Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. Unfortunately, because of destruction by humans, the island has lost 90% of its original forests, cleared mostly to make way for agriculture and to be used for fuel. This makes deforestation a major issue in Madagascar, and along with it, the vulnerability of many unique animal species.
L’Association Soa Zara was founded in 2016, and since then they have planted more than 10,000 trees. Soa Zara has two tree planting initiatives – the first is a project to replant a forest corridor between Ranohira and Isalo National Park, which will create a green corridor for future rescued lemurs and encourage the repopulation of the area’s wildlife. Green corridors are especially important in Madagascar, as the fragmentation of forests means wildlife can’t migrate and breed outside of small groups created because of isolation caused by deforestation.
Soa Zara also works with the local community of Ranohira on a number of community programs that enhance their environmental work. Their “energy tree” project in the town is encouraging the community to grow and use trees solely for the purpose of firewood and charcoal (like fast-growing acacia and eucalyptus) and to discourage the cutting of forests.
Planeterra partnered with Soa Zara to create a tree planting activity for travellers staying at the ITC Lodge nearby. Travellers get hands-on planting their own trees in the “green corridor” next to the Isalo National Park, and learn about the reforestation project. Along with this steady stream of income from the tree planting experience, Planeterra is helping to support Soa Zara’s current washbasin project. In order to protect the nearby river from pollution, Soa Zara is working with the local women’s cooperative to create a washbasin station and water filtration system in Ranohira, which will allow the community to do their laundry in a safe environment without polluting nearby water systems. This is just one of their many community outreach programs which seeks to bridge the protection of the environment with economic development for the people of Ranohira.
Soa Zara is working to protect Madagascar’s natural environment while empowering its people. The reforestation of the area around Ranohira will lead to a renewal of habitat for species like endangered lemurs, but also expand the current ecosystem within Isalo National Park. Their energy tree project will also protect the longevity of the tree planting project. Soa Zara and the ITC Lodge employ eight full-time and four part-time staff and their association is made up of five members which include someone from the forestry department and two community members.