Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Despite odds, Madagascar saves more trees

IRIN: Despite a demand for more agricultural land, poverty-stricken Madagascar has managed to reduce deforestation by almost half, environment groups say. Malagasy people cut down the forests to cultivate land, their main source income. The enormous forests on the world's fourth largest island are home to some of the planet's rarest species, including lemurs, chameleons and baobab trees, but deforestation has put great pressure on its diverse environment.

Conservation International (CI), a US-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), which works to preserve biodiversity globally, said that by 2005, Madagascar had managed to reduce the deforestation rate to 0.5 percent per year from almost double that figure in the 1990s. Statistics for the past three years were not yet available, but the figures were likely to show further reductions, CI said.

In 2003, President Marc Ravalomanana's government announced an ambitious national effort to protect Madagascar's remaining biodiversity while simultaneously reducing poverty and promoting rural development. The plan was to increase the country's protected habitats from 1.7 to 6 million hectares, or from 3 percent to 10 percent of the Indian Ocean island's surface area...

Location of Madagascar, by "Vardon," Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2

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