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Opportunity for kids, hope for lemurs in rural Madagascar

January 26, 2023

Madagascar—the world’s fourth-largest island—is renowned for its fascinating plants and animals, most of which are found nowhere else on earth. The country’s playful lemurs, brilliantly colored reptiles and amphibians, and otherworldly forests have inspired countless nature documentaries (and a popular animated film franchise). Tens of thousands of tourists arrive each year to see the natural wonders of the island for themselves.

Unfortunately, this lush world is in crisis. Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries, and its resources are under tremendous pressure. About 90 percent of its historic forest cover has been lost to slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging, and worsening droughts have left much of the rest vulnerable to wildfires. The government has limited ability to enforce conservation rules, so much of this work falls to communities and NGOs. 

In 2021, Seacology began working with local NGO Planet Madagascar to protect one of the island’s critical habitats in Ankarafantsika National Park. The park is home to one of the country’s largest remaining areas of dry deciduous primary forest, where many endemic species live. Among them are eight species of lemurs, including the critically endangered mongoose lemur, found only in this small northern region of the country.

“The park is the only protected area with mongoose lemurs, whose numbers have fallen below 500 in the wild,” explains Seacology Field Representative Erik Patel, who oversees our work in Madagascar. 

We worked with the people of Andranohobaka, a small village located inside the park, where Planet Madagascar has been a long-time presence. Community members now patrol the 2,686-acre forest  They have built a miles-long firebreak that keeps fires in the neighboring savannah from reaching the forest–crucial, because a well-maintained firebreak can save irreplaceable habitat from destruction. (We are  also funding firebreaks in the Sainte Luce Forest in the country’s south.) Since the project launched, the community has also planted some 15,000 tree seedlings throughout the forest, restoring degraded areas.

The critically endangered mongoose lemur is only found in a small area in northern Madagascar.

Community members conduct regular patrols of the forest and maintain a long firebreak to protect it from wildfires.

In exchange for the village’s ongoing protection and stewardship of the ecosystem, Seacology with support from the NuSkin Force For Good Foundation funded a new village school, replacing a crowded, dilapidated building. Despite complications related to global supply chain issues, construction proceeded quickly. In December, the community officially opened the facility at a festive inauguration ceremony. The school and its recently assigned teacher are now welcoming their first students.

In a country where only one in three students finishes primary school, the new school for the remote community of subsistence farmers could be game-changing. 

“Opportunities for children in the Andranohobaka community will be transformed by the new school and teacher,” said Patel.

In addition to directly benefiting the children, this project forges a strong link between education and long-term sustainability. As these young people acquire education and skills, their communities will be less reliant on extractive activities that damage the environment. It’s truly the kind of win-win that we strive for in every Seacology project.

The students were previously attending class in an overcrowded wooden building.

The community celebrates the opening of the village's new school in December.