UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Belo sur Mer - Kirindy-Mite: Young volunteers against forest fires
With the commitment of youth volunteers, Madagascar National Parks was able to take action against forest fires in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Belo-sur-mer – Kirindy-Mite with funds from the special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
Located on the west coast of Madagascar, the Belo-sur-Mer - Kirindy-Mite Biosphere Reserve comprises a watershed and a mosaic of rich but fragile ecosystems. The ecosystems include dry forests, thickets, thorn forests, savannahs, mangroves, coral reefs and salty swampy depressions known as "tannes". The reef is a valuable feeding ground not only for the resident whales, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles. The people are also dependent on these natural resources for their livelihood and income. After all, the islands and two sacred salt lakes, together with their unique marine biodiversity, are a valuable asset for tourism.
Restrictions due to pandemic
The Kirindy Mité National Park is the core area of the Belo sur Mer Kirindy Mité Biosphere Reserve. In 2020, fires in the park started very early in the year and increased further in April due to the declared Covid-19 emergency. The health crisis exacerbated the economic situation of the local population and prompted them to attack the park's natural resources, including through forest fires. From January to July 2020, 216 fire points were recorded by satellite in the park, compared to only 66 in the same period in 2019, which has already resulted in the loss of some 60 hectares of forest.
Remedy through youth volunteers
Through the project funded within the #SOSAfricanHeritage programme, communities were actively involved in conservation measures, reforestation and the fight against forest fires. Young unemployed people from the region, as well as students from the cities, got involved as volunteers and were trained by the park management in firefighting measures. As a result, they prevented numerous fires already during the project period: From October to December 2020, fires recorded by satellite decreased by 61 percent compared to the same period of the previous year.
In cooperation with the local population, 200 hectares of fire-damaged forest and 20 hectares of mangroves were also reforested as part of the project. For this, 50,000 seedlings of native tree species from surrounding nurseries and 100,000 mangrove cuttings were planted. Compliance with Covid-19 hygiene measures during community activities was ensured through the purchase of necessary protective materials such as masks, fever thermometers and disinfectant gels.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Belo sur Mer - Kirindy-Mite
- Country: Madagascar
- Type of Site: UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
- Year of inscription: 2016