Community-Based Conservation

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Community Collaboration at Priority Sites
for Plant Conservation in Madagascar

In Madagascar, the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) is collaborating with local communities to conserve several sites that harbor critical, highly threatened biodiversity.  Collaborative activities with residents of the poor, rural communities adjacent to these sites seek to ensure that each site is sustainably managed so as to retain the full range of its biological diversity while meeting human needs and aspirations.  This community work grows from the understanding that, to be truly effective in protecting restricted habitats and species into the future, we need the full support of local villagers in the region, who cannot turn their attention to conservation if they are hungry or struggling to survive.

To help communities increase their food security and generate viable economic alternatives to wild harvesting, we have provided models, training, support, and encouragement for fish farming, bee-keeping, cultivation of fruit and other crop trees, and use of modern but simple techniques for growing rice, beans, and vegetables in soil supplemented with compost.  Increased production of rice — the subsistence crop for most communities — and diversification of the range of crops and other foods grown have improved nutrition and food security and yielded surpluses that villagers sell to nearby resort communities to provide additional income. Other collaborative activities with villagers living near high-biodiversity sites include assisting in restoring degraded areas of forest by improving soil and planting saplings of native tree species, and promoting the use of alternative timber sources by means of village tree nurseries.

Near Mahabo, a highly endangered littoral forest in southeastern Madagascar, MBG helped form weavers’ associations and trained villagers to make baskets in new designs appealing to consumers abroad.  The basket weavers, all of them women, use rushes that grow in the marshes around Mahabo Forest, and MBG works with the associations to manage production and furnish dyes and leather for handles.  Mahabo baskets are now being sold through the Blessing Basket Project, a non-profit organization that pays wages many times higher than local market prices. Income from basket sales has helped alleviate poverty in the area and thereby greatly advanced our conservation effort.

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Director, CCSD, Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166 Phone: (314) 577-0871 © 2014