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Experimental assessment of innovative slash and burn cultivation practices for sustainable land-use and deforestation prevention in Central Menabe, Madagascar (AGRIFEU)

 

This project brings together different stakeholders for exploring experimentally alternative practices such as selective slash-and-burn, which could represent a first step to develop management strategies that will balance conservation and development and thus allow for more sustainable land use and reduce deforestation in Central Menabe, Madagascar.

​​​​​​​​​About the project

Background

Madagascar is recognized as one of the main biodiversity hotspots on earth and pressure on ecosystems is increasing over the years due to a rapid deforestation. So far, politics and NGOs blame rural households as the cause of natural habitat loss because of their practice of slash-and-burn agriculture. Nevertheless, from the point of view of local communities, these practices are a way to preserve soil fertility as long as traditional rules are respected and in turn they blame “migrant” communities, which settled about 50 years ago in the region, for unsustainable slash-and-burn practices. Therefore, the main challenge this project will address is the reunification of the different stakeholders by showing that traditional practices and nature conservation can co-exist. The project is an attempt to bring together different stakeholders for exploring experimentally alternative practices such as selective slash-and-burn, which could represent a first step to develop management strategies that will balance conservation and development and thus allow for more sustainable land use and reduce deforestation in Central Menabe, Madagascar. 

We intend to test the following hypotheses: 

  • Some specific local trees that have been shown to be major contributors to biomass in secondary vegetation and have favorable mineral content (like Pourpartia sylvatica and Tarenna Sericea) can be used to produce organic fertilizers by means of compost transformation. 
  • Selective slash-and-burn practices can improve the socially and environmentally sustainable use of the land when coupled with agro-ecological methods.
  • Potential socio-economic impacts of the method should be high as the techniques stay close to the traditional practices, will build upon local practices, and will respect local drivers and constraints.

Objectives

Four specific objectives will be pursued: 

  • To elicit local ecological knowledge, drivers and constraints related to the soil/cultivated plant/tree system and the slash-and-burn practices. 
  • To characterize the soil-cultivated plant system for the main local crop (maize). 
  • To assess the potential of fertilization with compost made of selected local trees, and the constraints of composting. 
  • To determine the best combination of vegetation cover (gradient of tree cover remaining in the field after selective slash-and-burn), soil preparation-tillage and composting (green leaves and small branches from selected trees) for a sustainable and socially acceptable agro-ecosystem.

Relevance

The research seeks to increase household outcomes and preserve at the same time the primary forest. In the medium and long-term, it seeks to lower the impact of slash and burn practices on biodiversity as well as to develop means for facing the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. 

​Expected outputs can be listed as follows: 

  • A more sustainable slash-and-burn technique 
  • Increased crop yields 
  • An optimized and better controlled crop production system for rural households 
  • A reduced need for new soils from deforested areas 
  • ​​In the medium-term, a preserved environment that benefits both biodiversity and the local economy 

The improved slash-and-burn technique is supposed to have a better efficiency than current practices: it aims at maintaining the soil fertility and thus producing more crops for a longer period on less arable land. As the project is based on experiments and not observations, results will be quantitative and ready to use. Studied techniques are easy to implement, made with local techniques and local materials, thus they should meet a high social acceptance. ​

Geographic scope

Madagascar

Research consortium

Gran​tees 

  • Alexandre Buttler, Professeur associé EPFL/Directeur WSL Lausanne 
  • Claude Garcia, Scientifique du CIRAD et leader du groupe ForDEV, ETH Zurich
  • Jean Chrysotôme Randriamboavonjy, Professeur et responsable de la Diversion de Formation et Recherche en "Gestion Conservatoire des Eaux et des Sols (GCES)", ESSA-Forêts 
  • Samuel Razanaka, Directeur de recherche, Centre National de Recherche sur l'Environnement, IRD Madagascar 
  • Dominique Hervé, Chargé de recherche, IRD Madagascar 
  • Bruno Ramamonjisoa, Chef du Département Eaux et Forêt ESSA, Université d'Antananarivo Madagascar 

Partnerships 

Our field collaborators will be local farmers from the village of Andranolava where agricultural experiences are planned and people from the other neighbouring villages where social enquiries will be done. Different interpreters will be also hired to better capture the language shades between the various regional dialects. 

All the important national and local government or active development agencies will be identified clearly as stakeholders during the project. However, we can already recognize some of them: 

The three associations ANAE (Association Nationale d’Action Environnementale), Fafiala Center and TAFA who work to protect the environment in Madagascar and to attract the attention of farmers to better agricultural practices. As we work with B. Ramamonjisoa and J.C. Randriamboavonjy from ESSA, this institution will also be clearly involved. The CNFEREF (Centre National de Formation, d'Etude et de Recherche en Environnement et Foresterie). ​

Project infomation to P3

 

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Further information on this content

 Contact

Prof. Dr. Alexandre Buttler EPFL - Laboratoire des systèmes écologiques WSL Site Lausanne Bâtiment GR Station 2 CH-1015 Lausanne +41 21 693 39 39 alexandre.buttler@epfl.ch

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Poster