Since 2016, a team of around 20 UWE undergraduates has partnered with Masters students in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, study the unique wildlife of the area and work alongside local communities to protect diverse species, including the endangered diademed sifaka lemur.
SADABE, an NGO formed by scientists in Madagascar, was key in helping the students and their research. In turn the Bristol student expedition, helped the NGO’s long term goal of creating a 65,000-acre nature reserve on the island, by getting local leaders and communities to see the benefits this will bring to their families.
How did it all start?
I had read of the excellent work that SADABE were doing in the unprotected forests around Tsinjoarivo via the Lemur Conservation Action Plan, and that they had identified an opportunity for enhanced engagement with universities. We carried out a recce in 2015 to meet with the SADABE staff and were impressed by the work that they were doing and the vision that they had for the area. We then worked together over the next year to develop the field course.
How did you and your students persuade the community leaders?
By ensuring community-level benefits arise from our field school. We are supporting building and resourcing a secondary school in the area as well as providing resources for local primary schools. Whilst there are already trained guides in the area due to SADABE’s involvement, we are helping to train up more local guides so they can access a better income. This is going to be particularly important with the creation of the protected area.
How did UWE become involved with this particular project?
The collaboration with SADABE was agreed initially and then we set up the collaboration with the University of Antananarivo. Madagascar has an excellent scheme whereby any foreign researchers working in the country must also include local students & researchers.
How did the students interact with the local communities?
Interactions have included building fish ponds; digging the foundations for the new school; presenting to the local primary schools about the UK and why we are in Madagascar; carrying out surveys to understand how invasive pests are affecting agriculture and whether there are possible mitigation measures that could be implemented. We also have an annual football match and party! Equally important is that, while we are there, we employ a large number of local people as guides and for their logistical expertise, bringing some crucial wages to the area.
What kind of sustainable solutions have been employed?
The solutions lie around the implementation of sustainable agriculture techniques (e.g. improved composting, soil preservation and crop rotation); training and facilitation to open new livelihood alternatives and improving trading options. We also need to improve reforestation techniques to develop capacity in the provision of timber, fuel and non-timber forest products within the buffer zone of the protected area.
To learn more about the work of SADABE, please visit: http://www.sadabe.org/.