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New challenge for Madagascar : planting 60 million trees.

On the 19th January 2020 Madagascar launched a 60 million trees planting initiative.

This awesome challenge is not only a relief for our planet as more trees on the planet means more carbon being removed from the atmosphere and a more stable climate, it is also a path of hope for the oldest island in the world towards the survival of endemic, native species and long term sustainable agriculture for the population. It will allow the land to breath once again. As well as being a symbolic act, this challenge is also contributing to the regrowth of the fourth most impacted country by deforestation.

Planting 60 million trees is not a random number. Indeed, this year the forth largest island on earth is celebrating 60 years of independence, an event utterly important to the eye of the promising nation of Madagascar. On the 19th of January this year, 1,2 million trees were planted in Akazobe district. The most ambitious tree plantation goal ever set on earth started on that day.

The date has been chosen for marking one year since the inauguration of president Andy Rajoelina 7th president of the country and believed to be a new hope according to most of the magalasy population. Indeed, one of the president’s main goal is “making the oldest island green again”, reforesting the land along with fighting corruption and increasing access to electricity are also big pets to this project.

Madagascar is home to many endemic species which desperately need the forest to survive.

For example, Madagascar is home to two third of the world’s chameleon species. According to

wildmadagascar 70 to 80 % of Madagascar’s 12000 plants species are found nowhere else on earth. Lemurs for instance, mascots of this island, only exist on the island and their habitats are threatened by deforestation. Even if national parks protect several of them, 90% lemur species are said to be endangered or vulnerable by scientific guidelines. Planting trees will allow this incredible population to find a shelter again.

Most of the population of Madagascar uses the slash and burn practice, also known as ‘tavy’, this process involves setting vegetation alight after being cut down, creating potential land for rice cultivations and coal for heating ‘houses’ and cooking. The issue is, once started, the fires are uncontrollable by local authorities, leading to the burning 100 000 hectares of forest per year turning the once called green island a red island. Moreover, the slash and burn practise actually destroys lands by making them infertile because of the erosion they end up creating. By planting trees, the government emphasises on the importance of taking care of those great plants and reaffirms that they are to be protected. In a country where trade of diamonds is ruling and creating conflicts often ending in blood, planting trees will also show the population that they can, by respecting and taking care of those new plantations, cultivate them and export their fruits so as to make ‘good money’.

This great action is not without challenges. As Jonah Ratsimbazafy, a prominent Malagasy primatologist, worried: “Right now, we are at the stage of planting trees, but the big question is: What is next? How to protect those young trees, so we don’t plant them in January and then destroy them in July.” The government says being aware of this is just the tip of the iceberg and that much work needs to be done for this action to be effective. “There will be a follow up” affirmed Alexandre Georget minister of environment. They also promised to “recruit monitor and protect the young plants”.

By setting themselves such a challenge, Madagascar is proving the world that being ambitious in order to offer our generation and the next one a sustainable future is possible. The whole world, especially “rich countries”, can truly learn from Madagascar, what is considered an 'under developed’ country and by their way of putting the environment at the heart of their national interests.

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@2020 by WIDS Team

University Of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Rd, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

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