Update from the field: Rainforest Trust
Rainforest Trust works to save species, care for local communities, and protect the planet. All three areas of this mission are accomplished through work at the Lost Forest of Madagascar project site.
In order to protect the species of the Lost Forest such as the vulnerable fossa, it is important to provide reinforcements on the human resources side of the project. To date, Rainforest Trust’s local partner in Madagascar has hired two local assistants: a socio-organizer specialist and a forest technician. The socio-organizer is mainly in charge of leading any activities associated with community awareness and conducting socio-economic studies around the protected area. Between May and July 2018, the socio-economic survey was conducted and completed in the villages around the proposed protected areas. In contrast, the forest technician ensures the regular patrol of the forest and all activities related with the security of the Lost Forest of Madagascar. The forest technician manages a staff of 11 rangers, as well as organizing the implementation of fire breaks, in conjunction with local authorities, during the dry seasons. The forest guards provide the protection needed for the endangered and vulnerable species who call the area home. This is crucial to the survival of the vulnerable fossa, endangered ring-tailed lemur, and new subspecies that are just being discovered in the area.
During the first year of the project, Rainforest Trust and its local partner are working to reinforce the engagement of all local authorities and communities in the project. At regional and local levels, workshops were organized in order to inform about the project, the advantages in protecting the natural resources and the potential impacts: socially, economically and culturally. Therefore, two workshops discussed the approaches and the involvement of those stakeholders in the process. During the workshops, larger audiences participated and approved the continuity of the creation of the new Lost Forest of Madagascar protected area, such as the technical staff of the three administration levels (Region, District and Commune). Rainforest Trust’s Madagascar Conservation Associate attended these meetings to provide a voice for Rainforest Trust as an organization/stakeholder as well. In addition to the workshops, a recent meeting occurred between the Ministry of Environment, the Regional Direction of Environment and the local partner to reinforce the activities already established and to continue with the process of creating the protected area.
One of the main reasons that the local community approached the field partner asking for protection of the forest in the first place is due to the clean water supply that the forest provides. Local authorities participated in talks with the border communities to express the value of the Lost Forest of Madagascar and the importance in protecting it. This helps to ensure that the border communities do not encroach on the protected area property lines and that they do not allow their cattle to stray and destroy the forest.
Because this isolated rainforest is highly susceptible to uncontrolled fires during drought periods, it is essential to engage local community support to create fire breaks. The forest guards and local community members also help patrol the area to ensure that no fires start or spread. By preventing the forest from being burned, it prevents tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere, in turn protecting our planet.
Keeper I, Mammals and Quarters for Conservation Champion, Rainforest Trust
(Photo courtesy of David Cook)