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Grant Award to Feedback Madagascar

seed recipients

We are incredibly pleased, at the Jo Walters Trust, to have made a grant of £16,900, to fund Feedback Madagascar’s ‘Seeds for Change’ project in Madagascar, part of their TreeMad programme. It will focus on 21 communities (3,900 people) in the Amoron’i Mania region. Together these people manage 15,000 hectares of Madagascar’s last temperate forest. 

About Feedback Madagascar

Feedback Madagascar (Registered Charity SC023568) was set up in 1995 to help the people of Madagascar who live around the most important remaining indigenous forests; by helping the local people, they aim to safeguard the survival of the forests and their associated ecosystems. They do this in conjunction with Ny Tanintsika, Feedback Madagascar's Malagasy partner organisation. Sir David Attenborough has lent his support to Feedback Madagascar, saying:

“it is the most realistic and ambitious tree-planting programme the island has ever seen [...] representing the best chance that the island’s wildlife has.”

The Seeds for Change Project in Detail

Feedback Madagascar’s approach, through the Treemad Seeds for Change Project, is different to the majority of nature conservation as it focuses on the local people. It provides an alternative to deforestation, allowing people instead to derive an income from sustainable management and restoration of the forest, via the harvesting of crops, such as the native Tapia for silk production, Eucalyptus for quick growing fuel and timber, citrus fruit trees, and Arabica coffee.

The Ecological Challenge

Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot: 5% of the world’s species are unique to the Island. Most of these species inhabit the rapidly dwindling forests and are surrounded by some of the planet’s poorest communities. One of the biggest threats to biodiversity in Madagascar is the conflict between economic activity and the environment. With the Seeds for Change project, Feedback Madagascar is helping to break the vicious circle of poverty and environmental destruction. The approach depends on a sensitive understanding of where windows of opportunity lie for positive change.

The Humanitarian Challenge

Madagascar is the 9th poorest country in the world and 80% of the population is subsistence farmers living on less than $2 per day. Poverty and unsustainable exploitation of the forest and land, via traditional survival strategies such as slash and burn agriculture, are a vicious circle causing high rates of infant and adult mortality, malnutrition, ill health, poor education, environmental collapse and reduced opportunities for youth and the next generation.

The charity is not just giving someone seeds or teaching people to plant seeds - they are working with men and women to plant the right seeds at the right time for the right purpose and in the right way, looking closely to see what threats and ramifications lay ahead. The seeds are "lent" and "repaid with interest" at harvest time, to increase commitment and avoid dependency, and to build the seed bank and spread the risks. Growing food crops, utility trees and native trees together benefits everyone.

The project is supported by complementary enterprise and health initiatives which will help people maximise profit and minimise the chances of progress being undermined by ill health. Groups also learn about their rights and powers to protect their land and forest from unscrupulous exploitation. By working to address such a broad spectrum of needs, the Seeds for Change project will help the people of Madagascar on their own terms, and will determine a positive futurefor the forest.

Feedback Madagascar’s Treemad programme aims to protect and restore forests and to meet the needs of local populations by maximising the benefits they can reap from the land and forest, their major resources. This is being achieved through a community forest management framework where each community has tenure of a parcel of forest and adjacent land and they effect a sophisticated management plan including zoned wilderness conservation, traditional low impact exploitation, reforestation, agroforestry, conventional agriculture, manufacturing (eg silk and essential oils) and service provision (eg ecotourism). This is supported with community health, education and infrastructure projects (principally clean-water systems, schools and manufacturing equipment).

The Jo Walters Trust Seeds for Change Project

The Amoron'i Mania region of Madagascar
Where

The Seeds for Change project that the Jo Walters Trust is funding for Feedback Madagascar is focussing on 21 communities in the Amoron’i Mania region. These communities manage 15,000 hectares of Madagascar’s last temperate forest.

