Posted on 17 September 2016
September will be an important month for the Northern Highlands landscape in Madagascar.
September will be an important month for the Northern Highlands landscape in Madagascar. The forest corridor of Marojejy – Anjanaharibe Sud – Tsaratanana (COMATSA) became a formal protected area on 14 September, during a ceremony organized in Manambery. 11 new natural resources management transfer contracts (TGRN) were signed in Andrafainkona on September 15, to reinforce the green belt surrounding the COMATSA.
A protected area with socio economic values
The COMATSA is part of the second largest terrestrial protected area of Madagascar, known as the Ambohimirahavavy Marivorahona Protected Area Complex (CAPAM) which extends over 537 465 ha. The total surface of the COMATSA is of 318 087 ha. Belonging to the categories V and VI, the corridor offers a management framework that promotes the involvement of local communities.
This second largest protected area of Madagascar was established in 2015. It is composed of a number of PAs including the COMATSA, the Integral Natural Reserve of Tsaratanana, the protected areas of Bemanevika and Mahimborondro. These protected areas constitute one of the biggest tropical rainforest blocks in Madagascar and ensure the water supply of the Sava and Sofia regions, as well as a part of the Dian region, through six main rivers that have their sources there. A number of subsistence crops, namely irrigated rice planting and cash crops rely on this big natural water tank. «The regional economy is highly dependent on these protected areas, which support the living conditions of thousands of households. These forests are therefore not only precious ecologically, but also for their socio economic values», explains Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, Country Director of WWF Madagascar.
The establishment of the COMATSA protected area was possible thanks to the collaboration between the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests, WWF and GEF/UNDP who provide the funding.
Involving communities – a success factor
Empowering local communities in forest management is a crucial step for the effective and efficient protection of biodiversity sites. Previously, 53 management transfers were completed around the COMATSA. They represent more than 4 000 people from community based organizations and cover 148 504 ha of forests.
The transfer of the 11 new contracts results from a preliminary study conducted by the Forest Directorate (DREEF) in the SAVA region, in this Northern Part of Madagascar. Indeed, these transfers of management of natural resources ( TGRN) form a green belt which will enable the safeguard of around 28105 ha of the most remote forest areas in the northern part of the Ambohimirahavavy Marivorahona complex. The involvement of village communities, who remain the first beneficiaries of these natural habitats, is crucial for the protection of these forests as the forest service cannot cover the management of these resources on their own.
Each contracting community benefits from a technical supervision as well as trainings to help them in fulfilling their roles as managers: master the specifications requirements, completion of the conservation and management activities in the zoning units and implementation of the layout plans.
A tripartite agreement for improved forest management.
The management transfer of a forest is a contract between the Government, represented by the Regional Directorate for Environment, Ecology and Forests, the concerned commune and the community, under the Gelose law (no. 96-025) or the GCF (Decree n°2001-122). It includes the management of the rights of use and exploitation of resources in compliance with the layout plan, with a regulation providing a more rational use of the forest’s ecologic services. As a matter of fact, the members of the contracting association can collect secondary forest products for food, cosmetics, medicine or cultural uses, in compliance with the regulation limitations defined in the layout plan.
The TGRN approach facilitates the involvement and empowerment of villagers in the sustainable management of forest resources, while helping the forest service to play its role. In addition to the protection of habitats, Income Generating Activities are implemented to reduce communities’ reliance on the forest and to ensure their daily independence. Manantsoa Andriantahina, leader of the Northern Highlands landscape, one of WWF Madagascar’s intervention areas, declares that: « It is important to accompany communities to enable them to fulfill their commitments in the best conditions. We organize various trainings to help in their immersion. Functional literacy, account and cash flow keeping, association management, training in new planting techniques: all this support contributes to the quick and effective empowerment of communities and to their mastering of the management contracts»
The forest service performs regular control of the communities. After three years, during the next evaluation of these new TGRN, the villagers will be able to demonstrate their skills and their involvement in the conservation and rational management of forests.