Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than half of the 18 millions habitants live with less than a dollar a day. As a result the forests and wildlife habitatare under high anthropogenic pressure.Poverty and unsustainable land use practices have led to Madagascar losing 85% of its native forest cover. It is in the forests that most of the biodiversity is found. Slash and burn agriculture and burning for grazing land are the main drivers of forest loss. At the same time, Madagascar is a priority for conservation with over 90% of all species being endemic. Aroma Forest sources products from three areas in Madagascar. These areas are not protected and each has a suite of endemic endangered species that are threatened by illegal hunting and rapid habitat loss through slash and burn agriculture. Without seeing a direct economic benefit there is no incentive for local people to protect the forest.
Aroma Forest and Man and the Environment (MATE) work in partnership to market products which support biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction for local communities. Contracts are in place between MATE, the local communities and the government to give communities the right to manage the lands, with clear environmental management stipulations such as no burning, nor hunting; and between Aroma Forest and the communities outlining agreements on essential oil production and sustainable practices and wildlife protection. Thus the wild harvest conservation enterprise of essential oils helps to abate the threats to key wildlife by providing an alternative, stable, continuous, and decent income to the local community addressing poverty and its corollaries of environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss providing both the incentives and the alternatives to enable the local community to protect their environment. The framework of the production system is designed to create a direct link between these income and wildlife and habitat protection.
The Conservation Enterprise
Aroma Forest produces a range of Wildlife Friendly Certified® essentials oils; Niaouli, Saro, Maniguette, Butterfly Ginger, Iary, Blue ginger, Tu- meric, Rosemary, Ylang-Ylang, Ravensara, Ravintsara, Issa, Cinnamon bark, Lantana, Calophyllum oil sourced by international cosmetic and aromatherapy companies such as Chanel, Yves Rocher and Dessange. Aroma Forest essential oils are also certified organic and satisfy international fair trade requirements. Aroma Forest markets through the Internet as well as through national and inter- national retail and wholesale sales.
Madagascar’s human population grows by 3 % annually, putting enormous pressure on the island’s natural resources. The majority of Madagascar’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in its low altitude forests, the same forests that support the livelihoods for a large percentage of the country’s population. Forests provide wood, non-timber forest products, and water for the rice-growing rural population, yet only around 15 percent of the land surface remains forested, largely as a result of expanding slash-and-burn agriculture, grazing, and uncontrolled wildfires. Illicit logging of precious hardwoods, mining, and the hunting of lemurs, bats, birds, and the island’s main predator the fossa, also pose serious threats to the ecological integrity of this important landscape. Collection of species for the illegal pet trade has also had a major impact on populations, of tortoises and chameleons in particular. The survival of Madagascar’s numerous endemic freshwater fishes is compromised by environmental degradation, overexploitation, and invasive exotic species.
The Wildlife Conservation Society-Madagascar (WCS) is the delegated manager of the Makira Natural Park which was formally created in 2012 after a ten-year period of consultation with local communities, and socio-economic and ecological studies. WCS collaboratively manages the Park with local communities and has a strong commitment to contributing to the improved wellbeing of local populations. WCS has supported 67 community associations to establish a ‘green belt’ around the core forest of Makira and works with these communities to diversify livelihoods options through improving production skills and access to markets for high-quality natural resource based products. In return communities are active partners in Park management activities through involvement in patrols and ecological monitoring activities. This 1,400 square mile block of forest is unique it in that it provides a refuge for numerous rare, threatened, vulnerable and endemic species including 20 threatened lemur species, three of which are amongst the 25 most endangered primates in the world. The forest plays an important role in maintaining connectivity for species between the forests of eastern and northern Madagascar, and in the provision of ecosystem services like water regulation and supply and carbon storage.
The Conservation Enterprise
Raffia, cocoa beans, vanilla, cloves and community managed tourism are all produced or managed by communities living around the Makira Natural Park in northeastern Madagascaras part of an integrated conservation strategy and as such have earned Wildlife Friendly® certification. WCS is working with local communities to find and grow new markets for these products thus helpingto ensure sustainable households revenue with the ultimate goal of contributing to the conservation of the unique biodiversity found in this area.