Support for people and nature in Madagascar
NABU project protects unique biodiversity in Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetland Complex
Andrianampoinimerina – that was the name of the king who united Madagascar around 200 years ago. The island is just as beautiful and exotic as this name sounds, boasting a stunning array of diverse landscapes and a seemingly infinite range of biodiversity. Sandy deserts, red earth and mangrove forests provide a beautiful home to the Sakalava rail, lesser flamingo, Madagascan plover, red-fronted lemur, Madagascan day gecko and many other extraordinary species.
NABU and BirdLife partner ASITY Madagascar launch joint project
Areas where people live usually go hand in hand with conflicts with nature at some point. Madagascar’s population is constantly increasing due to population growth and migration. The inhabitants are dependent on the island’s natural resources and use them in many different ways. However slash-and-burn agriculture to convert mangroves and wetlands into rice fields, the hunting of birds, intensified sedimentation of lakes through deforestation and erosion, overfishing and deforestation for construction timber and firewood lead to the constant destruction of its ecosystems.
In June 2015, NABU and the BirdLife partner ASITY Madagascar launched the project “Sustainable Forest and Wetland Management at Mahavavy-Kinkony” to protect the Mahavavy-Kinkony protected area in Western Madagascar with its rich biodiversity. The region is home to a truly unique flora and fauna with an incredible variety of species that can only be found there including the well-known lemurs, which are primates endemic to Madagascar, the impressive baobab trees and extremely rare bird species like the Madagascan fish eagle. These species have already lost much of their natural habitat.
Action taken together with the local population
NABU and ASITY have been promoting active nature conservation and sustainable development with the local population for the last four years. The management of the protected area is being transferred to the local communities in an extensive process. At the same time, practical measures are being implemented, such as the construction of fire breaks to prevent bush fires. In addition, awareness raising campaigns are informing the local community about threats to nature and its value. “We promote active nature conservation in schools and at community events and try to raise awareness of nature conservation among the population,” explains Svane Bender, head of the NABU Africa Program.
As food is cooked using wood or charcoal, older, more mature trees are rarely to be found in the surrounding forests. The loss of suitable nesting opportunities for birds or day shelters for nocturnal lemurs has had a noticeable effect on their populations. To reduce the consumption of charcoal and to protect the forests, ASITY and NABU have developed an energy-saving charcoal stove that is being distributed to the local population. This will improve the local standard of living in the long term while protecting nature at the same time.
Systematic mapping of flora and fauna in the project region
Systematic flora and fauna surveys lay down the foundation for effective species protection activities. This mapping is being carried out by Madagascan experts and volunteer NABU experts from Germany, such as Bernhard Walter and Dr. Wolfgang Beisenherz. Both are experienced members of the NABU Africa Working Group and have done many bird surveys in Africa, including in Ethiopia, for many years as part of their involvement in the group. In August and September 2016, they supported the field work in the project area as NABU experts. As part of a comprehensive species monitoring programme, they mapped the Mahavavy Delta, Marambitsy Bay, Lake Kinkony and dry forest fragments near Katondra. “With ASITY, we have counted numerous waders, herons and ducks on the extensive mudflats of the mangrove belt. We rowed along the reed beds of Lake Kinkony in a small rowing boat to map the severely endangered Sakalava rail. We set off at dawn and didn’t get back to camp before dark,” reminisces Bernhard Walter.
While the monitoring focused on very rare endemic breeding bird species such as the Sakalava rail, the Malagasy sacred ibis and Bernier’s teal, it also recorded migratory and resting birds such as the whimbrel, Terek sandpiper and the greater sand plover. Both experts were particularly impressed by the completely untouched natural landscape of the Mahavavy Delta with its vast scale and unique biodiversity. “You can see the dynamics of the river through the labyrinth of tributaries, alluvial sand and mud banks, and mangrove forests. You can’t find anything like this back home anymore,” says Bernhard Walter, fully convinced.
The strategic partnership between German BirdLife partner NABU and the Madagascan partner ASITY is of great importance to the local nature conservation. More can be achieved to protect the natural resources of the Mahavavy region through working together and persuading people to adopt independent and sustainable management practices for their own environment. The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).