The Sahamalaza Peninsula lies within a transition zone between the Sambirano evergreen forest region in the north and the western dry deciduous forest region in the south. Called the southern Sambirano, this area harbours semi-humid evergreen forests with tree heights of up to 30m. The lemur species living in Sahamalaza are threatened by hunting and forest destruction. All over Madagascar forests are burned down at a very high rate, both for slash-and-burn agriculture and to gain space for grazing cattle. Blue-eyed black lemurs were assessed Critically Endangered (CR A2cd) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at their most recent Red List Assessment in April 2005, based on an 80% population reduction during the last 25 years. The same probably applies to the Sahamalaza sportive lemur, the status of which has however not yet been assessed.
The work of AEECL has led to the implementation of a UNESCO biosphere reserve in Sahamalaza in September 2001. On January 26th 2005 the Malagasy government issued a decree proclaiming an immediate temporary protection of the core zones of the future protected area Sahamalaza – Iles Radama, altogether comprising 260km2 of forests, coral reefs and mangroves, until the final creation of a national park. The latter was finally inaugurated in July 2007. This was an important step on the way to protecting the last remaining blue-eyed black lemurs and their habitat, but many things still remain to be done to help the local communities take the pressure off their forests.
The Sahamalaza – Iles Radama National Park is the first protected area that was created as part of the Programme Environnemental 3 (PE 3), a governmental nature conservation programme. The World Bank has made a donation of around 50 million US$ (the highest amount of money ever given to a country without the obligation to pay it back) to fund this programme, and part of the money will be used for the management of Sahamalaza.
AEECL and its American partners from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with the involvement of representatives of local communities from the Sahamalaza Peninsula and representatives of several environmental institutions, implemented a community-based natural resource management programme (CBNRM) in December 2000. Two objectives of this programme were identified: to maintain and strengthen natural processes and the condition of terrestrial and marine ecosystems; and to improve natural resource use techniques in order to improve the standard of living of the local human populations. An action plan (Natural Resources Community Management Plan) was proposed and is currently being implemented. It has since been the reference framework for AEECLs interventions in the Sahamalaza region. Twenty-one Local Community Associations (LCA) as well as several social and professional associations grouping young people, women, farmers, fishers, and craftspeople were set up in four communes. An LCA is defined as a village-level association to which the law grants the power to manage natural resources within its territory. These associations will partly take over the management of the natural resources in their communities and engage themselves to manage them in a sustainable way. Thereafter, a local agreement (dina) on the conservation of the environment was developed and formalized for each of the LCAs that were set up. Moreover, in each village (fokontany) a Village Forest Protection Committee was set up. The committees work in liaison with the forest departments representative in Analalava to check permits issued by the representative for any logging and to look after the work. AEECL is helping the local associations by providing assistance with bureaucratic procedures as well as through offering courses in e.g., sustainable rice cultivation or the production of handicraft for sale to tourists. As part of the CBNRM for Sahamalaza, in 2005 AEECL funded training in irrigated rice farming that was carried out in partnership with the NGO Voahary Salama, specialised in farmers’ training. Twenty-seven people from Sahamalaza benefited from the training. Yields were 13.55t/ha and 17.14t/ha, respectively, in pilot rice fields A and B, against 3t/ha in local rice fields where traditional techniques were used. The AEECL now run an annual programme of training and a rice growing competition to show the increased yields through this more sustainable production method.
To increase awareness of the environment and the need for its conservation, AEECL also participates in the organisation of local festivals and has done so regularly since 2005. In 2010, we participated in the Nouvelle Ville de Madagascar in March and the International Fair of Madagascar in August.
AEECLs Programme Sahamalaza also involves extensive research work on the conservation ecology of the endangered lemur species living in this region.
More information on the Sahamalaza National Park can be found on the Madagascar National Parks website.