Madagascar teeters on the brink of total ecological collapse. With up to 90% of its forests lost, the island nation's remaining ecosystems harbor a wealth of biodiversity found nowhere else on Earth. Conserving remaining habitat is not enough; restoring lost forests is required to save the plants, animals, and people who call Madagascar home. In 2019, The Phoenix Conservancy embarked on our mission to do just that.
Ivohiboro (pronounced eev-wee-bore) is an isolated patch of rainforest in southeastern Madagascar. Despite its small size of just 4.7 square miles (about a fifth the size of Manhattan Island), Ivohiboro is home to numerous endangered species, including a rare montane rainforest population of Ring-tailed Lemurs. The forest is also the surrounding region's only source of drinking water, as the landscape is dominated by arid grassland and savannah.
Nearby communities earn, on average, just $50 USD per household per year. Such extreme poverty leads to acts of desperation that put Ivohiboro at risk. Before 2019, wildfires set to improve cattle grazing in surrounding grassland burned into Ivohiboro each year. Because the forest is so small, any one fire threatened Ivohiboro's existence, as well as all its biodiversity and the people who depend on it. We knew any attempts to restore Ivohiboro must also improve the lives of its people.
In 2019, The Phoenix Conservancy began emergency construction of firebreaks to protect all sides of Ivohiboro. We have initiated restoration activities using our unique "Foxhole Forest" technique. By combining restoration with agroforestry and fire protection, we have incentivized further reforestation while improving livelihoods through social enterprise programs, such as our Sakoa and Voatsiperifery Pepper projects. Our goal is to create an economic engine that restores Ivohiboro in perpetuity.
We have achieved remarkable success in Ivohiboro. For the first time in over a century, there have been only three wildfires set near the forest's boundary in the last four years. We have created more than 7,000 employment opportunities for local communities. We have planted 3 million tree seeds in 385 Foxhole Forests and created over 50 kilometers of dual firebreaks that completely surround Ivohiboro. We have also established several social enterprise programs that have begun generating funding.
We serve the communities that surround Ivohiboro through our restoration activities and social enterprise programs. These efforts would not be possible without our close partnerships with the Malagasy Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (MICET), Centre ValBio, and the Rainforest Trust. We have received generous financial support from our major funders, as well as from numerous individuals through one-time and monthly donations.
We plan to plant over 5,000 Foxhole Forests around Ivohiboro, enabling the forest to approximately double in size and connect with nearby forest fragments to the north. We will also expand our social enterprise programs, including developing ecotourism, mobile butterfly farming, and carbon offset initiatives. We will build out various research projects as well, examining the efficacy and impact of our activities on Ivohiboro, its biodiversity, and the people who depend on the forest.
HOW TO HELP
As a growing non-profit, the greatest limiting factors to achieving our goals are financial constraints. Any donations, large or small, monthly or one time, drive our efforts to restore Ivohiboro. We are currently running a monthly donor drive where supporters receive a sample of rare Voatsiperifery pepper as a thank you gift. Following us on social media and spreading the word about us is also a tremendous help. On behalf of Ivohiboro, its biodiversity, and its people, thank you.
Take a look at Madagascar and the work we do.