A sustainable future for Malagasy baobabs

The iconic baobabs of Madagascar symbolise the island’s unique wildlife as much as its lemurs.  And yet, of the six species of baobab that occur only in Madagascar, three are seriously threatened with extinction. The Global Trees Campaign is supporting its partner Madagasikara Voakajy to work with local communities to protect and restore these unique trees

Madagascar is home to six of the eight species of baobab in the world. The best known is Grandidier’s baobab Adansonia grandidieri, a giant, long-lived tree that is highly valued locally – its fruits and seeds are eaten, its bark is used for rope, roofing and medicinal products, and it is an important part of local culture and traditions.

Grandidier’s baobab is only found in western Madagascar, but the number of trees has declined due to over-exploitation and habitat destruction, and natural regeneration is very limited.

Grandidier's baobab growing by a village in west Madagascar.  Credit: Daudet Andriafidison

A Grandidier’s baobab growing by a village in Madagascar. Credit: Daudet Andriafidison

Two other types of baobab, Diego’s baobab A. suarezensis and Perrier’s baobab A. perrieri – both only known from small areas in the north of the country – are also seriously threatened.

The Global Trees Campaign is supporting our partner in Madagascar, Madagasikara Voakajy, to reduce the loss of mature baobabs and engage a range of stakeholders in replenishing their populations.

The project is using a number of different strategies to achieve these goals. The project is working with protected area staff to conserve baobabs growing in nature reserves. Local communities are involved in patrols to increase protection for the trees.

The project is helping communities secure official management rights to important areas of baobab forest near their village, giving them a real stake in the forest’s future. Management rights are only granted by the government on agreement of strict rules on forest use; the implementation of the rules is regularly evaluated by the authorities.

Nurseries have been set up to grow baobab seedlings and schools and communities are involved in planting out and caring for the seedlings. As well as boosting tree numbers, this also helps to raise awareness of the threats to baobabs and the need to manage them sustainably.

Student-baobab-seedling.  Credit: Cynthia Raveloson.

A student caring for her planted baobab seedling. Credit: Cynthia Raveloson.

During 2014, work will continue to improve the conservation of baobabs within protected areas, and to assist more communities to secure management of baobabs outside reserves.

Planted seedlings will receive on-going care and monitoring, and more seedlings will be planted with communities.

Further awareness-raising activities will be organised and the official IUCN threat status of Madagascar’s baobabs will be revised.

Did you know?

Some baobab trees are believed to be the dwelling place of spirits. In Madagascar, offerings of honey and rum are left at their base.