The French TV RFO reports on the project in Bekiria
Here, most of the plants and animals are found nowhere else. Madagascar is still home to a unique biodiversity, which is unfortunately highly threatened.
Forests are particularly threatened. Local populations cut trees because they need construction timber and fuelwood. In Bekiria everybody is using trees that can be found only here. Slash and burn agriculture is the other main cause of forest destruction.
Flavien Rebara, WWF project leader in Fort Dauphin, tries to convince farmers to switch to other agriculture practices.
“Before, slash and burn agriculture was less destructive because there were fewer people and they needed only very small patches of forest. Today, with the growing population, the need for crop land is a lot bigger and the impact on the forest much higher.”
A young farmer:
“We have fields near the river but they have shrunk because of erosion. My father had to find additional land for his sugar cane plantations and this is why we moved here.”
These are the spiny forests which are being burnt near Bekiria. Alluaudia procera is only growing here. These trees are protected and burning them can be punished by up to three years in jail and a big fine.
The Malagasy government, with the technical assistance of WWF, has given to some villages such as Bekiria the right to manage themselves the forests. The Chief of the village is the only one abilited to grant cutting permits. But today, he is supervising replanting activities. Some 20,000 samplings have already been planted here.
Chief of the village:
“Here we have two types of reforestation programmes. One is family-led. Each family must plant 20 samples per year, otherwise they must pay a fine and give a goat to the managing committee. The other programme is led by the World Food Programme which is providing food against efforts to restore the forests.”
However these activities are restoring only 10% of the forest burnt each year by the Malagasy population. Fires kill trees but also their residents such as sifaka lemurs which roam in the spiny forests. Many rare species could disappear if agricultural practices and behaviour do not change rapidly.