‘Biodiversity Integration and Rural Development' in Madagascar and Comoros'

Place: madagascar, Africa
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 1.134.532,77 | Period: From October 2009 To April 2013


The project 'BIRD' aimed to face the challenge of food insecurity among vulnerable communities, by promoting:
1) The creation of knowledge on sustainable use and management of natural resources and on innovative and transferable cultivation models and policies;
2) Research on innovative agriculture, especially regarding the vocation to generate new incomes (closely connected with internal consumption and export trade), through the active utilization of local agrobiodiversity;
3) New forms of alternative energy sources, versus those currently used at the community level (which are the main causes of forest destruction/fragmentation), after previous investigations of traditional and culturally relevant habits and needs of the population;
4) Non-farm sector development policies, including the promotion of educational tourism, to enhance the empowerment of the rural communities, through the sharing and learning of knowledge amongst and within countries and communities.


Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology (DBIOS) - University of Torino - Italy

Lead applicant

The Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology within the University of Torino is the point of reference for topics that bring together biology, environment and biotechnology, and present multidisciplinary aspects such as biodiversity, ecology, evolution, conservation and Microbiology. http://www.unito.it/dbios The Department acts as a crucial element in a series of themes that are currently central in the international scientific scene, including renewable energy, plant health, food, sensors and bionanotechnology, genetics, neuroscience, cardiovascular physiology, preservation of environmental resources, conservation of cultural heritage, as well as mycology and microbiology with their industrial and pharmaceutical applications. The Department includes numerous research groups that interact and collaborate in the areas of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, General Physiology and Plant Physiology, Developmental Biology, Genetics, Neurobiology, Zoology, Anthropology, Ethology, Ecology, Microbiology, Plant Biology and Teaching of Science. There are also many ongoing collaborations both in terms of teaching and also research which involve members of other departments of the University of Torino. Structures associated with the Department are of great scientific importance. These include the public botanical garden that is part of the Turin Museum networks, the collections of the Herbarium and the collections of the Museum of Anthropology. The Department also houses a significant collection of fungal germplasm (the Micoteca) one of the few present in Italy. Furthermore, the Department interfaces with the Museum of Natural Sciences, which houses major university-owned museum collections, ensuring their use in scientific research. The Department also has two libraries that are a crucial and indispensable tool for research and educational activities, important both for current subscriptions as well as the antique book collections. Moreover, since 1950 a group of CNR researchers (8 units) have been working closely with the staff and Professors of this Department in the field of plant biology, despite having administrative autonomy. The collaboration is governed by agreements that define the mode of interaction and the physical presence of the CNR group in the University.

University of Comoros - Comoros

Initiative partner

Conception et élaboration de malle pédagogiques en éducation environnementale Conception et élaboration d’outils pédagogiques sur la prévention des IST/VIH/SIDA Encadrement dans la mise en place d'experimentation en biologie

GERP Association - Madagascar

Initiative partner

L'objectif principal des Enseignants chercheurs et des Étudiants,des Membres Fondateurs, Donateurs, Consultants du GERP,est de partager leurs connaissances et compétences afin de préserver la biodiversité pour les générations futures. Le logo du GERP représente un « Babakoto » (Indri indri), le plus grand des lémuriens actuels à Madagascar qui vit dans un groupe social: il tient la Grande île, de couleur verte, entre les mains et porte en travers le sigle G.E.R.P. Missions: ✿ Contribuer à la connaissance des lémuriens qu'ils soient subfossiles ou actuels; dans leurs sites naturels, en laboratoires, dans les parcs et jardins zoologiques. ✿ Participer à la protection et à la conservation de la biodiversité en conformité avec la législation en vigueur. ✿ Améliorer l'environnement et le cadre de vie des communautés locales vivant aux alentours des Aires Protégées.

