In spite of only producing 0.01% of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, Madagascar is facing the brunt of climate change. Extended droughts, lesser incidences of rainfall, and aggressive cyclones devastate the population’s livelihoods, a great deal of which relying on agriculture. With harsh environmental conditions and low yields and incomes, smallholder farmers turn to alternative sources of revenue and food to survive.
Madagascar’s rich forests offer additional options. However, unsustainable land practices such as slash-and-burn agriculture (locally known as tavy) have greatly degraded the country’s natural forest cover. This also disrupts forest ecosystems and triggers a cycle of soil erosion– aggravating the food production system and further driving smallholder farmers to deforest in the search for new viable land.
“When visitors buying our crafts decreased, I had to grow vegetables and sell them at the market. In a single day, I earn less than one US dollar as there are not many buyers.”
“Before I owned a rice field, I had to destroy the forest. I used half a bucket of seeds, I burned the ground and when the time to harvest came, I was hardly able to harvest four or five buckets of rice.”
Enhancing resilience through sustainability
The Sustainable Landscapes in Eastern Madagascar initiative, led by Conservation International and financed by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), is scaling up sustainable landscape management to enhance the resilience of smallholder farmers and channel private finance into climate-smart agricultural practices and investments. These measures provide pathways that help break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability of smallholder farmers and protect Madagascar’s forests from further degradation.
“We work with local communities who are in charge of the local forest through 90 micro-projects including forest monitoring, and they helped us develop plant nurseries and reforestation. The project is using drones to help farmers protect the forest.”
The project covers Ambrositra-Vondrozo and Ankeniheny-Zahamena forest corridors. Even amidst the additional challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the project continues to reach and benefit smallholder farmers and empower them to become local climate champions.
- 121,300 hectares of forest were patrolled by communities, preventing forest fires, deforestation, and other illegal activities
- 317 hectares of forest were restored across 17 municipalities, through community planting of around 183,000 native trees
- 12.4 tonnes of beans, 32.5 tonnes of rice, 73.4 tonnes of ginger, and 1.9 tonnes of Bambara peas included in beneficiary agricultural production
- 35% increase in female farmer trainers, from 24% in 2019
“These farmers have received training in climate-resilient farming techniques to address climate change. Trainers will help guide, advise, and educate farmers within vulnerable communities. Managers are in charge of creating nurseries with native plant seedlings, foreign seedlings, and fruit trees, in order to improve reforestation of deforested areas and plant trees outside the protected areas.”
The project aims to demonstrate a replicable model for addressing smallholder vulnerability that mobilises both the public and private sector. Funds will be leveraged through a first-of-its-kind Green/Climate Bond, with all returns and profits from GCF’s investments in the private sector activities re-invested for climate activities in the country.
GCF works with partners to deliver appropriate and targeted investment in agriculture for smallholder farmers. Through the collaboration of Conservation International and GCF, the Sustainable Landscapes in Eastern Madagascar project is helping transform livelihoods, reverse long-term trends of environmental degradation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from unsustainable forest and land-use practices.
“At the end of this project, communities will have the resiliency skills to cope with climate change. And the forest corridor will be well-managed due to forest patrolling efforts and reduced encroachment into the forest because of the improved agricultural inputs and practices, with local communities having the necessary management skills and awareness of the importance of nature.”
By Brylle James Galang