MADAGASCAR: 60 million trees to be planted for 60 years of independence

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MADAGASCAR: 60 million trees to be planted for 60 years of independence©AS photo studio/Shutterstock

The Madagascan authorities have recently launched an impressive reforestation campaign. Objective: to plant 60 million trees, in reference to the sixtieth anniversary of the country's independence, which will take place on June 26, 2020. Madagascar, once called the great green island, has turned red because of bush fires, which consume an average of 100,000 hectares of forest per year.

Madagascar’s 60 years of independence will be celebrated against a backdrop of reforestation. The President of the Republic gave the signal, by officially launching a huge reforestation campaign on Sunday, January 19, 2020 in Ankazobe, a district located 100 kilometres (km) north of the capital Antananarivo. Close to 10,000 people attending the ceremony planted up to 1.2 million trees in one day. “I invite everyone to plant trees, to preserve the environment so that our descendants can live healthy lives,” said President Andry Rajoelina.

The goal of this campaign is to plant 60 million trees, in reference to Madagascar’s 60 years of independence on June 26, 2020. This bold initiative, led by the presidency of the republic has not met with unanimous approval among environmental advocates. The social enterprise Bondy, which had first put forward the idea of planting a million trees in one day, explains that it has withdrawn, because “the project no longer meets the qualitative objectives it had set itself”. Among other things, the 500-hectare site on which the campaign is being conducted is located in an area prone to bushfires every year, and some of the seedlings are taken from national park nurseries, where there is a great need for reforestation.

About 100,000 hectares of forest, consumed each year by bush fires, are being reforested.

The disappearance of Madagascar’s vegetation cover dates back to the birth of this East African country. Since its independence in 1960, the Big Island has lost almost half of its forests. The situation has worsened since 2010, when almost 10% of its surface area has disappeared. In 2017, the Voahary Gasy Alliance, an organisation for the preservation of the environment, had made a clear statement: the country has lost 3.8% of its forests, becoming the fourth most deforested country in the world, after Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

While pointing the finger at slash-and-burn agriculture, the Voahary Gasy Alliance NGOs also denounce “the lack of sanctions against environmental criminals and those who burn forests”. In Madagascar, perpetrators of bushfires can face up to ten years in prison, but the practice is actually still tolerated.

Boris Ngounou

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