The project

Since November 2010, WWF, in partnership with “Aviation sans Frontières – Belgique” and the “Système d’Aires protégées de Madagascar”, has been running a project on the aerial surveillance of a series of protected areas with the goal of reducing slash-and-burn agriculture in these areas.
Many forest types of Madagascar are targeted by the project: bush, dense dry forest, high altitude forest and dense humid forest.

Once a year, after the burning season, overflights are conducted in the protected areas in question, using a small aircraft. Two photographers take oblique pictures from both sides of the plane.

From the pictures, new clearings can be localized in Google Earth and maps can be prepared for interventions in the field. Calculating the surface area of the clearings allows for inter-annual monitoring.

The pictures and associated maps are printed and can easily be used for community forest monitoring and interventions on deforested sites. Since the photos are oblique, they are easily interpreted by local communities and protected areas management teams.

By helping to manage forests more sustainably, the project has a major impact on development and the livelihoods of local communities, which are highly dependent on forest products, thus forests should be managed as efficiently as possible.

Information collected in the field during intervention allows understanding the causes of slash-and-burn agriculture and developing adaptive management.

Through the training of protected area managers and local representatives in the use of the aerial photographs, the project provides for capacity building to ensure long-term sustainability of its accomplishments.

The aerial photographs also present an important communications tool, which can be used to alert public opinion or politicians about the extent of slash-and-burn agriculture in certain sites.

The project not only helps conserve the rich biodiversity of Madagascar’s forests, but it also helps mitigate climate change: the burning of forests releases high amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


 / ©: Aviation sans Frontières Belgique
Small aircraft used for overflights of protected areas
© Aviation sans Frontières Belgique
 / ©: WWF MWIOPO / Louise Jasper
Community rangers using aerial photographs
© WWF MWIOPO / Louise Jasper

Alternatives

It is important to understand that the aerial surveillance is done parallel with actions to support the communities in the search for alternatives to the burnings. WWF is working with local communities, for example in developing improved agricultural techniques, such as irrigation, the development of associations or improved rice cultivation. Revenue-generating activities that provide alternatives for the locals are part of many WWF projects.
 / ©: WWF MWIOPO / Louise Jasper
Villagers discussing aerial photographs of forest clearings
© WWF MWIOPO / Louise Jasper

Outlook

The project’s objective is a reduction by 80 % of the annual slash-and-burn agriculture deforestation rate by 2017 in the National Parks targeted by the project, and a reduction by 50 % of annual slash-and-burn agriculture deforestation rate in other categories of protected areas targeted by the project.

In the longer term, we aim to have the methodology of aerial surveillance integrated into the management plans of all protected areas in Madagascar.
 / ©: WWF MWIOPO/Louise Jasper
Photo exhibition, Behompy, Tuléar
© WWF MWIOPO/Louise Jasper
© WWF MWIOPO / Xavier Vincke © WWF MWIOPO / Xavier Vincke © WWF MWIOPO / Xavier Vincke
 / ©: WWF MWIOPO / Xavier Vincke
Patrol in the Marojejy-Tsaratanana Corridor
© WWF MWIOPO / Xavier Vincke

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