Trouble in paradise | WWF

Trouble in paradise

Posted on 21 February 2011    
Ihorononda - My little paradise
© WWF / Seraphine Wegner
This is the paradise I found beyond the hills but there is trouble on the horizon. On one of our later visits to Ihorononda I saw that the grass on the hill had been burned and half of the village had turned from green to black, indicating that the problems had arrived at this secluded village. Walking in the forest we saw wonderful trees but also many trees cut-down. The rice fields bordering the forest and the ugly black scars in the forest as a result of burning are just more permanent reminders. The people in all their kindness shared their rice with us, but they are hungry and can not feed their family for most of the year. There is an unbelievable number of children which welcome you with a big smile and curiosity (some cry because you are the first white person they have ever seen) but the schools are overcrowded if there even is one. Some people don’t have proper clothes and walk barefooted despite the cold rain. Many of the children are coughing and have runny noses but there is no medication or doctor. The rapidly rising population in the area gives these people no choice but to cut down the forest for wood for building, cooking, and heating, and burn the forest to make new rice fields. But, destroying the forest allows survival for today only. What about tomorrow when the wonderful nature is gone and there is no more food to eat? The future of both the people and nature of this little paradise is in danger!

WWF in Ivohibe

WWF recognizes the interconnectedness of the health of the environment and the well-being of the people in the communities around Ivohibe, including my little paradise Ihorononda, and aims to protect the environment and villagers by giving people the tools to use the forest responsibly and improve their quality of life. Here are some of the activities the WWF does to help. First of all, WWF supports local organizations (COBAs) to make an impact on the community as a whole and not just a few individuals. Working with these organizations, the WWF introduces new intense rice cultivation techniques, which are up to 6-7 times more productive and require less water compared to traditional methods. WWF teaches locals how to cultivate different vegetables, fish and bees in order to introduce more variety into their diet and give them an alternative income to charcoal production. To protect the forest, villagers are given the tools necessary to plant new trees, including fast growing eucalyptus trees for their own use in cooking and building, and native species to restore the natural forest.

Our work as volunteers ran parallel to the ongoing work of WWF in the area. Our first goal was to get everyone involved. Toward this end, we held workshops on how to organize, plan and realize new projects both with the support of WWF and independently. As a practical example, we built tree nurseries with the villagers to grow new trees. Looking to see if everybody was participating, we noticed that women were left on the sidelines and upon a suggestion coming from the women we decided to help create women’s organizations. One of the most rewarding moments for me was to see the establishment of two new women’s organizations by the time we left. To motivate vegetable planting and improve health, we talked about the importance of a balanced diet. When we say everybody, let’s not forget the children. There is an incredible number of children and it is their future that is at stake. To increase the children’s interest in nature, we organized painting activities, staged a play written by one of our group members with a chameleon as the main character, taught songs about animals and made movie projections. In order to strengthen the ties between neighboring villages and to increase awareness, the volunteer group made radio programs talking about the activities of WWF, success stories from the communities and the local news, and broadcast them from a local radio station

The future of the paradise I found beyond the mountains and many others like it is still unclear, but my hope is that with the efforts of WWF in the area, it will be a bright one. I hope to see the communities become self-sufficient and the people live in harmony with the unique nature around them. As a volunteer, it was an honor to work with the motivated WWF agents in the area and to be part of this effort.
Ihorononda - My little paradise
© WWF / Seraphine Wegner Enlarge

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