Happy 60th Birthday to Madagascar! World’s Most Biodiverse Island Gets Gift of 60 Million Trees

To celebrate its 60th birthday, the nation of Madagascar held its largest ever tree-planting ceremony, with a million seedlings going into the ground in just a few hours after the speeches concluded. The country is preparing to plant a million trees for each year of its six decade history.

“The government has the challenge of making Madagascar a green island again. I encourage the people to protect the environment and reforest for the benefit of the future generations,” said President Andy Rajoelina at the January launch event in Ankazobe district, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the capital, Antananarivo.

According to two Madagascar writers published at Mongabay, the highly-publicized campaign comes one year after Rajoelina’s election on a platform that promised to “Make  Madagascar green again.” It is the culmination of months of hard work by many organizations amassing around 100 million seeds to place into cultivated nursery beds—with schools, NGOs, government ministries, and even the army lending a helping hand.

Some officials supporting the project worry there won’t be enough follow-up to ensure the trees make it to adulthood, but Madagascar’s environment minister vowed to provide support.

RELATED: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

“This time, the action will be continuous, and there will be a follow-up,” said Alexandre Georget. “The state will recruit guards to monitor and protect the young plants.”

This is the world’s oldest island and a country of unparalleled biodiversity, but it is often scored as one of the worst nations for deforestation, with 40% of its forest cover lost since 1940. Most rural populations can’t make money from the incredibly unique forest ecosystem, so the trees are the first to go, when islanders need to make a living.

– Lemur, Mobile Library Project

That’s one of the reasons the environmental ministry and partners are planting trees that bear fruit and spices which can be harvested for export.

Recent movements turned to education, government protections of land, and the training of rural communities to regard themselves as forest protectors, which have all helped slow the decline of forests and exotic wildlife populations like the 100 species of lemur that are found only on this island.

RELATEDCouple Protects Endangered Madagascar Lemurs By Launching Mobile Library to Teach Indigenous People to Read

But rigorous reforestation is also needed to support these exotic creatures, so the country is stepping up. It is including some fast-growing non-native species which do pose a risk to the high bio-diversity of flora in the region, but also could go a long way towards achieving a financially stable relationship between the trees and the Malagasy who live under them.

Say ‘Happy Birthday’ to Madagascar! SHARE Their Good News On Social Media…

If You Buy a Sapling For This Rainforest, Money Goes to Turn Illegal Loggers Into Forest Guardians

We can take shorter showers. We can try to recycle our plastic. We can make sure to turn the lights off in our homes at night. But the sense of urgency in the face of our climate crisis leaves some people discouraged because there isn’t more they can do.

For 13 years, however, Health in Harmony has been offering caring citizens of the world a way to reduce their impact on the environment—a chance to minimize, or even neutralize, their carbon footprint in ways that benefit so much more than just the CO2 equation.

The intrepid nonprofit is allowing people to buy personal carbon-offsets and using the money to benefit rural communities in Borneo and Madagascar. The brilliance behind their program is the way it addresses the locals in and around these tropical rainforests who are both impoverished, and living nearby some of the most important and vulnerable ecosystems on earth—ecosystems that if lost could place the goal of overcoming our impact on climate forever beyond our reach.

Tropical rainforests are the Fort Knox of carbon storage, as well as bastions of biodiversity. Many tracts, like Gunung Palung National Park on the island of Borneo have been hit hard by slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging, because struggling locals look for ways to make money and feed their families.

Based in Portland, Oregon, Health In Harmony offers people worldwide the opportunity to buy tropical tree seedlings that, when matured, will sequester a certain amount of carbon per year. But the impact here is profound.

According to an article in Fast Company, during its first ten years the program achieved 90% reduction in logging activities within households where the nonprofit was operating. This resulted in an astonishing regrowth of 52,000 acres of rainforest.

Photo courtesy of Health In Harmony

Kinari Webb, founder of Health In Harmony explained that 95 trees will offset the carbon emitted by an average American—while planting them ensures the survival of one of the most biodiverse places on earth.

WATCH: First Drone Project of Its Kind in Canada is Aiming to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028

With the group’s carbon-offset calculator, you can enter in key contributors in your own personal carbon footprint such as how much gasoline you use, or how many miles you’ve flown on airlines, and the calculator will come up with the cost of that carbon footprint as it relates to buying seedlings to be planted in Borneo and Madagascar.

According to Webb a monthly donation of $31.00 is likely enough to make you a carbon-neutral citizen.

And, to assuage your skepticism about reforestation efforts that don’t ensure saplings’ survival, Webb says that during the first 3 years, watering, weeding, fertilizing, and fire prevention are regularly provided for the trees. Over their first 10 sites they’ve seen a survival rate of 80%.

They diversify, using over 100 native tree species and indigenous fruit trees, while also compensating for failure by planting more than is needed to account for tree death during infancy and adolescence. These steps ensure that the full biodiversity compliment of the jungle can return even in the plantations. But, that is just the beginning.

CHECK OUT: For First Time Ever, Scientists Identify How Many Trees to Plant and Where to Plant Them to Stop Climate Crisis

Not Just Planting Trees, Transforming Villages

Photo by ASRI Kids / Nina Finley

Part of the money from your carbon offset purchases also provides healthcare, sustainable agriculture training, and economic empowerment for the villages near Gunung Palung National Park.

