To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests

first_imgIn Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation.The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss.With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify. SAVA REGION, Madagascar – Squatting barefoot in a field of mud on the outskirts of Marojejy National Park, easing rice seedlings from the earth, Paul Tiozen shrugged out one of Madagascar’s most pressing conundrums: how to get more rice? He looked bitter.“Rice is the source of Malagasy life. It’s so difficult to work the rice, because we need the shovel, and water to work it. I need more land. I have a big family, so I need more. What I want is half a hectare,” he said.Therein lies the catch. Madagascar’s population is about to boom. The International Futures center at the University of Denver estimates that by 2060 Madagascar will have close to 60 million people, up from 25.5 million today. And yet, only 1.2 million hectares of land are used for rice cultivation, a tiny proportion of the island’s total size. To feed its people, agricultural productivity must rise.Rice farmer Paul Tiozen says he needs half a hectare of land to grow enough rice for his family, more farmland than he currently has. Photo by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for Mongabay.But population growth in this largely rural and agrarian country is giving birth to a piece-by-piece land grab of plots, often in the worst possible way for the environment. In the hilly tracks off the mountain road to the town of Andapa in the country’s northeastern Sava region, one can see the plot problem written onto the sides of hills and around the corners of dirt roads. Farmers have slashed all the trees in certain areas and set fire to the land in their scramble to turn forests into fertile rice farms.This classic application of “slash and burn” agriculture to clear mountainous areas for farming is known locally as tavy. After burning off the vegetation, farmers mix the nutrient-rich ash into the soil, which allows them to cultivate rice well. But the benefits are short-lived. Not only does tavy yield less rice than more productive and sustainable legal forms of rice farming, but it ultimately leads to nitrogen depletion in the soil. After initial cultivation, farmers must leave the plot fallow, often for more than five years, before planting rice again. Worse, the loss of trees irreversibly harms the soil. With no roots binding it, the ground erodes and fertility disappears. It creates an exhausting cycle. In time, the farmer gives up on his or her tavy patch and moves on to new land, speeding up the cycle of poverty and destruction.An illegal tavy clearing near the city of Sambava in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region. The remaining vegetation will be burned and the former forest converted to a farm. Tavy often causes such bad soil erosion that the land is rendered useless. Photo by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for Mongabay.“They do it at the same place two or three times. So after they do it there’s no fertility in the soil. You can’t plant anything. And they move to another part of the forest. So the expansion is really bad for the protected area,” explained Manantsoa Andriatahima, a landscape manager with the international NGO World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Madagascar.Tavy has long been illegal, but it still goes on.Madagascar with Sava region outlined in red. Map courtesy of Google Maps.Lost landscapesMadagascar holds some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes on earth. The whole of tropical Africa has less than 35,000 species of plants and at least one third of them live only in Madagascar. Animal species found nowhere else on Earth find refuge in its jungles: the blue-billed helmet vanga (Euryceros prevostii), the camouflaged leaf-tail gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus), and dozens of iconic species of lemurs, to name a few.Those species lived undisturbed until roughly 2,000 years ago. Since mankind arrived then, 90 percent of the original forest cover has gone; 40 percent of it disappeared in the last 60 years alone. While the pace of destruction has arguably slowed, Global Forest Watch found that 2016 was the second-worst year for forest loss in the last 15, with nearly 400,000 hectares cut down. Island-wide statistics on tavy are hard to come by, but scientists regard the practice as a main cause of the island’s ongoing deforestation.For the most part, it is unprotected forests that are at risk, places outside of national parks where nature and mankind co-exist with little enforceable regulation. As those landscapes are lost, the animals in and around them become threatened: 90 percent of all lemur species on the island are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.But the hunger for rice, coupled with aggressive tavy, is pinning nature back into smaller and smaller pockets.A lowland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus), a resident of the Sava region. