In mid-January this year I left a wet and cold England to arrive in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo (or simply Tana). The island which was colonised by the French in 1886 and was given independence in 1960 is located off South-East Africa. Sure enough on the way from the airport I could see the French influence which has made its mark on the capital; with brightly painted houses, narrow and tall on cobbled streets; stalls selling baguettes and an array of other snacks; and polite addresses of French salutations ‘bonjour’ and ‘salut’ as you walk through town.
It was then that I also realised how different Madagascar would be from mainland Africa – explained by the fact that the Malagasy’s have an Indo – Malaysian descent. Not only that, but Madagascar’s geographical position puts it between the Mozambique channel and the Indian Ocean which has influenced its weathers and temperate climate, affecting the island’s land in different regions. Parts of Madagascar, especially the central highlands remind me of the lush green fields of southern India. In addition to this, as the island was discovered by man relatively recently (200,000 years ago) this has had amazing affects on its biodiversity allowing for an array of endemic species (meaning that these species are only found in Madagascar). Madagascar demonstrates an example of the destruction which is played by man on nature.
Over the past month of being in Madagascar understanding and seeing first-hand the threats that are increasingly felt on its forests and endangered species has also encouraged me further to get fully behind the organisation I am here to work with, Feedback Madagascar and its local partner Ny Tanintsika. Feedback realises the necesity of interlinking conservation and development so it carries out projects which promote health, education and livelihoods at the same time as protecting the forest and endangered species.
It was handy that Feedback’s Annual General Meeting fell in the second week of my arrival so the organisation headed down to Tulear in the South-West of the country where we would review the past year and put forward our plans and hopes for 2011. And I was able to learn a great deal about our projects. Tulear itself was hot and dry, a contrast to Tana which was cool and breezy as we departed. It was interesting to see Tulear with the coast, its incredible reef and spiny forest enticing tourists down here. It felt like we had entered a new country.
Photo 1: A Chameleon in Park L’Ankarana, Northern Madagascar.
Photo 2: Ny Tanintsika staff at Feedback Madagascar/Ny Tanintsika’s AGM in Tulear.