An all-too-often ignored fundamental cause of extreme poverty is environmental destruction. In Madagascar, radical deforestation is wreaking havoc on millions of villagers as over 90% of the nation’s forests have been destroyed. With the loss of inland forests, the rain patterns change, water tables drop, fertile topsoil erodes, crops suffer and livelihoods are drastically altered. Keep in mind, Madagascar is an island and as the coastal mangrove forests disappear the fishing villages are impacted in surprising ways. First, the villages are no longer protected from devastating tidal surges caused by cyclones. Second, breeding grounds for ocean fish diminish. Third, basic livelihood supplies such as lumber for building houses and canoes become unavailable, and finally, wood for cooking becomes excessively expensive. It all sounds so negative and hopeless, but there is a simple pragmatic solution already in place.
Red Island Restoration has partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects to address the root issue behind environmental poverty. Simply, we hire villagers to plant trees and restore the forests surrounding their villages. To oversee the work, Jamie was hired as the International Director for Eden in Madagascar since its inception in Madagascar in 2007. (Eden also works in Haiti and Nepal.) In 2016 alone, a crew of hundreds of women and men successfully planted over 24 million mangrove trees along the northwest coast, bringing the total tree planting count to over 120 million trees in the last nine years.
In September 2012, Eden Projects initiated its first dry-deciduous reforestation project in Madagascar. Currently, there are 5 nurseries, employing hundreds of local Malagasy to collect and propagate seeds and tend to the hundreds of thousands of seedlings. When ready, the seedlings are planted in devastated landscapes with the intent of restoring the dry deciduous forests that provide abundantly to all who live within them. One special note: most of these dry deciduous trees are endemic to Madagascar.
As forests are restored, jobs are created and lives are transformed. Women and men are receiving their first-ever steady income, children are being sent to school, families are able to seek medical care, people are able to escape modern-day slavery in the form of debt bondage, and individuals are able to start their own small businesses. Families are being lifted out of extreme poverty, mothers and fathers are standing proudly because they can provide for their children and there is hope for a better future. Ultimately, as people care for creation, they are drawn to the Creator.