A Future for Lemurs: A Contribution for the Construction of the New Research Center
Project location: MADAGASCAR, Valbio
Project start date: February 2001 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2000-01
Beneficiary: Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments
2002 Project Results
ICTE used the Nando Peretti donation to organize a team in Madagascar to focus on producing a coordinated series of activities on education, public awareness, reforestation, and lemur conservation, and to build the new research and training center, the ValBio Centre.
ICTE has targeted five schools near the Ranomafana National Park: Ranomafana Primary School, Ranomafana Secondary School, Ambatolahy Primary School, Ifanadiana High School, and Ranomafana Catholic School. The aim is to provide schoolchildren and local people with knowledge about the value of Ranomafana's rainforest and its unique biodiversity, the need to protect it, and the importance of intact forest for their own economic well-being.
Those activities were mainly conducted at Kianja Maitso (Ranomafana's living classroom), Ranomafana Museum and at schools. Kianja Maitso provides child-centered activities and small pilot projects presenting alternative methods to deforestation. Educational community-based programs are also offered including: tree nursery, aquaculture-fish pond, demonstration compost plot, cultural amphitheatre/folklore, demonstration apiary, living classroom, library, medicinal gardens, and audio-visual programs. The project enhanced these programs by providing posters, environmental magazines, and booklets on RNP lemurs. Also, the project showed documentary films on wildlife and environmental activities implemented throughout the Ranomafana National Park. At the Ranomafana Museum, the project actively supported the children's activities, which include topics such as: history of the creation of the Ranomafana National Park, the lemurs of the Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar National Parks, RNP medicinal plants, and ecotourism at RNP. At the schools, the Project helped incorporate environmental topics and provided educational materials like posters, magazines, and booklets on Ranomafana lemurs. The success of these projects was evident in the children's scores on environmental quizzes, their drawings, and their poems, which showed that the children have developed an awareness of the importance of rainforests and its wildlife, and can identify the main causes of environmental degradation.
The Project also supported environmental education in the capital Antananarivo. Project staff made presentations (with slides and film) and participated in conferences at the Laulanie Green University, a private university devoted to professional training in environment, agriculture, and management. As a result of these activities, many students expressed interest in the protection of Madagascar's environment, and have chosen environment-related topics for their thesis.
ICTE has developed contacts with reporters from the national media, both newspaper and television, and encouraged them to attend noteworthy events, including the 10th anniversary of the Ranomafana National Park, the Environmental Christmas Party, and the inauguration of the Centre ValBio. Also, the media has reported on the projects, including environmental education, reforestation, conservation, and the construction of the Centre ValBio. The resulting television and newspaper coverage has resulted in a significant increase in media coverage of the environment in Madagascar. This is an extremely important accomplishment, and one that ICTE considers critical to the future of environmental protection in Madagascar.
The donation has allowed ICTE to continue and expand efforts that began in 1990, to coordinate reforestation with education programs in the local schools.
The Ranomafana Tree Nursery has 2,500 native tree seedlings of Harina, Varongy, Vitanina, and Malambovony, the species proven most successful on the Ambatovory tree plantations. This nursery provided seeds, seedlings, supplies, and technical advice to the other sites.
The community-based reforestation project in the village of Ambatovory (a 2 hour walk from the nearest road) has continued to be a success with 10 families continuing to participate and a total of 1,621 native trees in their nurseries in 2003. Since the initiation of this project in 2000, over 8,500 trees have been planted on land donated by the villagers. The survival rate of planted trees has increased each year with over 75% of trees planted in 2002 surviving through the first critical year. Some of the Harina seedlings planted in 2001 are now over 3 meters tall and providing shade to younger seedlings.
Students from local schools are taught the importance of re-growing their native forests. Children at each school grow between 300 and 500 native seedlings in their own tree farms. They learn about the scientific method by collecting growth data on their seedlings. Then they plant the trees each year on land donated by local hotels or owned by the school itself and water and weed the trees until they are strong enough to grow on their own. The success of the project in Ambatovory and the schools has prompted frequent requests from other villagers develop reforestation projects in their villages. Similarly, ANGAP has taken notice of the interest of the villagers in reforestation and have expanded their offerings of non-native tree farms to villages around RNP.
The major contribution to the lemur conservation project was to fund a series of expeditions to remote and unstudied parts of Ranomafana National Park in an effort to locate additional populations of the critically endangered bamboo lemurs. Two new populations of bamboo lemurs were found inside the park. It was encouraging to find golden bamboo lemurs in both the southeast and northwest parts of the Park and the greater bamboo lemur in the northwest part.
An exciting result of a Peretti-funded expedition to Mount Maharira in the southern part of the park, was the discovery of a new type of dwarf lemur, new to science. This new form is smaller and much grayer than the dwarf lemur seen previously in the park. The expedition team also confirmed that a second new species, Seal's sportive lemur (Lepilemur nov sp.), is located at the Mount Maharira site.
Construction of the Centre ValBio:
The construction of the first building of the Centre Valbio was completed in early 2003, and the Centre was inaugurated on June 7, 2003. The Malagasy government was represented at the ceremony by the Minister of Environment, Water and Forests; the Député de Madagascar, élu à Ifanadiana; the Sous-Prefet of Ifanadiana; and the Director of the National Agency for the Management of Protected Areas in Madagascar (ANGAP, the National Park Service). The event was attended by more than 3,000 local people living around the Ranomafana National Park, who were very proud of having this first international training center of the province of Fianarantsoa in their region. The local village leaders (Ampanjaka's) held a traditional ceremony to call on the ancestors to bless the beautiful new building.
The first building of the Centre ValBio contains classrooms, dining hall, kitchen, laboratory space, and office space in a three-story building surrounded by veranda's overlooking the scenic Namorona River. The Nando Peretti Foundation co-funded the construction with the National Science Foundation (USA), University of Helsinki (Finland), Stony Brook University, and United Nations Foundation/UNESCO.
Water and Electricity for Local Primary School:
In October 2001, Prof. Patricia Wright was alerted by the headmaster of Ranomafana Primary School - the only public primary school in Ranomafana with four teachers for 400 children ages 6-10 - that the school had no running water and that all the water for the children had to be carried from the river. The River Namorona does not have clean water and is a health hazard for the students. The second urgent problem was the lack of electricity in the school. It is difficult on rainy days to see the blackboard in class.
With a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, approximately 400 children at the Ranomafana Primary School now are healthier due to access to cleaner drinking water and because now they can wash their hands more easily. Children are now able to learn better when electric lights allow them to read their schoolbooks and see the blackboard better. A plaque has been placed on the school indicating that water and electricity were contributed by the Nando Peretti Foundation.