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Madagascar Programs

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We’re helping in Madagascar

Madagascar is an extremely poor country, with subsistence agriculture being the primary driver of forest loss. 30 years of conservation experience has taught the Duke Lemur Center that sustainable forest protection in Madagascar is a long-term investment that requires building relationships and gaining the trust of local peoples.

Our approach

Thus DLC’s SAVA Conservation project relies on a community-based approach to protect natural forests. An array of diverse project activities are designed to ultimately play a part in ensuring local forest protection, while simultaneously improving the lives of local people. All project activities are interwoven with an element of capacity building, in order to empower local Malagasy people at all levels. It is, after all, their country.

Environmental education, as practiced by DLC-SAVA, teaches young Malagasy students the importance of forest protection and wise use of environmental resources. Using skilled Malagasy educators, the DLC introduced and trained school officials on the implementation of the educational curriculum — training the trainers, training the teachers.

Reforestation not only puts trees back on the landscape, it’s also an excellent tool to teach youth the importance of forests.

Fish farming gives local people an alternative protein source to bush meat, which is often hunted lemurs. DLC-SAVA assists local villages in forming associations, installing ponds, and farming the native (endemic) Paratilapia fish, locally known as fony. Because fony are endangered in the region’s rivers due to overfishing, communities that choose to adopt fish farming agree (1) to release one-fourth of the fish into local waterways to build up populations, and (2) to pass local laws to regulate fishing. They may sell or eat the remaining three-fourths of fony they raise.

Yam cultivation is a project promoted form of more sustainable farming. It reduces erosion by eliminating the annual burning of the forest (tavy, which is required for traditional rice farming) and is more resistant to tropical cyclones. Tavy cultivation of rice on an overcrowded landscape is the single most important contributor to forest destruction and degradation throughout eastern Madagascar. Offering a reasonable alternative will hopefully help reduce tavy in the SAVA region while providing local people with a nutritious substitute for rice and manioc.

Fuel efficient “Rocket Stoves” distributed by the project can reduce wood use by 50%, thus reducing pressure on forest resources. They also improve women’s and children’s respiratory health through improved kitchen air quality.

Family planning as supported by DLC-SAVA gives local women reproductive choices and helps to reduce human pressure on the land. Madagascar’s population growth rate is among the highest in the developing world, and in some regions the population is predicted to double within 15 years. With the majority of the population relying on subsistence agriculture for survival, more people means more pressure on the remaining forests as well as more challenges for children’s wellbeing. We support the women’s health non-profit organization Marie Stopes, which has been active in the region for 20+ years, to offer local women in the Marojejy National Park periphery the choice of contraception.

Research is an important element in any conservation project such as DLC-SAVA, and additionally provides opportunities to train Malagasy university students and scientists in research methods.


Private donations and grants fund 100% of the Lemur Center’s conservation efforts in Madagascar. To learn more, please visit our Madagascar conservation programs homepage or read our conservation newsletter. Thank you so much for your support!