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.Carrot or stick?The government has been aware of the problems with tavy for years, and has tried numerous potential solutions. It says it has invested in research, better fertilizers, and irrigation, all to improve the farming productivity of land already cleared, along with outlining a strategy to make more land available for rice cultivation.It has also tried encouraging people to protect the forests. According to the World Bank, between 1996 and 2004, it rolled out 1,248 Community Forestry Management (CFM) units, administrative areas in which local communities manage their own forests. The idea is to give communities the right to make decisions about tracts of land and to reap the rewards from the natural resources there. Earlier pioneers of this model hoped CFM would be more popular than protected national parks, as it would allow people to continue to use local forests and, theoretically, improve their livelihoods. NGOs and government officials were tasked with making sure the areas were used in a sustainable way.But recent reports suggest that CFM has had little success in stopping deforestation. A 2015 paper in the journal Biological Conservation could not detect an effect of CFM on the rate of deforestation in Madagascar between 2000 and 2010. In a 2015 report the World Bank noted that a confusing regulatory framework, piecemeal law enforcement, and a lack of training and resources meant that many CFM units failed.Even around national parks, non-tavy rice paddies like this are spreading. This paddy lies just outside Marojejy National Park, where forest once stood. Photo by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for Mongabay.Alongside CFM, Madagascar continues to use protected areas, which now comprise 5 percent of the island’s land, including a stunning array of national parks. These areas cannot be used or farmed by communities unless agreed with the authorities. In its recent submission [pdf] to the standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, aka CITES, the government highlights that in early 2017 it began hiring new Judicial Forestry Police officers to “ensure protection against illegal land clearing.”But Arsonina Bera, director of forestry in Sava, admits that it is hard to stop local people from trespassing into protected areas to take precious natural resources.“We are rich in forest coverage. But at this point in time, this amount is degrading time after time, day after day, because the number of people is rising,” he said. “If you apply some legislation, the people will come to you and try to create a debate with you, saying ‘Why are you doing this? Our ancestors have used wood for years? How will we live?’ ”Bera believes that when it comes to stopping the onward march of rice, the carrot is mightier than the stick. He argues that only by engaging and winning agreement from local communities is lasting change possible. “I know the dialect. I know the people. Most of my family live here. I come from here. It is partly an education problem. Most of the people are illiterate. It’s difficult if you try to invent some technology to teach them; that would be very difficult. Better to find a solution by using the local dialect and talking to them,” he said.Not long ago, he recounted, one of the region’s top officials wanted to send in the military to prevent people from destroying the forest for tavy. “But we stopped him,” Bera said. “We preferred to use the local member of parliament to find a community solution. If you need military or the police, it’s never going to be the best.”Marojejy National Park, one of the country’s reknowned protected areas. Photo by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for Mongabay.Addressing the root causeThat is why NGOs are increasingly turning to a development approach known as “Population, Health, and Environment” (PHE) that involves promoting conservation in tandem with improving health care and access to family planning for local communities.“PHE is a holistic approach that reflects the interconnected challenges of poor community health, unmet family planning needs, food insecurity, environmental degradation and vulnerability to climate change,” said Laura Robson, the Antananarivo-based health-environment partnerships manager for the conservation group Blue Ventures, which helps coordinate a nationwide network of organizations that run PHE projects.But the “P” in PHE is the most controversial of all: population. In a country with deep-rooted Christianity, Catholicism, and Islam, could the idea of sustainable family planning prove unpopular? Robson said the network’s members are committed to providing contraception to communities, but that they respect the rights of people in those communities to make their own decisions. “These PHE initiatives aren’t aiming to bring about any demographic changes but rather to allow couples to achieve their own family planning goals,” she said.Robson claims this listen-first approach is spreading: the PHE network now involves more than 40 organizations and reaches 135,000 people across Madagascar. It is bringing about some unlikely partnerships. After communities around the Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve in Sava requested increased access to family planning services, the Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF) teamed up with the reproductive healthcare NGO Marie Stopes Madagascar. The latter brought in its trademark “Marie Stopes Ladies” to offer