What

The predominant species is the Tapia tree which is a significant income source providing habitat for the wild silk moth, fruit and medicine. In 2013, 650 households participated in the first stages of agroforestry. Each village has a community nursery to produce species useful in agroforestry and to restore the natural forest. 42 community nurserymen have been trained, who in turn train the remaining community participants and promote agroforestry techniques. This is part of the farmer-to-farmer training methodology proven successful in previous Feedback Madagascar/NT projects. So far the communities have focused on native Tapia for forest restoration and silk production, Eucalyptus for quick growing fuel and timber, citrus fruit trees, and Arabica coffee, as well as rice and vegetables to eat.

Who

The initial beneficiaries of the Jo Walters Trust funding are a further 650 households including a high percentage of young individuals, couples and single parents who are amongst the most vulnerable in society with little access to land or work. An average household has 6 members so there are 3,900 direct beneficiaries. There will be many more indirect beneficiaries over time and particularly via the protection and improvement of eco-services such as water and top soil management which affect hundreds of thousands of people.

How

Seeds are carefully introduced into the community by Feedback Madagascar/NT and the community forest management associations without compromising participant motivation or creating jealousy and de-motivation amongst the wider community. Each year, participating communities invest time and labour in communal forest and land management; for example the creation of fire barriers (clearing swathes of combustible vegetation around forests and fields), and the planting of tree saplings. Each participant receives seeds in return for their contribution and they must dedicate a minimum of a quarter of a hectare of land for agroforestry. The community forest management associations allocate land to the landless. Traditional conventions are agreed between participants and the relevant community forest management association to determine roles and obligations.

Monitoring

Ongoing training for participants includes surplus seed production and exchange at harvest time to augment the community seed bank and to increase production next year.

Feedback Madagascar/NT field agents living in the villages, monitor, supervise and support activities and provide continuous training. Field agents meet monthly to report and exchange experience. External expert trainers have been recruited for specialist new activities such as Inga alley cropping.

Activity

Cross-cutting activities will include:

  • Team trainings and monthly meetings

  • Survey & identification of project beneficiaries.

  • Awareness-raising on the project including rights and opportunities of youth.

  • Meeting at the household level with project beneficiaries to discuss action plans.

  • Signature of letters of commitment with beneficiaries.

  • Development of sustainability plans, with the local development committees and  forest management associations, to help oversee and manage them post-project.

  • Continual support, monitoring and evaluation.

  • Quarterly coordination meetings/ workshops.

Outcomes

The expected results of the Jo Walters Trust involvement in the Seeds for Change project are

  • 650 households procuring crop seeds to benefit from agroforestry schemes

  • 650 households with access to productive land

  • 162 hectares of land cultivated with agroforestry techniques

  • 650 households with increased and diversified seed stock for next season

  • Increased knowledge and skills in sustainable agroforestry production techniques across 650 households and 21 communities

  • 13,000 seedlings in community nurseries for agroforestry rootstock/ for grafting

  • 200 kms of fire barriers cleared

Further Information

This project will introduce critical food, and cash crops into the agroforestry management systems. Crops such as beans, corn, soya, potatoes, leguminous mulch, groundnuts, squash, new citrus fruit, indigo and inga. There will be training in the identification of priority crops for nutrition, income generation, existing markets and product transformation (eg indigo dye); agroforestry techniques including species associations and ecological functions; and the integration of production with forest restoration and conservation. Crop diversification, including staggered harvest times, is important to mitigate risk of crop or market failure and natural disasters such as cyclones and locust plagues.

Increasing tree cover through agroforestry and forest restoration will improve food security, protect biodiversity and help to maintain ecosystem services ahead of climate change. The project will also demonstrate that communities can become more prosperous and protect themselves from environmental degradation with a transition towards a tree-based economy. This is an important project within the Treemad programme and strategy. With food security established and revenue increased, participants will next be able to move towards value adding activities such as transforming produce into processed foodstuff, essential oils and carpentry products.

It is a critical project to the beneficiaries as all 21 communities have requested it at this time and it will provide a quick return to participants. This “quick return” is key to their continued commitment of time and labour to their long-term development and environmental management plans.

Feedback Madagascar’s methodology is tried and tested over 20 years, and their team have 10 years of experience working in this geographical area. Parallel projects on forest restoration and essential oils, including partnerships with Kew Gardens and Symrise, will inform, enhance and support the project.

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