Against all odds, deforestation in Madagascar’s Menabe Antimena is coming to a halt

Along the western coast of Madagascar lies an area of dry forest, succulent shrubland, and saltwater mangrove known as Menabe Antimena, an area so precious to biodiversity that it has been made a legally Protected Area.  This landscape, which has evolved to sustain life through drought, is home to some of Earth’s most incredible and rare animals, including the Malagasy giant jumping rat and the Critically Endangered Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, the smallest primate in the world.

The iconic Avenue of the Baobabs, located within Menabe Antimena Protected Area

Despite its legally protected status, Menabe Antimena has suffered tremendous losses from illegal logging and the converting of its forests into agricultural farmland.  Since 2001, deforestation rates skyrocketed year after year, reaching over 6.5% annual losses between 2017-19.  By 2020, only one quarter of Menabe Antimena’s forests remained, and scientists predicted that nothing would remain of Menabe Antimena by 2035.

In 2020, Conservation Allies, in collaboration with our Malagasy Partner, Association Fanamby, initiated intensified protective measures by employing Green Brigades— patrols staffed with rangers and law enforcement officers. We accelerated protective efforts and sustainable livelihood projects (alongside Hempel Foundation, FAPBM, and USAID) within the surrounding local community. These intensified conservation efforts paid off, with annual deforestation decreasing almost five-fold down to 1.4% between 2020-22, a notoriously difficult period for conservation due to the global pandemic.

A group of Green Brigade members on patrol in Menabe Antimena

2023 was expected to be the most challenging year, with tumultuous national elections and an El Nino event that increased the likelihood of fires and drought. Bracing for the worst, we supported Association Fanamby in facilitating even more Green Brigades to further expand strict enforcement of conservation laws in the Protected Area.

As we end 2023, we are thrilled to report that these efforts have been immensely successful, with an overall deforestation rate of just 0.1% the lowest ever.

2023’s encouraging results stand as an example, highlighting the ability of strong, community-based protective measures alongside local livelihood support to dramatically reverse habitat loss.

This positive outcome is thanks to our many Conservation Allies supporters that have allowed us to expand protection in Menabe Antimena, an area of global biodiversity importance. We will continue to sustain Green Brigades and aim to further expand protections in 2024.