long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, including implants, Robson said. “At the same time LCF is engaging with communities in that area on reforestation, sustainable agriculture training, fuel-efficient stoves, ecotourism development and environmental education initiatives,” she said. The groups hope to create more value for the communities in keeping the forests alive than in burning them down for tavy.But Madagascar may not have decades to test out approaches like PHE. Its population still looks set to boom, and its forests are fast running out.Watch Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor’s video about tavy for China Global Television Network’s Africa Live program, which contributed travel funding to this story.Making rice workUpon the mountains of Marojejy, groups of men work the forested slopes, offering lemur tracking, trekking, portering, and cooking services to tourists and scientists. But all of them have one thing in common. Even first thing in the morning, there is only one thing on their breakfast menu: rice.Franco Rajaonarison pours on spoonful after spoonful, until he has a huge, steaming mound. He’ll repeat the ritual at least two more times that day. Some communities even make drinks out of rice. By some estimates, the average Madagascan eats 140 kilograms (309 pounds) of rice each year. Consumption has more than tripled in the last 30 years, and continues to rise.Later, down by the river, while skimming a stone across the water, he laughs. “When we were children, we believed the number of times your stones bounced off the water would reveal how many cans of rice you’d get by the end of the day,” he said. “We love rice.”The increased need for rice will put untold pressure on Madagascar’s forests in the years ahead. Because in the next 30 years, tens of millions more Madagascans will come of age. The survival of thousands of hectares of unique rainforest and wooded areas will depend on how they get the food they need.Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor are East Africa correspondents for the global news agency Feature Story News, based in Tanzania. Their investigations into wildlife trafficking, the ivory trade, poaching and blast fishing have been published by numerous international channels, and their work has previously been nominated for Royal Television Society and One World Media awards. Follow them on Twitter: @danielashby and @lucytaylor.A baby silky sifaka lemur (Propithecus candidus) in Marojejy National Park. Photo by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor for Mongabay.CitationsRasolofoson R.A., et al. (2015). Effectiveness of Community Forest Management at reducing deforestation in Madagascar. Biological Conservation 184: 271-277.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the editor of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Agriculture, Biodiversity, Community Forestry, Conservation, Conservation And Poverty, Deforestation, Environment, Environmental Crime, Environmental Policy, Featured, Fires, Food, Forests, Law Enforcement, Nature And Health, Population, Public Health, Rainforests, Slash-and-burn, Tropical Forests Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredcenter_img Article published by Rebecca Kesslerlast_img read more

A red-ink exhibit for kids

first_imgThe Children’s Museum of Los Angeles has been bogged down by poor planning, little oversight and lack of donations, raising concern that local taxpayers might get stuck with the bill, according to an audit released Wednesday. The cost has ballooned to $53 million for construction and exhibits for the San Fernando Valley’s first major museum, pitched to city leaders seven years ago as a $10 million public-private partnership. Public dollars have covered nearly 70 percent of the cost so far, and the building is expected to be completed within a few weeks. Now, the museum’s board needs to drum up $22 million in less than two years to install the exhibits for an opening by March 2009. With less than half that amount raised in seven years, the audit questions whether the museum board can find the money in time and warns that the city might have to step in again with more funds. “This audit is a wake-up call to the mayor and council to say we need to look at this,” said Controller Laura Chick, who conducted the audit. “We have not been properly overseeing this project. It’s been a hands-off approach. “We need a children’s museum in this city. The taxpayers have given a whole lot of their money to get it, and we’re in a shaky situation, and I think we have to prop up this agency more.” Chick recommends that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council develop a plan in case the museum board can’t find the money to complete and operate the museum, although a city takeover is not a prospect that would sit well with her or Villaraigosa. “It’s clearly in the city’s best interest to have a viable children’s museum in the San Fernando Valley,” said Matt Szabo, a spokesman for the mayor. “The mayor prefers that the children’s museum be run and operated by a community- based nonprofit.” Museum Executive Director Cecilia Aguilera Glassman said fundraising has accelerated recently, and next month she expects to announce the largest donation the museum has ever received. “That would go a long way to