I arrived in Antalaha last week, very warm greetings and lots of smiles, great to be back. I went by one of the CALA villages briefly on my first day but not many people around as it is still holiday time, school starts beginning of October. This gives us some time to prepare for an upcoming visit from The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO-United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism). This year, SAVA region is being promoted. S.A.V.A., the name of the region where I work, it is composed of the initial letters of its four principal towns: Sambava, Antalaha, Vohémar and Andapa. Each of these towns claim the title the “World Capital of Vanilla”, a spice of which the region is the largest producer in the world.
Our aim with UNWTO is for Macolline Nature Park in Antalaha to become a popular tourist destination to not only botanists and spice importers as it is now, but also to the average backpacker, tourist, business traveler and especially the local Malagasy young students. A presentation is being created for UNWTO on our side, so that the promoting can begin world wide.
Despite the obvious potential of this natural site, there are many things to put in place to make Macolline an effective pedagogical tool for the children and general public of Madagascar.
An action plan and ideally a solid financial partnership need to be set up to allow the many schools in the region to visit the park. Awareness of the young Malagasy public should be the main objective if the association wants to have a real impact on the protection of biodiversity in the long term. Up until now, most schools have not visited the site for organizational reasons and of course, cost (park entrance, transport etc…) This objective needs human and of course, financial management to work efficiently.
Grants and donations guarantee remuneration of guides, drivers, gardeners and cooks as well as the maintenance of the site and the replanted trees. A portion is also used to support C.A.L.A. Madagascar ~Comité d’Aide aux Lépreux d’Antalaha (Leprosy Relief Committee of Antalaha); the social and economic reintegration of former leprosy patients in the region, whose headquarters are in Antalaha. The maintenance of Macolline provides jobs for many villagers therefore any money raised for Macolline also helps to support C.A.L.A.
Macolline lacks communication media. On the outside of the site, in order to attract visitors, there needs to be visibility of the welcome panels at the entrance as well as in and around the commune of Antalaha. We also need flyers, internet exposure and any other communication media. The public currently visiting Macolline essentially constitutes loving tourists of fauna and flora and botanists whom plan their visits in advance. Passing visitors stop there very rarely and the local population, even less, mainly due to a different culture as well as a lack of financial resources.
Education regarding the forest ecosystem is essential in the fight against deforestation that unfortunately affects Madagascar.
Any action for prevention, protection and conservation begins with a scientific objective and understanding by all.
Currently, the only information is given orally by the guides, which is advantageous from the point of view of the interaction with the visitor but can have disadvantages like language barriers or an inconsistent quality of the visit. Information media must be created. This will not replace the guide of course, but it will substantiate and illustrate his/her speech. Ideally, the creation of pedagogical support (i.e.: documentation for school and educational illustrations) will allow young visitors to remember information and they can take a booklet home.
This education, if efficiently communicated, will eventually lead to success and a permanent eco-minded attitude of our young students. This education must move beyond awareness and be explored in both theory and practice in the following fields:
– Life sciences and earth (life cycle of living beings, reproduction and vegetative plants etc…)
– Ethnobotany (indigenous or exotic, traditional use by the species population)
– The environment (biodiversity, relationships between plants and the forest ecosystem)
– The economy (forestry and exported crops)
Our youths are educated through mediators and Macolline guides that are well trained.
Some examples of the program already in place:
– protection of biodiversity
– wood work and creation
– planting and measurement of a tree; height, diameter, volume, yield per hectare
– test and learn if forestry and sustainable development are compatible
Students will exposed to the results of their work and will hopefully eventually lead workshops. We must reach a wide audience if we hope to raise this kind of awareness.
According to our calculations, we would need €2 ($3.75) per entry for a student’s visit, which will cover
– the transportation of student groups to the site
– local teachers and guides
– educational materials etc…
For this year, 2014, five groups at ten pupils per group in the morning and the same in the afternoon for 3 days per week: 100 pupils per week x 3 = 300 x €2 per week = €600 x 4 weeks = €2,400 ($3500CDN) per month. There are at least 25000 students in the commune of Antalaha alone.
If you or your organization would like to get involved with a wonderful cause that will produce results for future generations in Madagascar as well help save our environment and the forests of this precious island, then please contact me for more information. Any grant is appreciated and ideally a long term financial partnership would ensure security of the future of this private eco park and security for the C.A.L.A. villagers.