Centre ValBio's strong commitment to the surrounding community and to Madagascar is facilitated through the Conservation Education and Outreach Department.
The Centre ValBio's Conservation Education and Outreach Department (CE&O) manages three complementary sectors in outreach efforts that cover the peripheral zone of Ranomafana National Park. The Conservation Education sector leads outreach and public awareness programs that highlights the unique biodiversity of Madagascar. The Reforestation program teaches about the value of trees in our environment and daily lives. The Health and Hygiene component targets on improving the local communities' nutritional conditions through education, implementation of infrastructure and follow-up on improved sanitary practices. CE&O also provides seeds and training for vegetable gardens to improve nutritional conditions in impoverished rural communities. Since the inception of the park, education and outreach to the local community has been a vital component of preservation and management of Ranomafana's exquisite biodiversity. The department has gradually developed its outreach programs through long-term investments in the education and improvement of the livelihoods of the local community.
Centre ValBio's education program targets education and training to achieve three primary goals:
Reforestation: Our goal is to restore degraded habitats with endemic species. This is a high priority since the remaining forest in and around the park is still home for several endangered species such as lemurs, but is fragmented. Anthropogenically transformed land in the peripheral zone is encroaching on intact habitat and traditional land use practices (slash and burn agricultural techniques or tavy) deplete soil nutrients rapidly. These degraded forests need to be restored. While other programs opt for invasive reforestation initiatives, CVB targets native trees as a way to maintain a functioning and viable ecosystem that is endemic to the region. CVB started its reforestation program in the schools and has began to expand its initiative to the villages. "From schools to the communities". In 2010, our reforestation program targets 22 villages and 15 clubs through the 19 schools.
Biodiversity Conservation: Reforestation is needed and local communities need to be involved in these efforts. However, without an understanding of why forests and biodiversity should be preserved, successful conservation does not follow. Therefore, biodiversity conservation education is another top priority in successful conservation efforts in the region. Centre ValBio's conservation education program works most intimately with 15 conservation clubs throughout our 22 target villages consisting of almost 500 members. Biodiversity and reforestation classes are brought to the villages through audiovisual and hands-on demonstration programs delivered at 19 schools.
Improved Health and Hygiene: Conservation is only effective when it meets people's real needs. CVB first launched this program in schools and has since expanded to 22 villages. In 2010, the program will again target 22 villages, 19 schools and 15 conservation clubs to get more people involved, especially schoolchildren and youth.
In alignment with CVB's mission, the youth program works to enhance the value of:
- Trees and their importance in an ecosystems
- Madagascar's unique biodiversity
- Nutrition & Sanitation
In addition to community outreach, CVB is strengthening the community by providing a variety of income opportunities for the local villagers. At this time CVB employs full-time more than 70 Malagasy citizens, ranging from community outreach coordinators and field guides to kitchen and maintenance staff. In addition, CVB has supported the creation of a women’s weavers group, which markets handmade silk scarves, as well as a men’s medicinal plants group that markets local medicinal plants.