comforting people as to the financial feasibility of the museum,” said Glassman, who was hired six months ago to spark fundraising. “I do not believe the city will ever be in a position of having to take over the museum.” The audit was requested in May by Councilman Richard Alarc n after contractors threatened to walk off the job unless they were paid $3.3 million they were owed. The council approved a rare $1.75 million emergency loan from the city’s reserve fund, on the condition that the museum match the loan in 30 days, which it did. The bailout put the spotlight on the museum’s failure to attract private donations. Some $19 million of the nearly $29 million raised so far has come from city and state funds. Alarc n, who now represents the Northeast Valley, said he expects the museum will step up its fundraising efforts but agrees with Chick’s recommendation that the city needs a backup plan. “If things get bad …, I believe we certainly could consider the possibility of taking ownership and managing it,” he said, noting that the city manages the Los Angeles Zoo and other public facilities. Chick’s audit puts the blame on the museum board and city officials for the project cost. The museum board spent more than $4.8 million on project designs that were later scrapped. And board members chose an innovative, environmentally friendly design that cost $30 million when they only had $20 million available, according to the audit. Later, the city released Proposition K park funds for construction even though the board could not show it had the money or ability to operate the facility once the building was finished. The museum has been a favorite project of former City Councilman Alex Padilla. When its board closed the museum’s downtown site in 2000, he persuaded members to move the facility to the Hansen Dam Recreation Area in the Northeast Valley. The city-owned land is leased to the museum for $1 a year. City officials told auditors they were advised that the project was politically supported by Padilla and that they should take a hands-off approach and let the museum staff oversee it. “City managers in charge of the administration of the program indicated that, while they felt uncomfortable about releasing the funds to the (Children’s Museum of Los Angeles), the CMLA had significant political support that made it harder for them to withhold any funding,” the audit found. Padilla said the Proposition K oversight committee followed the rules in awarding the museum funding. “Nowhere does it say rules were broken or qualifications not met to get the funding,” Padilla said. “The fundraising challenges were certainly no news to anybody. Every time there has been a crisis or a shortfall, the museum manages to overcome.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

Lancaster man’s conviction stands

first_img [email protected] (661) 267-5744160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LANCASTER – An appeals court has upheld the attempted-murder conviction of a Lancaster man who was sentenced to 129 years in prison for shooting a man and a woman in front of Antelope Valley High School. The Second District Court of Appeal rejected Tajiddin Carter’s argument that the judge erred when admitting into evidence statements made to deputies and at a preliminary hearing by victim Don Simmons, who couldn’t be found to testify at the trial. “In the face of this other highly incriminating evidence, any error in admitting Simmons’ preliminary hearing testimony and out-of-court statements to police was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” the ruling said. In January 2004, Nica Chaney and Simmons were approached by a man on a bicycle, who spoke to them briefly before pulling out a gun and firing several shots, hitting both of them, the ruling said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPhotos: At LA County Jail, Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates Christmas Mass with inmatesThe victims initially identified Carter as the shooter but later recanted. The defense argued that a lack of fingerprints on the shell casings and lack of gunshot residue on Carter’s hands showed he did not fire the shots. Carter contended that the judge made a mistake when she let Simmons’ preliminary hearing testimony be read during the trial, and let deputies give their accounts of what they said he told them. Carter contended the judge erred in deciding that the prosecution had exercised due diligence to find Simmons. The three-judge appellate panel, however, found the prosecution began to search for Simmons before the preliminary hearing, during which he testified that Carter hadn’t shot him, and made reasonable efforts to find him before the trial. Carter was convicted in 2005 of two counts of attempted murder, bribery of a witness and dissuading a witness. He was a “three strikes, you’re out” convict with prior convictions for attempted robbery in 1999 and 2000. A detective testified at trial that when he spoke to Simmons on the day of the shooting, Simmons told him that Carter was the shooter and that Carter had accused him a few days earlier of stealing drugs. The detective also testified that Simmons said he had received threatening phone calls from Carter and that Carter had offered him money to drop the charges. last_img read more