Valued Forest, Valued Lives…
Did you know…?
* Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island.
* Despite Madagascar’s close proximity to the African continent, ocean currents have isolated the island, resulting in high rates of endemic plant and animal species.
* Approximately 90% of the flora and fauna found on Madagascar are found nowhere else.
* Madagascar consistently ranks one of the top 10 poorest countries in the world.
* Madagascar is nearly 90% deforested and the large majority of this has occurred in the last 50 years.
* Thousands of exotic animals are illegally smuggled out of Madagascar each year. Many of these die in transport.
* With rapid deforestation, animals such as lemurs are losing their natural habitats and are more easily targeted by people for food and trafficking.
Tahirin’Ala (Valued Forest) Nature Center…
For the last 14 years, Eden Reforestation Projects has been partnering with Malagasy communities along the NorthWest Coast to reforest desolated areas with coastal mangroves or endemic dry deciduous trees. To date, over 270 MILLION trees have been planted and hundreds of millions more protected all while thousands of men and women receive steady employment.
As forests return, we’re seeing the positive effects on the ecosystem… shrimp and crab are returning to the mangrove channels, local fisherman are pulling in better catches, lemurs are moving back into these protected forests and reproducing. And yet, most of the people in the city surrounding these areas, will never see what Madagascar once was and should be again.
It has long been a dream of Jamie’s to secure a greenspace in the city in which he grew up, in the hopes of restoring a small forest that can once again be a safe temporary or permanent home to naturally endemic species of plants and animals.
Even beyond this, Jamie has had a deep desire that the Malagasy would experience up close and personal the wonder of their nation beyond the city’s cement, dust and traffic.
Two years ago, we began actively protecting one of the few remaining enclosed canopy green-spaces in our city of Mahajanga. We’ve named it, Tahirin’Ala (Valued Forest). Conveniently, this nature center backs up to our property and our landlord who owns the property is fully on board. In the last two years since protecting this space, we’re seeing the return of endemic reptiles and birds, some which Jamie hasn’t seen since he was a child, including the Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher. Recently, at night as I cook dinner, I can often hear the distinct sounds of birds that we normally hear in a small forest 30 km up the coast.
The goal of Tahirin’Ala is multi-faceted. First, we’re working towards Tahirin’Ala becoming a rehabilitation and holding facility for animals that have been in captivity or have been intercepted from exotic pet trade traffickers. Once rehabilitated, these animals will be reintroduced into a healthy Eden Projects protected forest or if unable to survive in the wild, they’ll join the resident population of Tahirin’Ala.
Second, Tahirin’Ala will serve as a research facility as well as seed source for naturally occurring endemic trees and orchids.
Third, as most children in our city have never seen a forest, Tahirin’Ala will serve as an educational site for youth and university students, complete with a research library on site.
Finally, Tahirin’Ala has already become a place of employment and an opportunity to mentor a few young men that we’ve known since they were small children.
I smile ear to ear each day that I see the Tahirin’Ala crew hard at work. We have known each of these men since they were small children.
Angelo. Angelo has been a trusted employee for several years and pours his heart into the work of his hands. Growing up in one of the poorest families in our community, Jamie and his three sisters compiled their money together as children and bought Angelo’s parents a piece of property with their small tin house upon it. Angelo attended our sister and brother-in-law’s school, Centre Fitiavana when he was young. After college when Jamie was living in Madagascar, he participated in all sorts of random things, one of which, was being the bus driver for these kids. Each morning, Jamie would pick up Angelo along with other kids and deliver them to school. In the end, Angelo only completed the third grade before quitting school.
Today, Angelo is married with four kids of his own, he’s a strong Christian and is the Manager of Tahirin’Ala. Angelo has taken these young men under his wing, mentoring them in the methods of agronomy and the value of hard work and integrity. And now the work of Angelo, a third-grade drop out, is being sought after by University students for their research. THIS. This is the power and the grace of the Lord.
Tino. We met Tino when we moved back to Mahajanga 9 years ago. At the time, he was one of older boys that was a part of the large group of kids that often hung out together at our house or at the soccer field. (Tino holding Gavin in the picture below).
Tino didn’t complete high school but is a joyful personable young man. When asked why he enjoys working at Tahirin’Ala, Tino replied, “I’ve come to realize that we are the force and the strength behind the goals of Tahirin’Ala”.
Danio. We’ve watched Danio grow up in our community and as a child, he was often seen carrying a bird or an animal that he had rescued or captured. Like so many, Danio quit school after 5th grade. His gentle nature shines through as he cares for the plants and animals of Tahirin’Ala.
Jeddy. We’ve known Jeddy since he was just a baby being raised in the remote fishing village of Mahabana.
Jeddy and his family are incredibly special to us. His mother and grandmother were some of the first Eden Projects planters in Mahabana, his mom one of the first to be baptized in Mahabana, his oldest two sisters have become our Malagasy daughters and are both currently completing college in Los Angeles. Jeddy quit school in 11th grade and has been trying to figure out what to do with his life. Jeddy is a dynamic young man, loves music and a good laugh!
Each of these young men have grown a passionate love for God’s creation. Please pray for them as they continue to be mentored by Angelo and Jamie. Please pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts as Jamie begins a Bible study with them next week.
Where the Wild Things Are…
Living next to the Tahirin’Ala Nature Center comes both with blessings and challenges…
Our kids are LOVING the incredibly social nature of lemurs and love to visit, feed and interact with them daily.
On the other hand, with multiple boa constrictors wild in the nature center it was bound to happen that one day they would wander too close to our house and much to my screaming terror, into our garage/laundry room!
With deep assurance, we know that the Lord values these young men. With deep assurance, we know that the Lord values His creation– the plants and animals. With deep assurance, we know that the Lord has asked His children to care for His creation. Please pray with us that the Tahirin’Ala Nature Center would be a place that would point people back to the Creator.
Jamie, Alissa, Isabella, Eliana and Gavin
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