Montagne des Français
Projects & Programs
Montagne des Français (MDF) is located on the northern tip of Madagascar and home to the northern sportive lemur, Lepilemur septentrionalis. Our goals are to build and strengthen ongoing conservation community-based programs with local communities at MDF. This region of Madagascar is particularly hot, and the shrinking forest fragments are altering plant species available to survive in these conditions. Illegal charcoal production continues to destroy the patches of remaining habitat, making extinction a real possibility for the northern sportive lemur. The Madagascar Biodiversity Project (MBP) and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (OHDZA) have created and implemented innovative education tools and techniques that engage local communities in the MDF region highlighting the connectivity of local lemurs, native trees, and people.
Northern Sportive Lemur Project
The world’s most endangered primates are not gorillas or orangutans, but the relatively unknown northern sportive lemurs, Lepilemur septentrionalis (on the 25 Most Endangered Primates List). Only about fifty remaining individuals are known to exist and are restricted to the rapidly degrading northern forests of MDF Park, Madagascar. As the northern sportive lemur does not survive in captivity, preservation of its natural habitat is the only way to ensure this species’ survival. Extinction of the northern sportive lemur is a very real possibility due to extensive production of charcoal throughout its restricted range. The loss of this species could be followed by others endemic to MDF such as 36 endangered or critically endangered plants only found there.
Rocket Stove Project
One third of the world’s population uses open fires for cooking fueled by wood or coal. This practice leads to deforestation, financial expenses for families, and back-breaking labor for those responsible for collecting the wood. The amount of smoke inhaled by indoor open fires is also the cause of 3.5 to 4 million deaths every year. The MBP is addressing this in Madagascar through the introduction of fuel-efficient “Rocket Stoves” that offer an alternative to the open fire and reduce the amount of wood burnt as well as family expenses. These stoves use an insulated burn chamber to produce more heat in a concentrated area than a traditional cooking fire which saves cooking time and greatly improves indoor air quality.
Biofuel Briquette Production
In Madagascar, charcoal production is resulting in large swaths of trees being illegally cut for fuel. The land is left exposed in a hot and dry environment risking desertification. Eventually, local villages will not be able to supply themselves with cooking fuel or construction resources and will fall deeper into poverty as they procure these supplies elsewhere. In Madagascar, cooking fuel can consume half of a families’ income. To fix this issue, the MBP and OHDZA are experimenting with local community members in the production of biofuel briquettes made from local waste materials such as grass clippings, leaves, paper scraps, sawdust, and rice husks. The local community will benefit directly from this conservation endeavor as they can produce and sell briquettes in direct, free-market competition with firewood and charcoal, providing meaningful, self-sustaining employment for locals.
Aquaponics Pilot Program
Recent research indicate that small-scale fisheries in Madagascar have a significant positive impact on local economies due to their contribution to food security and poverty reduction, both critical factors in development of sustainable societies. This is a sustainable food production method that combines aquaculture techniques of raising fish for food, with hydroponics methods of growing plants in a liquid medium. When the system is properly balanced, both the vegetation and fish can be regularly harvested, providing much needed food security to the community.
The MBP has initiated a pilot project focused on Aquaponics. We are partnering with Whispering Roots, an Omaha-based nonprofit that specializes in Aquaponics, to design a system using locally available materials that are robust enough to withstand the climate, and incorporate local vegetation and fish preferences to ensure acceptance by the community. This sustainable food production system combines the aquaculture techniques of raising fish with hydroponic methods of growing plants.