WHY IT MATTERS
Forty years ago, the west coast of Madagascar -occupying a stretch of coastline of approximately 1000 km- was still a healthy mangrove, capturing sediments that threaten coral reefs, sheltering highly diverse mollusc and crustacean communities for the biggest benefit of birds, sea turtles, dugongs as well as the Malagasy people themselves. In the last decades, development of urban areas, overfishing, rice farming, salt production and erosion caused by tree-cutting in the highlands threaten this unique ecosystem. This trend can be reverted by planting during low tide millions of seeds which fall off the trees and enable the restoration of the original wildlife and the quality of fishing for local communities. With its rivers running ‘blood red’ and staining the surrounding Indian Ocean, astronauts had remarked in 1983 already that it looked as if Madagascar was bleeding to death. This insightful observation highlights one of Madagascar's greatest environmental problems—soil erosion. For Madagascar, a country that relies on agricultural production for the foundation of its economy, the loss of this soil is especially costly. In the last three years, after planting 18.6 million trees, our local partner has been pleased to see that on top of restoring the local ecosystem, the workers employed are more self-sufficient as a result of our involvement. They are now able to repair their homes after the cyclone season, send their children to school, experience a balanced diet, pay for medical services, and even purchase comfortable clothing. “Moving whole villages away from the edge of extreme poverty has been incredibly rewarding, our plan is to see hundreds of additional villages continue to be transformed in this manner” says Steve Fitch, the founder of ERP.