Faces of Africa 01/29/2017 Defenders of the Forest

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Justin Claude, one of the conservationists at Mitsinjo Association in Andasibe, Madagascar. He heads Mitsinjo's Amphibian program.

 

 

Madagascar is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots.

The vast majority of its species of fauna and flora are endemic to the island. Much of

Madagascar’s wildlife is under threat, particularly humid forest. The severe poverty

that afflicts the island's communities is causing serious damage to its environment.

Turning these practices around will mean finding ways for locals to benefit from the

natural environment.

This is where Mitsinjo Association comes in. The organization is composed of the

local conservationists who are dedicated towards the conservation of the island’s

heritage.

Justin Claude, one of the conservationists at Mitsinjo Association in Andasibe, Madagascar. He heads Mitsinjo's Amphibian program.
Justin Claude, one of the conservationists at Mitsinjo Association in Andasibe, Madagascar. He heads Mitsinjo’s Amphibian program.

It all started when tourists would go into Andasibe village and requested to see the

forest. Later in 1999, Mitsinjo was formed by local villagers.

“We started as guides only, protecting the forest, trying to plant trees,” told Justin

Claude – Mitsinjo Amphibian conservation director.

When Justin joined Mitsinjo, he was only seventeen years old. He was the youngest

founder in the group.

The group embarked on planting trees and conserving the animals that were in danger

of extinction.

Each member is assigned a particular zone depending on their expertise. One of the

members Youssouf Martin is in charge of tree nurseries while Justin is in charge of

the Amphibians.

Justin talking about a lemur. Madagascar is known for its unique flora and fauna. One of the famous animals in the country is the lemur.
Justin talking about a lemur. Madagascar is known for its unique flora and fauna. One of the famous animals in the country is the lemur.

“Before, I was a guide and afterwards they asked me to help them do reforestation

here. Because I was born here in this village I can do this work because I have much

knowledge about the rainforest. This project is a program to plant more native trees.

We’re restoring 25 hectares per year so we must grow 30, 000 seedlings with the 60

different species of the native tree,” told Youssouf – Mitsinjo tree nursery specialist.

Madagascar is thought to have more than three hundred species of frogs, ninety nine

percent of which are endemic. These are one of the most critically endangered

creatures on the Island. Hence in 2010, Justin started the amphibian conservation

project. The project is the first one of its kind in Madagascar. In 2013, Justin went for

training on amphibian conservation in the United States of America. Coming back to

Madagascar, he established a bleeding facility for the frogs. The facility remains

under his supervision.

Besides the wildlife being under threat of endangerment, the environment faces

serious threats too. Clearance of forests primarily for firewood and charcoal is

rampant in Madagascar.

Hence the group carries out sensitization forums with the locals to stress on the

importance of conserving the forests.

Justin teaching children about the animals in the forest. Mitsinjo holds community sensitization programs to stress the importance of forest conservation.
Justin teaching children about the animals in the forest. Mitsinjo holds community sensitization programs to stress the importance of forest conservation.

This is where education comes in. Mitsinjo engages in a variety of education and

capacity building programs for the communities they support, including schools.

“Mitsinjo needed a head for environmental education, which also has a link to

teaching. I accepted, because I was born here. The environment and love of nature are

important to me too. We work with schools all over the region of Andasibe (their

village). Over the holidays we create clubs for children who don’t have the money to

travel”, said Irene Ramanantenasoa – Mitsinjo environmental education officer.

This group of Andasibe local conservationists is working tirelessly to ensure that the

glory of its forests is restored and conserved.

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