When Professor Patricia Wright began visiting the area around Ranomafana in the 1980s she was struck by the devastation of the rainforest. Slash-and-burn agricultural practices were threatening to destroy all of the rainforest on the island. Working directly with the Malagasy government, Dr. Wright created Ranomafana National Park to protect 41,500 hectares of pristine rainforest including the only known location of the golden bamboo lemur.
Since the inception of the park in 1993, Dr. Wright and Centre ValBio have expanded their conservation efforts in the community. To raise awareness about the natural environment and biodiversity, Centre ValBio has developed Conservation Clubs—a forum for young people to get together to learn about their immediate environment and to receive practical training in alternatives to traditional slash-and-burn agriculture. An emphasis is made on the role of the forest in protecting clean water and eliminating erosion. In addition, the programs provide seeds and training for vegetable gardens to improve nutritional conditions in impoverished rural communities.
Not only is the health of the people improved, but villagers are given an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture, which threatens to destroy the forest.