The project of Vohimana on Biodiversity Conservation has acquired the support of IUCN Save Our Species for 2019 - 2021. This support specifically concerns the safeguarding of the Indri Indri (indri) and Propithecus diadema (sifaka diadema), both critically endangered species according to the IUCN Red List. Their population trend is declining and pressures on their habitat are still more threatening such as illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. It remains imperative to take the necessary measures for their preservation.
The Vohimana forest is a real "hotspot" of biodiversity. A concentrate of endemic species on an area of 1500 ha. Located in the heart of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor, the Reserve has a crucial ecological function recognized by biologists. There are twelve species of lemurs including the indri and the sifaka diadem. To alleviate the pressures on this forest and conserve the lemurs and their habitat, the NGO must provide immediate and tangible actions. Among the priority areas of intervention is to classify Vohimana forest as a New Protected Area. While awaiting the outcome of this process, patrols carried out by the rangers and with the close involvement of the local community are being reinforced. At the same time, development of income-generating activities to improve livelihoods of living of the people living around the reserve is essential as an alternative to economic practices leading to environmental degradation.
The holistic approach developed by the NGO L'Homme et L'Environnement since its creation in 1993 takes into consideration the important role that local population could have in the protection and preservation of biodiversity: they can be actors who are aware that their development goes and will go hand in hand with the protection of the environment, their forest and what is found there.
Through the several activities developed on the site, L'Homme et L'Environnement works closely with local associations and local people to carry out projects with economic scope that can ensure a decent livelihood for them in the long term: ecotourism, handicrafts, production of essential oils, standardized production of firewood, production of young plants in nurseries for agriculture and reforestation, valorization of traditional medicine. These projects are accompanied by social projects that promote access to health and education by ensuring the health center’s functioning and the continuous support to primary and secondary schools in the area.
The conditions for starting the project were complicated by the fact that in the same period, the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread internationally. Health restrictions and the closure of national roads made the site almost inaccessible.
However, forest surveillance was maintained and strengthened: 450 patrols were carried out until August 2020 with a minimal number of reported incidents. Among the achievements also, 13 tons of ginger seeds were distributed to farmers and 50kg of ravintsara essential oils produced by the local association Manara-penitra. Being planned, but started very late, the renovations of the ecotourism infrastructures of the Eco lodge "Le Relais du Naturaliste" and the construction of new ones are underway. The resumption was immediate as soon as the accesses to the site were opened. A whole team of local carpenters, led by the development manager of Le Relais du Naturaliste is working on the project. The work includes the renovation of the restaurant, the construction of new bungalows and sanitary facilities.
This project is co-funded by IUCN Save Our Species. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of Man and the Environment and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN.