World Environment Day in Ivohibe - Many Species, One Planet, One Future
Ivohibe is a district with approximately 40’000 inhabitants. Its main town with the same name is situated in the southeast of Madagascar just outside the rainforest corridor. Rice fields and scattered hamlets with zebu, geese and chicken mark the landscape. It is an idyllic, peaceful and sleepy place. Not on Saturday June 5th though. June 5th was different.
The WWF staff in Ivohibe has organised the World Environment Day for the fifth time this year. And because one day is not enough to talk about such an important subject, they started on May 31st already. Every evening, they installed a sound system and played Malagasy music first. As soon as the crowd had gathered, Diamondra Andriambololona, socio-organiser at WWF in Ivohibe, would start showing a first environmental movie. As WWF works on improved rice systems and community based forest management in Ivohibe, those were the subjects for the movies too. About one thousand people were there every day to learn about how to triple their rice production and appreciate the biodiversity of their region.
The celebrations on Saturday started with a carnival for people of all age groups. Students, Club vintsy members, the scouts, forest management associations, rice farmer associations – everyone showed up. WWF Volunteers painted the kids’ faces in all colours. There were flowers, vintsy birds and chameleons but even lemurs and, of course, pandas. 20 groups participated in the carnival, and most were either dressed up in traditional costumes or disguised. One woman was disguised as a tree, other participants created masks with pig faces or lemur heads. The scouts came in their uniform while the members of the local vintsy club preferred a strict black-and-white dress code.
As the carnival moved through the streets of Ivohibe, the different groups waved painted banners reflecting their concern for the environment. One group even built a stretcher carrying a mini forest with a real fire threatening it. They chanted “stop bushfires, save our forest!”
Everyone finally gathered on the big place in the heart of Ivohibe. Local authorities such as the mayor, the mpanjaka, king of the Bara, the head of district of Madagascar National Parks (MNP) and WWF’s head of project, Joël Raveloson sat down. François de Sale Razafimandimby, the «chef de cantonnement forestier» spoke first. «God gave us Nature. He has done everything for us, and we destroy everything. Bushfires produce carbon emissions. We have to plant trees, many trees!” He also wanted to know, who was responsible for last night’s bushfires. They were indeed enormous and could be seen all night long.
After the official speeches, the ceremonies went on. A “Miss Environment” was about to be elected. Six girls were shortlisted and had to answer questions regarding the environment. What is necessary to protect our forests? Can you recall the name of a protected species we have here in Ivohibe? What do we have to do if we need wood? Prisca was the one, who know it all. She was dressed in a combination of a traditional yellow lambahoany and a fancy black vest. She was the proud new owner of a backpack, a WWF T-shirt and a green lambahoany.
Razafimanantsoa Mamy Christophe George, Socio-organiser at WWF in Ivohibe was happy with the World Environment Day 2010. “It is just fantastic to see so many people stand up for our one and only planet and a common future. The energy and motivation that we can feel today will push all of them to fight even harder for the protection of our environment” he said.
About 15 associations have created a stand next to the town hall where they showed posters, farm products or illustration for the new rice technique SRI ("Système riziculture amélioré"). It was an opportunity for farmers to exchange experiences and get the latest news from the surrounding valleys.
After the crowning of the best painting, best disguise and sketches, it was time to dance. Musicians claimed the stage and an energetic bunch of young men animated the audience. At 10, the town hall opened its doors. Five minutes later everyone was moving as Oladad and Jerry Marcoss was on.
The party was taking an end only when the sun rose. Tired villagers returned to their homes while others were already up again. An incredibly inspiring day was over. A day where everyone was aware, that it is possible to halt degradation, to end famine and to adapt to the effects of climate change.