highly endangered. Researchers estimate that 95% of lemurs are threatened with extinction, making them the most endangered group of animals on the planet. It is crucial to address habitat loss and fragmentation. But the problem is complex. People in Madagascar are some of the poorest in the world, living on less than two dollars a day in many places. Habitat loss in the country is related to small-scale farming, charcoal production, and cattle grazing. It is therefore critical to consider the needs of the people and ensure that local members of the community feel ownership over the project. That’s why when Civilized Adventures donated the 10,000 trees, they made sure that while 6,000 seedlings would be planted in the corridor, the remaining 4,000 trees would be planted around the community to the benefit of the people.
“This is a long-term project, but we are making exciting progress toward our goal,” says Travis Steffens, Executive Director of Planet Madagascar. “The 10,000 trees donated by Civilized Adventures will make a huge impact, not just for the lemurs but also for the people living in this region.”