Madagascar: visiting our Little Difference - 20,000 trees
2 years ago, in the first infant months of our business Little Difference, we had an idea to plant 1 tree for every single greeting card we sold. From the 1st of January 2016 we started doing just that. At the time of writing we have planted 22,500 Trees. These trees are not just planted, but raised and protected to maturity to become permanent, indigenous reforested areas of Madagascar. We thought this alone was pretty special... Until we went to see, and feel the true impact for ourselves in May this year.
Madagascar is an example of an area which has suffered tremendously as a result of deforestation by human activity. 90% of Madagascar’s forests have gone and the multiple effects are overwhelming. Red top soil is eroding into rivers and fish stocks are being depleted due to run off. The country is bleeding red from it’s rivers out in to the ocean and filling up the estuaries. People are starving because nothing will grow in the now arid land which was once rich forest. We flew over the country on an internal flight and saw from above the impact the deforestation has had on the land.
After landing in The capital Antananarivo, we drove up the (almost non-existent) road for just over 12 hours to Mahajunga, this is a main highway which has had no maintenance since its construction in 1999. Mahajunga is the centre where most of the tree planting takes place by the charity we partner with; Eden Reforestation Projects. We were greeted by the charity representatives and went to visit one of the dry deciduous nurseries.
The majority of Malagasy people are living on less than $2 per day, most of them are just trying to feed their families. This is where an organisation such as Eden Reforestation Projects comes in. A charity set up to replant the lost native forest and in turn, employing local people and teaching them about the importance of protecting the forest.
We took a boat trip while we were in Mahajunga to visit the re-planted mangrove plantation. We went with the planters and saw what it was like for a day in the life of a tree planter. The mangrove propagules are first collected by Eden employees from a mature mangrove forest, they are then transported by ox cart to the boats and taken out to the estuary to be planted. It is a very efficient process and the effects of the mangrove planting has been tremendous.
It used to be that to make a living, many Malagasy people would slash and burn forest in order to make charcoal to sell in sacks for cooking just to survive. Eden Reforestation Projects will now pay those people more money for a sack of mangrove propagules, which they can collect from mature mangrove forests, than they could previously receive for a bag of charcoal. Thus creating a motive for local people to protect the forests which is their (now ongoing) livelihood. Local people are not only employed to collect seeds, transport and plant trees but they are running the whole process. It is overseen by the American charity to avoid corruption but the Malagasy are the supervisors, bosses and in charge of other staff members. Whole communities are employed by the forest and with more and more people relying on these regenerating forests for their income, it is in everyones interest to protect them.
In the areas where mangrove swamp has been replanted, local villages are noticing fish stocks returning and whole eco systems being restored, giving the fisherman more food and a better income. With employment from the forests comes dignity and the opportunity for lots of families to send their children to school, thus creating a more educated population, lifting communities out of poverty and ensuring that this change to restore and protect the forest continues and spreads.
Madagascar has been an eyeopening experience to say the least. It was great to see where our donations have made a difference and to see the forest regenerating, the Eden Reforestation Project are doing a truely outstanding job. The local people we met were all so friendly and welcoming. It was also hard however to see how much the country has lost and how much work there is to do, to try and save it. However, we will continue to plant trees and do all that we can to contribute our bit.