ARO-Baobab project: Combining research and conservation actions, while providing solutions for local communities

Speeches Shim

Madagascar has an incredible biodiversity. About 80% of plants are found nowhere else in the world. The baobab tree is one of flagship species in Madagascar as among the 8 baobab species in the world, 6 of them are native and endemic to the country. Unfortunately, this richness is now in danger. In western region, Baobab forests are facing degradation, wildfires and clearing for agriculture, which are the main drivers of forest loss in the country. Moreover, as Madagascar is also one of poorest countries in the world, people need to have sustainable livelihoods to both preserve forests and improve their well-being.

Video Transcript 
Voice over: Madagascar has an incredible biodiversity. About 80% of plants are found nowhere else in the world. The baobab tree is one of flagship species in Madagascar as among the 8 baobab species in the world, 6 of them are native and endemic to the country. Unfortunately, this richness is now in danger. In western region, Baobab forests are facing degradation, wildfires and clearing for agriculture, which are the main drivers of forest loss in the country. Moreover, as Madagascar is also one of poorest countries in the world, people need to have sustainable livelihoods to both preserve forests and improve their well-being. Voice over: We implemented the project entitled ARO Baobab for conservation. ARO means “to protect” in Malagasy and is an acronym for Assessment, Research and Outreach for baobab conservation. This project is funded by the PEER-USAID program (Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research) under the cycle 9-232. In this project, we aim to turn evidence from research into action. ITW Seheno: The goal of the project is to combine the research about seed dispersal of baobabs with conservation actions to restore and conserve the baobab forests and also to provide solutions for local communities. Voice-over: ITW Onja : One of my primary primary research objectives is to investigate the impact of losing animal seed-dispersers on ecosystem health. And one of the goals of this PEER-funded project falls under that main objective because we are trying to figure out what will happen to the baobabs given if they don't have the primary seed-dispersers in the ecosystem. Voice over: Seed dispersal is an essential process for trees to constitute its next generation. Some fruiting trees need animals as their partners to disperse their seeds. ITW Seheno: The question is why do we think that the baobab is an orphaned plant? Because its fruits are too large to disperse for the small current animals. So, the extinct giant animals may have been dispersing baobab seeds thousands of years ago. Voice over: So, currently, what happens for baobabs? ITW Onja USA: Some extant native and non-native animals like “rodents” and any other ground-dwelling animals may compensate for the functional loss of the primary seed dispersers of baobabs by doing secondary dispersal of seeds. And so by doing that they could help in the natural regeneration of the plants because that could Influence the survival of the seeds as well as the establishment of seedlings. It is important to learn about that role because it can help draft some strategies to promote natural regeneration In the ecosystem. Voice over: Baobab habitats are now in danger. Also, if there aren’t any animals than can help baobabs to produce their next generation, humans have to do the work and plant the baobabs. That’s why, we implemented pilot nurseries in two project sites and then we will conduct reforestation activities. ITW Onja: Ao anatin’io tanin-jana-kazo io dia ny ny tanjona voalohany indrindra dia ny ahafahana manana zana-kazo manana fahavelomana betsaka indrindra. Izany hoe ny zana-kazo izay vokarina amin’ity tanin-jana-kazo ity izany dia eritreretina fa sady voalohany aty amin’ity faritra makina ity ahafahana mahazo zana-kazo velona betsaka indrindra In English: In this nursery, our primary objective is to ensure the high survival of seedlings. We aim to have high rates of seedlings that will survive in a such dry area, and that would be the first time in this region. Voice-over: One of key success of project is to involve local communities in the whole process of the project. Collaboration with local communities is in the heart of our project. ITW Stéphano: zava-dehibe tokoa ny fampandraisana anjara ny vondron’olona ifotony satria zareo moa izany no tompon’ilay tanin-jana-kazo amboarina eo. Ary rehefa hovolena io tanin-jana-kazo io dia izareo ihany no hisitraka azy amin’izay fotoana izay fa tsy ny aty amin’ny tetikasa. In English: It is really important to involve the local community because these nurseries belong to them. And when we will transfer these seedlings into the forests, they will benefit directly from the success of the project. Voice-over: The sale of baobab fruits is one of the income activities for the local people. In this project, we aim to provide solutions to ensure sustainable and fair trade of baobab fruits. They protect what they value. In that way, people will have a benefit from baobabs as a sustainable resource. ITW Florentine: io zany le raha amin’ny tetika amin’ny famarotana ny renala, zahay aty tena mijaly, la misy mba mikarakara aminay aty, manesitra aminay aty, hoe ity filambola aminareo aty, zahay hivily an’ity, tena tinay tsara. Satria zahay mazoto hamboly ny baobab. In English: This project about baobabs will help and support us. We are suffering here. We’re really grateful to be involved in a such project that aims to help us to improve our livelihoods. We are willing to plant baobabs. Conclusion: ITW Seheno: Ny vokatra ho azo amin’izao tetikasa izao dia iriana indrindra ary manantena izahay fa sady ho voaaro ny baobab no ahita hevitra izahay, hahita vahaolana izahay amin’ny fiveloman’ny olona eny ifotony. In English: We hope that the impacts of this project will be insightful and thus we will be able to both protect baobabs and provide solutions to improve livelihoods for local people. Voice-over: Within the ARO Baobab project, we hope to resolve the mystery around baobab and its seed dispersal; and based on such research evidence, we would provide nature-based solutions for the benefit and well-being of the owners and guardians of baobabs, the local communities.

Last updated: May 13, 2022

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