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All the latest news from Madagasikara Voakajy, the Malagasy biodiversity organisation dedicated to the conservation of endemic vertebrates and their habitats in Madagascar.

"I could sense the pride of the villagers and had a real sense of what a community is all about"

What a privilege it is to be able to be part of this exchange visit in Moramanga Madagascar! The site of focus is the beautiful and amazing Mangabe Protected Area. Sometimes people may wonder what makes an area worthy of being protected, some may know immediately and some others may seek further information… I’m a bit of both, being a conservationist, I trust my other colleagues from Madagasikara Voakajy when they choose areas that need protection but they went even further to bring us to the reality, hence this exchange visit.

A new project to promote sustainable management of the Grandidier’s baobab for people and biodiversity benefits in Menabe Region

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Endemic to western Madagascar, the Grandidier’s baobab is featured on most documents and programs about Madagascar. It is Madagascar’s number one tourism attraction. Recent research also demonstrated the nutritional values of baobab fruits and its potential in the cosmetic domain. Locally, baobabs also have values for the communities: fruits are consumed, leaves and bark are used in traditional medicines, and the bark is also used to make ropes and for house construction. There are also some trees which have cultural values as they are considered sacred.

Due to habitat degradation and absence of natural regenerations in the wild, this species is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Madagasikara Voakajy started working on the Grandidier’s baobab to study its pollination in 2005. As the fruits are opening in early evening, the Madagascar flying fox – Pteropus rufus is the main pollinator of the species. While carrying out this study, we also observed bark harvesting and we investigated its extent in 2011-12. With support from the Global Trees Campaign, we also promoted the conservation of the species through providing communities with the rights to manage baobab forests, educating kids to plant baobab trees and identifying trees with cultural values.

Considering the potential of the Grandidier’s baobab to combat malnutrition and poverty in Menabe Region, we piloted in 2016-17 a project to help local communities to produce high quality baobab powder and jams. This project was supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and implemented with Label CBD Consulting. The results demonstrated that the two communities targeted are able to produce consumable baobab powders.

During the next three years (2018-21), with support from Darwin Initiative and Global Trees Campaign, we will expand this project. At three pilot sites we will establish a sustainable harvesting and trade of the baobab fruits (including less threatened baobab species in the same forest) in order to improve regeneration in the wild and reduce poverty and malnutrition. We will reinforce baobab populations and integrate sustainable harvesting agreements into existing natural resources management plans. In parallel, we will empower communities to collect, process and trade baobab products to existing markets. As a co-benefit, we will improve access to nutritious baobab powders through the hungry months. This project will project will provide a better insight how two international conventions, CITES (https://cites.org/eng) and ABS (https://www.cbd.int/abs/), can be implemented for people and biodiversity benefits in Madagascar.

In February 2016, Madagasikara Voakajy officially joined IUCN as a member. For the past ten years, members of our team have been part of the IUCN/SSC. This opportunity will allow us to engage more in IUCN’s vision and mission, and network with other IUCN members. We are grateful to Rainforest Trust and Fauna and Flora International for supporting our membership application.

From 11th to 14th of August, Raphali Andriantsimanarilafy, reptiles lead researcher at Madagasikara Voakajy, followed a training Distance Sampling at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Mantella cowanii is classified as Endangered by the IUCN red list of threatened species due to its very restricted area of occupancy to a few sites. In addition to that, the species is mainly threatened by the habitat loss. The conservation efforts through the Action Plan Mantella cowanii (APMC) seem to be positive for the species has been down listed from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2014.