Evrard Benasoavina, DLC-SAVA Conservation Education specialist

Environmental education is an important part of conservation activities. In the SAVA region of Madagascar, we at the DLC focus on environmental education with many audiences. As the DLC-SAVA Conservation Education Specialist, I have managed a number of new initiatives to raise awareness for the public about the value of the environment, and how we can restore natural environments for the benefit of wildlife and people.

Beginning in 2017, I created my own interpretive center, which I call the New Generation School Garden. Here, children of all ages and adults come to see how I use agroforestry and agroecology to plant diverse crops (more than 12 fruiting tree species). I teach the participants about agroecology, which is a philosophy about how to use natural processes to improve farming, as well as livelihoods. We make gardens with diverse vegetables and beans, and visitors pick the fresh produce from our garden which we use to make a picnic lunch. I teach about how to maintain many domesticated animals like chickens, goats, and a fish pond.

With my colleagues in Germany and the DLC, I made many improvements to this land. Through donations from abroad, and a grant from the organization called GEO, piece by piece, I created a classroom to teach and bungalows for camp-outs. The GEO grant allowed me to build important infrastructure, like a deepwater well, bathrooms and showers, and the bungalows so kids can sleep over. We bring groups of 10 children for three visits with a sequential lesson plan, each lesson building on the previous topics. The focus is on the environment, ecosystem services for people, and sustainability. We lead interactive games and projects, like nature journaling, tree planting and gardening, a nature scavenger hunt, and many others. The children all respond that they enjoy their visit and always ask to come back. So far, over 70 students have participated in our visits to the New Generation School Garden, and we are excited to double that number next year.

Explaining about the environment in the classroom of New Generation School Garden.

We teach about the local flora and fauna so that children learn about the species we have endemic to the SAVA region. This includes about 25 species of lemurs, and children are always surprised to know how many species we have in our region. It gives a sense of pride about the valuable biodiversity found only here. Children use coloring and activity books to make their own posters. Each child colors a different page, which has a lot of information about lemurs and other animals. Then the students explain their page to all the other kids, giving them an opportunity to become the teacher. They hang their posters in our classroom so that they decorate our interpretive center with their own work.

During visits to the New Generation School Garden, students learn about biodiversity and make their own posters to hang up in the classroom. They also receive notebooks and crayons for nature journaling, so they have a record of their activities to take home.

As the New Generation School Garden grows, we want to make it more accessible for bigger groups of students. We have several new ventures that we plan for the new year, including expanding our fish pond as a demonstration site for all to see how we can sustainably harvest fish for protein, instead of hunting wild animals. We will also need larger chicken coops and goat pens as our husbandry demonstration produces more and more domestic animals. Our long-term goal for sustainability is to sell these chickens, goats, and fish that we produce on-site, as well as several other income-generating activities such as the sale of tree seedlings, fuel-efficient stoves, and produce from the garden. To get to that self-sustaining point, though, we still rely on grants and donations from external sources. We are extremely grateful to all the organizations and individuals who have made this project possible, especially GEO, donors from abroad who contributed to our campaigns, and the Cooke family who generously support many of our environmental education initiatives. From all of us at the New Generation School Garden, we wish you all well and a happy and healthy New Year!

If you like Evrard’s project and you want to support him, we describe his needs for 2022 on our Targeted Impacts Gifts page.

You can also make a tax-deductible year-end donation to help Evrard improve his New Generation School Garden.

Read more about Evrard’s project on his website.