Experimentation and Training Centre in Fruits and Vegetables - Madagascar

Initiative partner

Shares of agricultural technical training, especially in the fields of horticulture and fruit growing The accompaniment of producers and producer organizations of fruits and vegetables in the regions of Vakinankaratra and Itasy The implementation and monitoring of farmer conditions Platforms for dialogue

Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (DISAFA) - University of Torino - Italy

Initiative partner

The mission of the Department of Agricultural, Forestry, and Food Sciences (DiSAFA, Turin University) is to perform basic and applied research, and to offer educational programmes at undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral level, in the fields of plant- and animal-based primary production and transformation processes, and on the interactions of these activities with the territory and environment. DiSAFA is devoted to perform world-class fundamental research to deliver knowledge and innovation, and provide evidence-based sustainable solutions to current and future challenges. DiSAFA’s research is focused on the needs of society – be that at local, national or global level – and so make a valuable contribution to the economy, politics and society in general. Its strength lies in an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in agricultural, forest and food sciences.

Promoting Innovation, Capacity Building and Biodiversity Conservation for Food Security and Rural Development in Madagascar and Comoros.

By integrating scientific, technical and management innovation, local identities and traditions, gender equality and sustainable practices in the world biodiversity hotspots of Madagascar and Comoros, BIRD (www.bird.unito.it) concretely empowered rural communities. We demonstrated that providing access to natural resources (e.g. rainforests, soil, water) is strategic for food security.
Numerous governmental environmental protection measures have not been enough for conserving biodiversity, mainly due to poor involvement of local expert workforce in conservation practices, insufficient knowledge of the islands patterns of species and low level of awareness of local communities on conservation issues. Our new bottom-up approach was successful to formulate development policies for rural villages, as well as civil society, in particular, universities, biodiversity research organizations, agricultural research associations, forest management entities and local farmers associations.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf IUCN - Lemurs of Madagascar - A strategy for their conservation This document provides evidences about the positive impact of the DBIOS and DISAFA projects in the area of the Maromizaha forest, in Madagascar. This represents an example of innovation in the domain of biodiversity conservation and proves that our projects contribute to the dissemination of replicable good practices.

Madagascar is among the poorest countries in the world. The World Bank’s poverty assessment estimates that 59% of the population is extremely poor. Poverty is deeper in rural areas than in urban areas and farmers (especially smallholders) are the poorest group in the country. The poor, especially children, do not consume sufficient calories, and the quality of the food that they consume is of poor nutritional value. Comorians live in tightly knotted rural villages. The traditional social safety net works to protect the poorest members, but transfers are not made between villages. The agricultural market is poorly structured, and the direct sale by the farmer along the roads is common. Thus, the overall level of poverty can differ sharply from one village to another. Since local economy is mainly based on natural resources exploitation, sustainable management is the basis for ecotourism development and for income-generating opportunities.

Traditional sale The direct sale by the farmers along the roads
Typical shop in Madagascar Traditional markets along the main roads in Madagascar

The 'BIRD' project reached the following results:
1) The recognition of the role that indigenous and naturalized fruit trees species of Madagascar can play in helping the local rural development goals of the new millennium;
2) Increasing and diversification of the agricultural production, with more high quality food for local consumption and as new income for local population;
3) Capacity building of innovative policies integrating biodiversity conservation and rural development, thanks to the increase of fruit and vegetables production and consumption in low income areas of Madagascar and Comoros;
4) Enhanced skills of the local population in the management and preservation of biodiversity;
5) Promotion of research and eco-tourism in the areas involved in the project;
6) Promotion of the use of renewable energy by local communities.

Icaro solar dryer The ICARO solar dryer is a prototype developed by the University of Torino. Here we show a training session to local women, provided by a previously trained technician.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Presentation of the results of BIRD actions We show in this presentation how the project BIRD impacted on local communities and we visually present our results.

The target needs were: hunger eradication, poverty reduction, increase in agriculture production and food quality, protection of the most vulnerable and capacity building.

The target groups (http://www.bird.unito.it/index.php/photogallery) belonged to the following categories:
- Professionals
- Students
- Rural communities (RCs)

The direct/indirect beneficiaries were:
- 20 Tourist guides (10 from Madagascar and 10 from Comoros);
- 4 Research guides (3 from Madagascar and 2 from Comoros);
- 4 Highly trained managers (2 from Madagascar and 2 from Comoros);
- 10 Energy technicians;
- 10 Agricultural technicians;
- 6 Local rural communities;
- All the people attending the dissemination events;
- 6 units of administrative staff: 4 from Madagascar, 1 from Comoros, 1 in Italy;
- 10 local teaching staff: 8 from Madagascar, 1 from Comoros;
- 12 units of local technical staff, from Madagascar and Comoros;
- Pupils coming from schools, students in internship, teachers and local researchers.

