Madagascar is home to over 200,000 plants and animals found nowhere else in the world and is considered a “biodiversity hotspot”. The future of Madagascar’s rainforests is heavily dependent on the communities that live in and around them. Resource exploitation, unsustainable farming practices and lack of alternative livelihoods have led to the erosion of forest resources.
Tanana® Silk is organized by Conservation through Poverty Alleviation (www.cpali.org) to support SEPALI Madagascar (www.SEPALIM.org). CPALI/SEPALIM work closely with farmers to identify, develop, and implement new ways of income generation based on native resource farming. To do this, CPALI/SEPALI identified multiple species of native silk moths that produce commercially viable silks, and designed techniques for intercropping the moth’s endemic host plants in border forests and abandoned pastures. Farmers can increase their average income by 30% after two years. Other family members participate in product finishing and further increase incomes by 40-60%. Our approach conserves habitat while at the same time providing a vital source of income for the local community. The CPALI/SEPALIM project is an empirical test of the ability of small-scale enterprises to contribute both to environmental goals and to poverty alleviation through an all Malagasy nonprofit that is locally organized and managed.
Why should we worry about an isolated island so far from home?
There is nowhere in the world that has been unaffected by the changing climate driven by the industrialized countries. Madagascar averages at least 3 major environmental disasters a year – cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods and locust invasions. In 2008 tropical cyclones are combined with rain, wind and flooding resulted in $333 million of disaster related damages affecting worker productivity, health, schools, infrastructure, and food supplies. Eighty per cent of Madagascar’s population live on less than $1.90 a day and one in two children under 5 years of age suffers from stunting due to malnutrition. Industrialized countries have created many of Madagascar’s environmental problems that result from their attempts to introduce methods of top-down conservation and development. The Malagasy want to maintain healthy ecosystems but they need our assistance to reach high value markets, not our dominance. CPALI/SEPALIM have designed a bottom up approach working with subsistence farmers and local communities to make unique cocoon silk and raffia textiles whose sales are reinvested in the Madagascar program.