Antoine Randriatompoina: "Communities must be empowered"
“Awareness raising campaigns ran by WWF have led to the organization of the grassroots communities,” he says. “The empowerement and autonomy of COBAs is crucial. We should be able to manage the forest ourselves. Agriculture-led activites should be more developed so that we earn more and better revenues.”
“Look, we know that we have destroyed the forest. But we are also aware that now we must work with all communities to restore and protect it. The forest is vital for us, it provides us not only with wood but also with medicinal plants and water.”
Towards mutual trust
When asked by Guillermo Castilleja, Executive Director of Conservation at WWF International, how was the relationship with WWF at the start of the project, Antoine Randriatompoina genuinely answers that communities did not necessarily trust WWF in the beginning.
“We were afraid that WWF was here to throw us out of the forest,” he says. “But we had several information meetings and long discussions, which dispelled our fears. Mutual trust is a reality now.”
When Guillermo adds that “WWF is also here to learn and that communities need to tell us when we are wrong”, Antoine smiles.
“Once, following WWF’s advice, we dug deep to plant some trees, but it did not work, the holes were far too large,” he says with a twinkle. “But at the end, we got it right together!”