The Homaray Project, Madagascar
The island of Madagascar is hugely rich in biodiversity with over 80% of its species found nowhere else on Earth. Yet much of this abundant biodiversity is now endangered by deforestation, with over 90% of the country’s rainforest already destroyed. Like the majority of Madagascar, the Ifarantsa District in the South East of the country was once forested but now, due to the impact of slash-and-burn agriculture it takes over 2 hours walk to reach rainforest. Over the last 20 years the loss of the forest has exposed the fragile soil and made it increasingly more difficult for the local farmers to feed their families. These farmers know that to continue to put food on the table in the future, they must switch to new sustainable farming techniques. Currently they do not have the resources or knowledge to do so.
This is where the Homaray Project comes in. This Project grew out of the vision of two local Malagasy men, Davis Randriamampionona and Rubin Ravelonandrasana, and their desire to turn around the declining fortunes of their fellow farmers by helping develop the new sustainable farming techniques they so urgently need. We are now working with Davis and Rubin to introduce the Inga Foundation’s sustainable agriculture method, alley cropping, to Ifarantsa in order to provide food security for the local families and halt the destruction of the rainforest.
The Crucial First Step
Since the Inga tree is not native to the area, our first task is to identify an appropriate native tree species to fulfil the same role. Once a suitable species has been found, the Homaray Project’s main focus will be introducing the farmers of Ifarantsa to alley cropping, thereby allowing them to achieve food security at the same time as reducing the devastating deforestation caused by the current subsistence farming practices.
Our Director Mike Hands has pooled his knowledge with that of experts from Kew Gardens and Madagascar’s Ministry of Forestry to compile a list of possible candidate species for alley cropping in Ifarantsa. Alley cropping trials for 3 of these candidate species have now been started on the project’s 3.5 hectares of land and the young trees are already over 6ft tall. Davis will be expanding the trail plots to include as many of the other candidate species as possible in the near future.
Aims for the Future
- To establish a tree nursery in order to supply the seedlings farmers will need to make the transition from slash and burn to alley cropping.
- In addition to slash and burn we would like to tackle the other causes of deforestation. The most significant of these other causes is charcoal making. Often for many families, the only way to earn money is to cut down trees to make charcoal to be sold in the towns and cities. Firewood for cooking also comes from the forest, as do house building materials, which include palm fronds from Madagascar’s endemic Traveller’s Palm. In answer to these needs we would like to set up a sustainable communal forest and stop families having to resort to destroying what remains of the rainforest to obtain crucial materials.
- Finally, we wish to begin the task of reforesting areas of Ifarantsa using leguminous and native trees, in order to help the local biodiversity to recover.
If we can achieve these three aims, it will make a huge difference to both the biodiversity of Ifarantsa and to the lives of the local families. But to do this we need your support – without your donations it won’t be possible.