A “green credit” system allows the residents who work to reduce illegal logging to receive discounts of up to 70% on medical services at the medical facilities of Health In Harmony’s partner on the group  ASRI.  They can even pay for medical care with things like tree seedlings, artisan goods, and manure.

MORE: People Have Passively Planted Over 30 Million Trees Simply by Surfing the Web

ASRI also works with village chiefs to nominate a Forest Guardian. Respected members of their community, the Forest Guardians are trained by ASRI to work with illegal loggers to try and convince them to put down their chainsaws. They spread awareness of alternative ways of generating income while earning discounts on medical services for themselves and their neighbors.

Sustainable modern agriculture techniques are replacing slash and burn methods which have been destroying the rainforest while yielding fewer crops. In 2018, locals were producing more crops for their families and selling the remainder for additional income. In July 2018, Health In Harmony’s Kitchen Gardens, and Goats for Widows projects allowed women at home to generate their own income from farming small plots of land or keeping goats whose manure and milk helped wives who had lost their husbands to stay afloat financially.

Next Up: Madagascar and Her Lemurs

Beyond a second, even larger, Indonesia site called Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, which is a critical sanctuary for orangutans, Health In Harmony has expanded its operations to another biodiversity mecca: Madagascar.

RELATED: Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

Madagascar’s forests are massively at risk from logging and agriculture, and with them almost 100 species of lemur, the charismatic primate found nowhere else on earth.

In the autumn of 2019, Health In Harmony began setting up reforestation, healthcare, agricultural training, and more in Manombo Special Reserve, a 14,300-acre protected area in southeast Madagascar, home to nine species of lemur—all of which are threatened with extinction.

Health In Harmony is proving that any concerned citizen can do far more than recycle to prevent climate change, and that the power of their dollar can help a lot more lifeforms than humans and trees.

Share This Incredible Opportunity With Your Friends on Social Media

Couple Protects Endangered Lemurs in Madagascar By Launching Mobile Library to Teach Indigenous People to Read

When a young couple went on their 2014 honeymoon in Madagascar—one of the most cherished environments in the world—the heartbreaking problems of indigenous people, forests, and lemurs swirled around in their minds until one day a holistic solution revealed itself, like a bright sunbeam through the tangle of jungle canopy.

Their notion of how they could benefit both wildlife and people is today a program that is easing the poverty of the Malagasy people, while helping to save the endangered lemurs, which are found on the island of Madagascar, and no where else.

The nation’s economy is the fourth fastest-growing in the world. In fact, one fourth of the globe’s vanilla comes from the island. Yet the vast majority of the adult Malagasy people can’t even read, so they don’t benefit from the higher-paying jobs. They are left to fend for themselves, living off the land—which encroaches on and endangers the wildlife surrounding them.

The couple, Shana and Vlad Vassilieva, learned all this from their tour guide, JJ (Jean-Jacques Rafenomahazomanana), a passionate local who shared his vast experiences of Malagasy culture and led them beyond designated tourist zones, into isolated villages.

There, they noticed that the schools for children had no books—and the agricultural practices in villages were not sustainable. They decided they could address both these problems, by tackling the literacy issue.

They partnered with JJ to create the Mobile Library Project, designed not only to teach people about letters, but also about their lemurs.

“One of the main goals is to help the Malagasy see how much can be gained from the forests and nature when you take care of it and practice more sustainable methods,” said Shana. “So while kids and adults are learning to read, they are also learning how to thrive off the lands in more mutually beneficial ways.”

LOOK: Dozens of Creatures Thought to Be Extinct Found Alive in ‘Lost City’ in the Jungle

The non-profit Mobile Library Project employs two additional educators and operates out of a van that travels to four villages every month in coordination with local schools.

They not only provide books and lessons on reading and writing, the group also offers workshops on how to improve your crop yield and how to rely less on the forests. That way, the Malagasy can develop new resources and leave more of the forest to the indigenous animals—80 percent of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

“When the people read books, they start to see the relation between the environment and people,” said Madagascar native JJ, who serves as manager of the nonprofit. Speaking to Shana, an Idaho filmmaker, as part of a short documentary, he explained that the people are learning “if they protect the forest, they can get a lot of benefit from it.”

The project also gives families seeds to plant. Whenever a family joins the book project they also get some seeds, along with a book. Each school the project visits also gets fruit trees. When it’s grown, the students can eat the fruit, or teachers can sell the fruit to help pay for supplies and other needed improvements. The trees also help retain water in the soil, provide shade cover for plants, and prevent soil erosion. They are also sharing ananambo trees because they have medicinal benefits and a denser nutritional value, and beans since they are easy to grow.

MORE: Here’s Why You Can Hail 2019 as a Year of ‘Incredible Species Action’

Since 2016, the group has helped to educate 6,200 people, planted 80 trees at 14 schools, and distributed 66 pounds of seeds for 46 families—as well as thousands of books.

Photos by Mobile Library Project on Facebook

The couple also partners with Zara Aina, a Madagascar nonprofit, and received some grant funding to launch the first tour in 2016. Since adding the seed and tree sharing program in November 2018, they’ve expanded their vision further, hoping to offer micro loans to help Malagasy natives develop their own businesses.

“I love the idea of becoming, not just a mobile library for education, but also a mobile ‘re-greener’ and conservation based financial empowerment tool on wheels,” she said.

WATCH the video about the Lemur connection, and FIND more info at mobilelibraryproject.com

Support the People of Madagascar… By Sharing on Social Media