Everybody knows Madagascar. This name has a magical ring doesn’t it? Aspiring adventurers, young travellers, and even pirates have all dreamed of this place. It stands right next to other mystical locations like Tortuga Island, Patagonia and Niagara. The home of lemurs and baobabs is on any traveller’s bucket list.

Today, it needs our support to accomplish a mission of prime importance to our planet.

Madagascar, a biodiversity heaven

Lemur types

A few lemurs that make our lives better.

Madagascar is a biodiversity paradise. Separated from other land masses about 80 million years ago, it has, just like Australia, developed a unique strand of fauna and flora, found only on the island.

90% of the 13,000 registered species are only found on parts of this island. The amazing biodiversity  of Madagascar exist nowhere else. That’s what makes it so vulnerable, and so important to preserve.

Madagascar has rare metals, gemstones, gold and other raw materials. The forests of the island themselves provides invaluable riches and potentialities. The ethnic diversity on the island and a variety of traditional skills also give Madagascar good cards to play in the international economic game. But these valuable resources have not been so beneficial to the people of Madagascar so far.

However, next to these breathtaking biomes is a harsh reality for Malagasy people. More than 70% of the population lives under the national poverty line, and about half of Madagascar lives on $1 or less per day. Despite a steadily rising GDP, real livelihood worsened in the last 20 years, fuelling ecological destruction and political tensions. 

Malagasy woman panning for gold

A Malagasy woman panning for precious stone and gold (Credit: Creative Commons)

Madagascar’s little big problems

These two realities collided to create a volatile situation for the forest residents of all shapes and sizes. Deforestation, due to slash and burn subsistence agriculture has already destroyed, as of 2017, 90% of the Malagasy rainforests.

It is a widespread misconception that populations at the heart of biodiversity strongholds such as tropical rainforests are insensible to the issue of conservation. This false assumption needs to be dispelled. More accurately, impoverished populations cannot afford, nor have the expertise to avoid cutting trees because the next meal is at stake.

This was Net Positive Impact’s starting point. In the words of founder Oliver Behra, “In developing countries, linking income-generating activities for the poorest to environment conservation is the best way to target sustainable environment conservation and fight climate change.”

Upon consulting NPI’s vast and formidable photo album, with pictures from all corners of the world with people from all around, it becomes evident that the successful involvement of locals is a prerequisite to any successful conservation effort.

Madagascar’s hope

NPI is successfully empowering local communities to protect natural resource whilst developing their economic security. Madagascar’s nature is an invaluable asset to its future. Ecotourism is already a growing source of revenue and heralded as one of the major poverty alleviation tools by the new government. 

Green flash, sunset

Local silver linings: green flashes are common occurrences in the Indian Ocean. (Credit: La Silla Observatory)

The sustainable management of ecological resources does not just provide attractions for rich Westerners. The trees maintain the fertile grounds in place, the biodiversity is a genetic bank for both the agronomy and pharmaceutical industries that has barely been tapped, and the highlands provide refuge in case of natural disaster.

Madagascar is the best example of how all developmental and ecological themes are inseparable from one another. There can be no conservation without health care, without an elaborate taxing scheme, which can only be enforced with well fed civil servants, and so forth.

Conservation can only work if local population do not need to resort to the same resources they want to protect to feed their families. The sustainable transition is the delicate coordinated movement of an entire society towards a new relationship with nature. A relationship that gives a fair place to our ecosystems and a secure future for people today and tomorrow.

We need to act now, for Madagascar, its lemurs, but also for the world, against disease, against poverty, and for the next generations of lemur fans.

Fitiavana, Tanindrazana, Fandrosoana!