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From the classroom to the forest

Conservation of Madagascar’s unique natural resources requires a long-term strategy that empowers communities to care for their environment. Fostering a generation of environmental stewards begins in the school classroom with Madagascar’s youth, and incorporating the environment into daily classroom instruction can lead to a generation of Malagasy people interested in and equipped to protect their natural heritage.

The DLC-SAVA Conservation project introduced an environmental education training manual originally developed by the Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group and the Ministry of Education. In partnership with skilled Malagasy educators, the DLC has introduced and trained school officials on the implementation of the educational curriculum into daily lesson plans. This approach ensures that the environmental education program is widely adopted from all levels of the education system. We want to ensure that the information is presented in a standardized and culturally sensitive manner, and therefore more readily adopted by the teachers on a daily basis. In collaboration with the school districts of Sambava and Andapa, DLC-SAVA has conducted workshops with over 2,000 teachers to train them to incorporate environmental education into the daily curricula.

SAVA Conservation teacher trainers Bruno and Vita Modeste.

We also support guided forest visits for youth groups at national parks and private reserves so that young people have opportunities to learn about the environment, with World Heritage sites as their classrooms. In one collaboration, we partner with the private reserve Macolline to support their efforts to get kids out of the classroom and into the forest. Over 400 school children per year participate in guided visits in the forest by Macolline educators.

DLC-SAVA Conservation supports local student groups for educational guided tours of the forest.

The Macolline seed collection is a beautiful and educational exhibit.

Macolline educator Rado explains to children about the importance of trees for conservation and human use. Over 400 students per year participate in guided tours. 

From dream to reality

DLC Environmental Education Specialist Evrard Benasoavina dreamed of creating a space for sharing his love of nature with the residents of SAVA region and elsewhere. Before working with DLC, Evrard saved his money and bought a piece of land which he has transformed from invasive grasses to a thriving agroforest. He also accumulated donations and grants from abroad to create classrooms, a library, picnic area, bungalows, and more. Evrard hosts visits from schools in the SAVA region using a three-day sequential learning lesson plan.

At the New Generation School Garden, founded by DLC-SAVA Education Specialist Evrard Benasoavina, children learn about the environment, ecosystem services for people, and sustainability. Lessons emphasize plants and animals endemic to the SAVA region, including 25 species of lemur. “The children are always surprised by how many species we have in our region,” says Evrard. “It gives a sense of pride about the valuable biodiversity found only here.”

Sustainable agriculture reduces forest loss

Slash-and-burn agriculture, known as tavy, is the traditional method of farming in Madagascar and rice is the dominant crop for consumption. This method of farming relies on seasonal clearing and burning, often in forest habitat. Coupled with rapid population growth, the need for land and the destruction caused from tavy has outpaced the forest resources.

To slow or stop deforestation, people need an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture. The DLC-SAVA Conservation partnered with the CARE International program in training and promoting the cultivation of large yams, called ovybe. Yams are drought resistant and do not require shifting agriculture. DLC-SAVA hosted training sessions at a demonstration plot at Ambodivohitra, and the yams cultivation techniques have been adopted by villages around Marojejy National Park.

Partnering with local leaders, we support women’s agricultural associations that collaborate to create and maintain vegetable gardens and produce crops for consumption and for sale.

Slash-and-burn cultivation of rice on an overcrowded landscape is the single most important contributor to forest destruction and degradation throughout eastern Madagascar. Creating a reasonable alternative will hopefully help to reduce deforestation in the SAVA region, and at the same time provide local people with a nutritious substitute for the ubiquitous rice and manioc.

In 2019, in association with Terra Firma International, we hosted training in soil and water management practices that emphasized amending soil ecosystems organically and planting diverse vegetable crops. We also provided high-quality open pollinated seeds to farmers. Our training emphasized crop diversification to increase farmer resilience to market and climate fluctuations and improve nutrition through balanced diets. Over 50 participants were involved, including university students and local farmers. See our 2020 DLC-SAVA Conservation newsletter and James Herrera’s article “Agroecology in Madagascar: DLC-SAVA Conservation interventions for sustainable development” for more.

In 2019, 50 participants from five villages learned Climate Smart Agriculture skills, from optimizing rainwater runoff to finding locally available compost materials.

Empowering women through improved access to health care

Madagascar’s population growth rate is among the highest in the world, growing at about 3% per year, with an average fertility rate of 4.5 births per woman. In some regions, the population is predicted to double within 15 years. Further, women in rural Madagascar have limited access to health care infrastructure. With the majority of the population relying on subsistence agriculture, more people means more pressure on the remaining forests of the region as well as posing more challenges for children’s wellbeing. Nearly 50% of the population is below the age of 15, and the incidence of childhood poverty in Madagascar increases with the number of children per household.

SAVA Conservation collaborates with the women’s health non-profit organization, Marie Stopes, to offer local women in the Marojejy National Park periphery the choice of contraception. By choosing Marie Stopes as a partner, we are collaborating with an organization which has extensive expertise and experience working in family planning in Madagascar. Marie Stopes has been working in Madagascar for 20+ years, providing women with reproductive options, and their “Ladies” (nurses) are already working in the SAVA region. We are giving them the means to expand their services into an area that they would not have otherwise been able to reach. Thus far, with DLC-SAVA assistance, over 1100 women from more than 10 villages have had access to contraceptives and more are eager for us to increase our scope.

Marie Stopes nurses travel to remote villages to discuss women’s health issues and family planning. The nurses are well-received and feedback has been excellent.

More information

More information and photos of DLC-SAVA activities can be found in our newsletter archive.


Please make a contribution today to support SAVA Conservation. 100% of funds for the DLC’s Madagascar Conservation Programs come from donors and grants. Thank you!