Madagascar is Planting 60 Million Trees

Volunteers planted over 1 million trees in just one day.

May 30, 2020

To celebrate its 60-year anniversary on June 26, 2020, Madagascar has launched an ambitious program to plant 60 million trees. The national drive began on January 19, with an inaugural gathering, where close to 10,000 people (before social distancing) joined together to sow the very first plantlings in the ground. 

Within a few hours, according to Mongabay, approximately one million seeds and saplings were planted along 500 hectares of the Ankazobe region, located 60 miles (96 kilometers) outside of the capital city of Antananarivo.

The project is particularly meaningful considering that Madagascar is home to many unique and endangered ecosystems. The African island is considered one of the most phenomenal places on earth as it is both the oldest island in the world as well as one of the largest.

Madagascar hosts a diverse and eclectic range of flora and fauna that are not found in any other country. In fact, 92 percent of its mammals and 89 percent of its plant species only exist on the island.

Unfortunately, according to the World Wildlife Fund, 44 percent of Madagascar’s natural forest cover has been destroyed since the 1950s, leading many species including lemurs and chameleons to become endangered.

Most of the deforestation occurs because of unsustainable agricultural practices, such as slash and burn farming. That is why the country's reforestation project will be protected by 50 hired staff who will take care of saplings and oversee bushfires.

“We want to encourage people to plant and not consume the fruits of the trees inside the parks or cut them to make charcoal,” Mamy Rakotoarijaona, director of Madagascar National Parks told Mongabay.

Madagascar’s president Andy Rajoelina, who ran on a platform to “make Madagascar green again” is an outspoken supporter of the reforestation campaign; in fact, some cite his participation as part of the reason the project has gained so much attention and popularity. He planted the first sapling on the reforestation launch day which occurred one year after he took office.

And while this event was much more widely attended than previous tree-planting drives, the credit for the incredible gathering also belongs to numerous non-profit organizations, government ministries, schools, and even the army who collectively organized it over many months, planting seeds in nurseries and overseeing logistics, which included gathering 200,000 seeds and transporting all the materials to the site.

In total, approximately 100 million seedlings were collected for the national campaign; some of them native species and some fruit and some were spice-bearing varieties. Furthermore, in order to increase the efficiency of tree-planting and to reach less accessible regions of the island, the campaign also made use of aerial reforestation, which is a tree-planting technique that uses planes and drones to distribute mass quantities of seeds from the sky. 

This technique, also known as spray seeding, uses seed balls, which are bundles of seeds bound together by clay and earth. For Madagascar’s project, 25 seeds were combined into each ball and released over the Ankazobe region. They are expected to germinate at a success rate of 60 percent. 

Aerial reforestation is a relatively new technology, but has already helped several countries replant precious forests. Companies like Dendra Systems are focusing on strengthening these technologies, and hoping to be able to plant 1 billion trees per day!

The drones that Dendra Systems is developing will also be able to collect important information regarding soil quality and topography to enable more effective results.

Reforestation projects have also taken place in other countries. In fact, 50 million trees were planted in India in one day on July 11, 2016.

As much of the planet’s forests have been destroyed over the past century, national reforestation campaigns alongside innovative technologies can rehabilitate these essential ecosystems back to life. This will help make a stable, healthy, and sustainable planet for many more generations to come. 

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.