Centre ValBio hosted over 50 guests from January 18 to 20 for the My Rainforest My World (MRMW) Second Quarter Workshop. MRMW was recently added to CVB’s ongoing conservation education initiative in October, and it focuses on teaching fourth grade students from the remote villages surrounding Ranomafana National Park about the importance of the environment and the impact that they have on the world around them. The program reflects CVB’s mission to create a sustainable movement in Madagascar by directly involving the community in all aspects of the center’s conservation efforts.
Ten intern teachers trained with education professionals to learn the curriculum developed by educators in the United States, and then they set out to ten different remote villages, each of which are several hour hikes from any main road. The program caters to fourth grade classes, which includes children from ages 8 to 15 years old. After regular classes end around 1 p.m., the program provides fourth grade with school lunch, and then the intern teacher leads an hour long lesson on topics such as hygiene, climate, and the importance of biodiversity.
The students are also responsible for hands on learning projects and presenting the projects to the community at the end of each quarter. Over the first teaching quarter, the four-person MRMW team lead by Lovasoa Razafindravony visited each of the ten remote schools to watch the students’ quarterly presentations, and then they meet with the teachers and parents to analyze the program’s impact on the community. Stony Brook University Senior Sociology major Alessandra Reed spent her internship with CVB visiting some of the schools with the team and organizing activities and materials for the second quarter workshop.
At the three day workshop, the ten intern teachers as well as the ten fourth grade teachers from each school met at CVB along with Dr. Patricia Wright, the Mayor of Ranomafana, and a team of education experts including Daniella Rabino, an American PhD candidate from the University of Sussex who played a large role in developing the program. The majority of the workshop consisted of the experts teaching the intern teachers the material for the second quarter of the school year, but they also dedicated time for the intern teachers to discuss their experiences and challenges during their first quarter and share different teaching techniques and games.
When asked about the future of MRMW, Rabino stated, “I hope that as we get our feet wet, and continue to work with these communities, not only will it continue to expand to more villages, but the program will keep getting stronger and new elements will be added that will make it possible for people to create their own projects that they want to do, so that the teachers and the children will work together to see projects through.”
So far, the program has proven to be quite successful, and the parents and children of the remote villages have made requests to expand MRMW to all primary school grades. The MRMW team plans to expand the program to 20 schools by next year, and to 34 schools the year after.
Stony Brook University graduate student Carla Rodriguez is conducting her own research in reforestation during her internship at Centre ValBio. Rodriguez set out with Nicolas Rasolonjatovo, head of the 6-person Reforestation Team at CVB, on Jan. 6, 2016 to Morafeno Reforestation Site to begin plotting.
Rodriguez’s research as an Environmental Management major focuses on the growth in reforestation sites, which are forests that have been re-planted. She is also gathering data from fragmented forests, which are forests that have a significant amount of cleared land around them. At the end of her research, Rodriguez hopes that her data shows which species of trees survive the best during reforestation. She also plans to utilize her data, which involves some GPS mapping, to create a map of the reforestation sites for CVB.
In Madagascar, the rainforests are always in danger. The majority of forests are destroyed by the people living nearby in order to create land for farming. Due to low quality soil and a lack of crop diversity, most agricultural families have to change locations every few years. This leads to even more destruction of the forest. Reforestation projects like CVB’s attempt to plant trees in areas where most of the forest has been cut down.
Morafeno Reforestation Site was planted in 2006 by school children who were learning about the environment. Although the trees are growing, Rodriguez’s project revealed that there is a high risk that all of the efforts in this site could be reversed due to destructive gold mining. Cavernous holes filled with water and quartz gravel appear all over the area of land where the trees are planted. These mines make it virtually impossible to plant trees. “They say they can find gold under those trees’ roots,” Rasolonjatovo explains, “so that’s why they get in the forest and dig a hole. So many trees fall down and die.”
“If we give up, we can’t save anything,” Rasolonjatovo says. So despite the gold mining complications, the CVB Reforestation Team gets to work as Rodriguez finds the area of the entire site using a GPS. Then the team lays a measuring tape around some trees to create a 10 x 10 meter square called a “plot.” “We are going to take them [the plots] randomly, and we are going to be measuring all the trees within our plots,” explains Rodriguez, “my goal is to do five to ten plots a day.”
With help from team members Lucean and Alfred, Rodriguez collects the name and various measurements of each tree within the taped-out square and records the data in a table. She then proceeds to get the GPS coordinates of the plot for mapping purposes.
Rodriguez plans to gather data from about 60 plots throughout the duration of her three-week internship.
The Centre ValBio Medical Team left on the morning of Jan. 6, 2016 for its first of eight expeditions for this year. This team of three Malagasy caregivers including Lovasoa, a nurse, and Fara, a midwife, travel completely by foot with medical gear in tow to remote villages as far as 36 km (about 22 mi) away. The people of these villages live too far away to receive free medical care from the hospital in town, so the CVB team comes to them to treat common ailments such as malaria, respiratory infections, malnutrition, diarrhea, and tuberculosis. The medical team treats around 2,000 patients per year, and about 70 of those patients are expectant mothers.
Both Lovasoa and Fara studied to be a nurse and a midwife respectively for three years after receiving their Bachelor’s degrees. Fara has been a midwife for over two years, and Lovasoa has been a practicing nurse for one year.
Two interns from the CVB Winter 2016 Study Abroad group have made the choice to join the team on this challenging expedition. Before setting off to the first village, Senior Developmental Genetics major Frank Fodera and Junior Biology major Catherine Arias of Stony Brook University answered a few questions for CVB Rainforest news.
What will your responsibilities be for this trip?
Catherine: We are going out to help people that have malaria, tuberculosis, fevers, and we are treating them with free consultation and patient care.
Frank: I was hoping to be a set of extra hands, so I’m ready to do whatever they ask me to do, and hopefully not get in the way.
What have you done to prepare for the journey?
Frank: More of my preparation was geared towards making sure I had the right equipment and materials.
Catherine: We are bringing sleeping bags, tents, food, a whole backpack full of clothes, shampoo, towels, etc.
Do you have any concerns about this trip?
Frank: Yes, absolutely. They [the nurses] said it’s common to run into tuberculosis, and obviously that’s very contagious and very serious. So that’s a concern.
The team returns from their expedition on Jan. 11, and heads out again on Jan. 14 for a five day expedition.