Monday 20 november 2023
‘Poverty is one of the main threats to nature in Madagascar,’ Tiana Andriamanana says. Around 80% of Malagasy people live below the poverty line, while Madagascar is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. For over 15 years, Tiana has worked on nature conservation and the strengthening of capacities of communities in this unique country.
Header photo: Tiana Andriamanana with the women’s association Ampasimandera © Fanamby
With a background in biochemistry, Tiana brings a landscape-oriented approach to nature conservation. ‘My interests initially lay in health and medicine, not conservation. But very quickly I came to realise that human health is inextricably linked to ecosystem health. This goes for the entire world, but it is perhaps even more pronounced in Madagascar, because we use local plants for our medicine. So my interests shifted: how do we impact ecosystems, and what can we do to protect them?’
Tiana Andriamanana, Fanamby
‘Future generations deserve to see not only the range of species Madagascar holds, but also to enjoy the ecosystem services our nature provides.’
The future of Malagasy nature
As a mother, Tiana feels the need to protect nature on a personal level. ‘I come from Madagascar, and there are some habitats, some species that I have seen during my lifetime that my kids will not be able to witness, if we continue down this path. I cannot just look away and say, ‘not my problem’. Future generations deserve to see not only the range of species Madagascar holds, but also to enjoy the ecosystem services our nature provides. Unfortunately, there has been a great decline in nature in Madagascar. Some areas are nothing compared to what they once were.’
Madagascar split from the African continent millions of years ago, allowing the island to develop its own distinct ecosystems. About 75% of the species found on Madagascar are endemic , and the island has been classified as a biodiversity hotspot . Around 41% of its species are considered to be under threat on the IUCN Red List . Threats include overexploitation, agriculture, invasive species and climate change.
Fanamby’s work in Madagascar
Fanamby, the non-profit Tiana manages, helps local communities transition to more sustainable forms of agriculture and fishery – both for them and the nature around them – thereby raising their standard of living and providing them with the opportunity to reflect more on their environment. One of the organisation’s biggest feats is the establishment of a social enterprise called Sanahala in 2010. Today, the association represents about 52 local farmers, together worth around 2 million dollars of revenue per year.
Through Sanahala, the farmers have their seat at the table and negotiate fairer prices with the private sector. ‘In addition, it is important that local farmers have access to the right information such as laws and legislation of the area and what it means to produce sustainably,’ Tiana explains. ‘So we provide them with tools to respond to their needs such as booklets with laws and legislations, or traceability applications. We also work closely with the private sector and make them understand the importance of decent work for local farmers that will allow communities to grow and decide for their own development. This way, it will highly reduce the risk for nature degradation, for example caused by slash and burn for agriculture, or illegal charcoal production, as the communities are well compensated for their work now and do not see the need for these practices anymore.’
Firefighting after slash and burn practices. © Fanamby
Tiana Andriamanana, Fanamby
‘With people’s needs being met, we can push for more conservation of nature areas. Because now, people actually have the opportunity to care for their environment. They don’t have to spend as much time and energy on getting their next meal on the table.’
These efforts also help advance the publics’ interest in nature conservation. Tiana explains: ‘With people’s needs being met, we can push for more conservation of nature areas. Because this way, people actually have the opportunity to care for their environment. They do not have to spend as much time and energy on getting their next meal on the table. So, once this happens, we start talking to these communities about conservation, and have a good, substantial and equal discussion.’
Tiana is seeing a change in the way communities view nature and understand their power. ‘I do not like the term empowered, because I think the communities already have the power to change. But what we see is that they gain understanding of what they own and that they have a right to their nature. It is a breath of fresh air when you come to these places because it confirms you are on the right path.’
Tiana’s ultimate goal is that organisations like hers are not needed anymore. In this ideal situation, the population in Madagascar are powerful enough to know not only their worth, but that of the natural capital they are sitting on. They will have become the steward of their wealth and their environment.
For now, this goal remains a utopia, Tiana says. ‘But in the meantime, we will work hard to ensure that we will not be needed for the next generations.’
Sustainable vanilla supply chain
Since 2017, Tiana and her team have been working on a social enterprise that aims to establish a sustainable and traceable vanilla supply chain in Analanjirofo region. This initiative is conducted in partnership with the Livelihoods funds as well as the French Agency for Development (AFD). Madagascar produces around 80% of the world’s vanilla , and in recent years has seen an enormous increase in income due to growing demand and prices. Fanamby is pushing to diversify the farmer’s production and help locals identify alternative sources of income to vanilla agriculture in the region.
Fanamby and IUCN NL
IUCN NL worked together with Fanamby on the project Shared Resources Joint Solutions, which ran from 2016 until 2020. This project advocated for more inclusive and sustainable development and helped local organisations increase their influence in multi-stakeholder partnerships with businesses and governments. Together, IUCN NL and Fanamby worked to protect climate resilience, the water supply and food security. One of the successes of the project was the establishment of a law that mandates the traceability of products that were cultivated in and surrounding new protected areas in Madagascar. In practice, this means that any company working in these areas should be certified or at least monitored by local communities.