The BIRD core team, performing training/education/capacity building activities in the field, was composed by:

- 1 Project Manager 

- 1 General Scientific Coordinator 

- 1 General coordinator 

- 2 Local scientific coordinators 

- 1 Senior Expert in Agriculture

- 2 Senior Lecturers and Training Coordinators

- 10 units of teaching staff and 2 units of technical staff 3 units of administrative staff

- 1 Junior Lecturer and Guide Trainer

- 2 Biodiversity Managers

- Italian students participating in training/education activities

The trained staff was composed as follows: 10 tourist guides in Maromizaha and 10 in Comoros, 4 specially trained research guides in Maromizaha and 4 in Comoros, almost 10 solar ovens and panels technicians and almost 10 agricultural technicians.





DBIOS BIRD Staff DBIOS staff presentation and CVs
DISAFA BIRD STAFF DISAFA staff presentation and cvs

The main problem/rubs (http://www.bird.unito.it/index.php/photogallery) were:
1) Low productivity of rural areas (bad practices and no capacities);
2) Insufficient crop diversification and low productivity;
3) Overexploitation of wood resources for cooking and heating;
4) Cyclones occurring during the rainy season;
5) Political instability.
We overcame obstacles by:
1) Actively involving the local villagers in a training program;
2) Promoting organic fertilization (manure obtained by cattle and plants biomass with different techniques);
3) Realizing better intercropping systems (fruit tree based agroforestry) and introducing new cultivars in horticulture (improved genotypes, new temperate fruit tree species and cultivation of underutilized indigenous fruit species);
4) Distributing alternative cooking devices;
5) Building two Multipurpose Centers for the sensitization of villagers;
6) Repairing damages caused by cyclones and signing long-term cooperation agreements.

Deforestation Deforestation is the main cause of forest habitat loss, soil erosion and species extintion both in Madagascar and Comoros
Tavy Tavy it's a traditional agricultural technique based on the slash-and-burn practice.

Environmental sustainability is a strategic framework for agriculture and it was pivotal for the project itself. 'BIRD' has avoided deforestation in the pristine forest area of Maromizaha and in the remaining forest patches in Comoros. We planned to maintain 100% of the pristine forest, thus to conserve 50% of the whole Maromizaha forest site. We then planned to restore 10% of the whole forest (150 ha), which representes 30% of the perturbed forest area. We are now starting the restoration project in Maromizaha.

Attention was paid to mitigate the action impact on environment:
⋅ international and local missions have been limited to contribute reducing the project carbon footprint;
⋅ communication products and deliverable are produced by using low environmental impact material and by local handcrafting;

⋅ sustainable heat and energy strategies have been adopted during field training sessions, in order to reduce the impact of anthropic activities on forest environments.

The bottom up approach has assured the sustainability of the project. By building capacities across the rural communities we ensured know-how transmission and the involvement of the Malagasy/Comorian Partners in the follow-up of the action activities.
The project actors improved the knowledge of the local richness in terms of fauna and plants. Detailed data will be made available to researchers/students/visitors accessing the site, promoting new fruitful policies for environmental protection. The same data will be available for putting in place a network of protected areas with similar intents and characteristics. Finally, BIRD has dramatically implemented  the number of researchers and students in the Maromizaha area, providing new insights for biodiversity knowledge and conservation in Madagascar.

Until now:

- more than 200 people (including children) have been trained about the use of solar ovens;
- about 400 villagers have been informed in the use of high efficiency stoves and solar ovens;
- 17 technicians have been involved in courses on how to build and how to utilize the solar dryers;
- 2 technicians, specialized in electronic equipments, have been trained for assembling, use and maintenance of the photovoltaic systems;
- 10 technicians have been involved on new cultivation models and dissemination of information on the fruit-tree crops. 

The dissemination (http://www.bird.unito.it/index.php/material) of good agricultural practices is pivotal to ensure long-term sustainability of the agricultural system. Farmers and technicians, trained by the researchers of the DISAFA in using new sustainable cultivation techniques and cultivating new crops to reduce deforestation and to ensure food self-sufficiency, are the major dissemination agents across the population.