The long term effects of fire, erosion and introduced species have led to the patchwork of degraded ecosystems evident in Sahamalaza – Iles Radama in north west Madagascar today. There are no undisturbed primary forest fragments left inside the protected area, and this may have been true for many years.
Our ultimate aim is to improve community living conditions and to increase the forest cover in the forest zones in order to conserve the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered Blue-eyed Black Lemur and other endangered species. The area we work in consists of three main forests including Analavory, Anabohazo and Ankarafa.
In humid forest areas, tavy is the traditional agricultural practice and the major driver of deforestation. Tavy, also known as slash-and-burn agriculture, is the cutting of primary or secondary vegetation within a plot, waiting for that vegetation to dry, and then burning it to release nutrients from the vegetation directly into the soil. This nutrient input allows one to a few seasons of farming before soil fertility declines to a point that it is no longer productive.
Logging for timber is especially a problem in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar, particularly on the Masoala peninsula. The high value for Malagasy hardwoods (mostly ebony and rosewood, which may fetch $2,000 a ton in international markets) makes illegal logging a significant problem in some protected areas. The endemic spiny forests of Madagascar are being cut at an alarming rate for charcoal production.