Here comes the forest police!
By creating community based forest management associations (COBA), WWF helps villagers take over the responsibility for the management of their own natural resources.
”Polisin’ ala”And ”Polisin’ ala”, the forest police, is patrolling and checking the woodlands to makes sure no one takes what is supposed to stay there.
In Vohimary-Nord, near Vondrozo, WWF helped create a COBA in 2006. At that time, a dozen hectares of natural forest were being cleared and burnt in the village vicinity to grow rice.
Four colleaguesTogether with four colleagues, Kotobatovisa forms the forest police. “When we decided about our own ‘dina’, the local laws, we fixed the penalty for slash-and-burn in the forest at 250,000 Ariary (about 100 Euros),” he says. “This is a lot, but we purposely wanted it to hurt and be dissuasive. You are not supposed to burn down our natural resources!”
Every fortnight, Kotobatovisa and his team are spending three days in the forest to check every corner of it.
Lemurs and villainsThey follow three paths and report on anything they can spot, from stumps of freshly cut trees to sights of lemurs and birds. And they sometimes catch villains.
Their presence and controls have proven to be very effective: slash-and-burn inside the forest has almost disappeared.
However the problem is not entirely solved: “People are still burning their pastures around the forest,” Kotobatovisa adds. “Sometimes they don’t pay attention, the winds change direction and the fire spreads to the woodland.”
Ineffective courtIn 2009, the forest police arrested a man who wanted to clear again 10 hectares of forest regrowth. Since he couldn’t pay the fine, they brought him to court, where nothing ever happened.
“Maybe he had friends there,” says Kotobatovisa. “That’s a real problem: the COBAs do their work but the courts are still not functioning properly.”
Helping forest restorationThe Holistic Conservation Programme for Forests is supporting the efforts of the forest police as they also contribute to increase the passive restoration of the forest – the natural regeneration of it, without planting trees – which is one of the objectives of the project.
Passive restoration only works if there are still patches of natural forest around, containing tree seeds. Then, all you have to do is to protect the area from new clearing attempts – a perfect job for the “Polisin’ala”.
A national duty!“It has become a national duty for me to protect our forests, as they are the source of food and water,” adds Kotobatovisa. “And COBAs with large forests can obtain funds for the future of their people. I am interested in that.”
It has become a national duty for me to protect our forests, as they are the source of food and water