Each year, the Seacology Prize is awarded to an
indigenous islander for exceptional achievement in
preserving the environment and culture of any of the world’s
100,000 islands. The Prize highlights the heroic efforts by
people who seldom receive any publicity – indigenous leaders
who risk their own lives and well-being to protect their
island's ecosystems and culture. Since the inception of the
Prize in 1992, Seacology has given the award to 19 native
islanders in recognition of their innovative and courageous
work. The 2010 Seacology Prize winner is Rabary Desiré, a
forest conservation leader from Matsobe-Sud, Commune Rurale
Belaoka-Marovato, Madagascar. For his tireless efforts to
further forest conservation in northeastern Madagascar, Mr.
Desiré will be awarded $10,000 and honored at a ceremony at
the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California on October
Madagascar is in crisis. Since a coup last year that brought a DJ in his mid-thirties to power as president, this huge island nation has become a pariah state. For the most part, the international community has refused to recognise the new government. Most seriously for Madagascar, in an effort to persuade the new regime to restore democracy, most aid has been withdrawn. This has created a huge dent in the state's coffers because donor assistance accounted for a staggering half of Madagascar's income.
The fallout for an already poor nation has been profound. Thousands have lost their jobs in garment factories as a result of the United States' decision to suspend favourable trade tariffs for Madagascar. Others eke out a living on the streets, or have headed for the countryside to subsist on what rice they can grow. Hospitals and schools are under serious pressure. Over half of all children are malnourished, and family breakdown is an everyday event.
Now there is evidence that Madagascar's unique and spectacular wildlife - ancient hardwoods, baobabs, and lemurs - is especially endangered by corruption, poverty and a breakdown in the rule of law. The forests are being plundered. Loggers have illegally sought out and exported rare rosewood, and there is anecdotal evidence that hunting for bush meat, and the smuggling of rare wildlife are both on the increase.
As Madagascar celebrates fifty years of independence from French rule, Linda Pressly visits the capital of Antananorivo and travels out to one of the National Parks to find out how people are surviving in this island nation seemingly in freefall.
Madagascar's transitional government last week reinstated a
ban on rosewood logging and exports, following prolonged and
growing pressure over illegal logging of its national parks
spearheaded by Ecological Internet. As reported by Mongabay,
the decree (no. 2010-141) prohibits all exports of rosewood
and precious timber for two to five years. With the export
ban in place, the fate of 10,000-15,000 metric tons of
already illegally logged rosewood awaiting export remains
uncertain. It is also unclear whether illegal loggers and
traders will be prosecuted .
“These issues, getting this moratorium to be permanent, and
working to demonstrate community development from standing
primary and restored rainforests will require continued
vigilance and campaigning. Yet, two important points have
been made. It is again demonstrated that it is possible to
end rainforest logging. And the emergence of an empowered
global movement committed to protecting and restoring old
forests – and other ecologically sufficient policy necessary
to achieve global ecological sustainability – is again
powerfully demonstrated,” says Dr. Glen Barry, EI President.
Over the past year, Ecological Internet conceived and led an
international protest campaign seeking to emphasize the
importance of keeping Madagascar’s dwindling primary forests
standing and intact as the basis for national advancement
. Some 7674 EI network participants from 102 countries
sent over 1/2 million protest emails. The result comes just
days after EI blasted President Sarkozy of France, a country
with deep historical ties to Madagascar, as being “guilty of
dangerous hypocrisy” for condemning deforestation as a
French company company continued to threaten Madagascar’s
Other groups such as Regenwald, Global Witness and the
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) that have been
protesting the resumption in exports of illegally logged
timber cautiously welcomed the move as well. The logging
crisis began in March of 2009 when destabilization following
a government coup allowed loggers to enter several of
Madagascar's world-renowned parks and illegally log rosewood
and other valuable trees. Tens of thousands of hectares were
logged in Madagascar's most biodiverse rainforests, which
also sparked a rise in bushmeat trafficking of lemurs.
Madagascar’s transitional government then sanctioned timber
exports at the end of 2009 despite a long-standing ban on