From Madagascar with Love – an update from our founder

After an 18-hour trip by taxi-brousse (Malagasy public transport) from Antananarivo, I arrived both exhausted and relieved at Zazamalala. We lost 2 hours while waiting for other cars to join us in a group of cars protected by soldiers. Driving at night alone in Madagascar is too risky. We had one stop for a basic meal of rice and beef, the total distance of 650 km took us 14 hours of driving.

The first thing upon my arrival at Zazamalala is to check the Malagasy palm seeds, which I received in January from a Zazamalala sponsor. Unfortunately, no action yet. Many palm seeds take months or years to germinate. There have been About 170 palm species described from Madagascar and I have a long way to go. Mister Julien warns me that there are at least 80 people waiting at the gate. I shake hands with the regular employees and introduce our new botanist Sedera, who just finished a Mangrove project further to the north. He will lead the botanical part of all Zazamalala reforestation, whereas Florent manages the forest workers. The task of Leonce and July is to prepare 50.000 leafless tree seedlings for immediate planting. Most of the seedlings in the nursery still have leaves and are not useful until the start of the rainy season.

Several groups of masons and carpenters are eagerly waiting to start. We’re working simultaneously on different projects, e.g. constructing latrines for 600 schoolchildren in the village of Antsaribao; construction of semi-natural concrete pools for Madagascar Big-headed turtles and Nile crocodiles; bungalows in the forest for employees and guests; preparing the road to the newly acquired land for access in the rainy season. And we still need about 50 local people to clean-up the new land for reforestation, i.e. fire lanes and digging holes. I witness the arrival of a whole bunch of ladies, seeking work in the nursery in exchange for an ADES solar cooker. And particularly promising are a few people offering tree seeds for sale. Perhaps it’s something we really need, such as seeds of critically endangered Ebony trees. A quick coffee, and off we go!

Thanks for reading,

Simon Rietveld
Founder of Zazamalala

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