The Spiny Forest in southwest Madagascar is home to a 90% endemic array of plant and animal species. Not so endemic are the pressures put upon the ecosystem from climate change and deforestation. Illicit charcoal production, agricultural land use change, and expanding development, for example, have led to the degradation of 43% of land cover in the last decade, threatening many of the region's endemic species. Situated at the edge of the Spiny Forest, the small village of Ranobe has historically depended on agricultural production and gathering of forest resources for villagers' livelihoods; however, these traditional income sources are becoming insufficient and unsustainable. The project team collaborated with Ho Avy, a Ranobe-based non-profit, to design a sustainable development plan for the community. The plan was based on five key drivers: water and health, land use/land management, agriculture and food supply, economic growth, and energy. To improve the health of the region's unique environment in the short and long terms, this plan recommended a combination of increased education, shifting incentives, and investment in renewable technologies to be implemented by Ho Avy. The recommendations put forth opportunities to sustainably improve livelihoods and ecosystem health.
Strong interests in conservation action and environmental education; clean and renewable energy systems assessment, design and implementation; intergraded ecosystem restoration design, knowledge of environmental law, policy and justice. Additional skills desirable: knowledge of French, familiarity with conservation, development and climate change adaptation strategies (especially for dry climates), background knowledge of the history of Madagascar.
SNRE students will:
- Have access to New Latitude - Ho avy project staff and their expertise, and will be paired with local University of Toliara students during their time in Madagascar
- Be able to meet with regional officials in conservation, i.e., WWF staff, possibly Kew Botanical Gardens, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Wildlife Conservation Society and Conservation International, and will be able to request meetings with ministers, local officials, policy makers and mining company representatives
- In conjunction with Ho avy, organize a conference in Madagascar and invite all stakeholders invested in the region. Students and their Malagasy counterparts will present projects and submit an action plan to the local communities as well as to WWF, appropriate ministers and policy makers about how best to conserve and restore the forest by offering sustainable action through conservation incentive opportunities.
- Be provided with room and board while in the field and housing in Toliara, (hotels, internet and food while in cities will be covered by students).
Funding will be available for housing and food for the student team in the field. Additionally, there is potential funding to help with some printing costs of reports and landscape designs, etc.
The team will develop an independent recommendation and action plan report to local conservation and development agencies who are active in the region, i.e., WWF, CI, WCS, USAID, etc, as well as local ministries, regional authorities and rural communities. This material will also simultaneously be applied to publishing a peer-reviewed journal article and developing an interactive DVD that can be used complementarity to graphically illustrate the management plant and why it is needed. Each student will be responsible for producing a section of the report based on their focus of study. We will produce landscape level reforestation designs and would like to incorporate an alternative energy assessment to test wind and solar potential in the region.
- Olivia Lau, MS Environmental Justice
- Patty Liao, MSE Mechanical Engineering/MS Sustainable Systems
- Brennan Madden, MS Sustainable Systems
- Claire Santoro, MS Sustainable Systems