Blog by MBP Reforestation Volunteer, Jarro
Should you ever be tired of the usual dull drizzles we call rain back home – that is to say on European soil for my part – do consider taking a look at the singular pretty large landmass off the south-east coast of Africa. Separated from the mainland through the Mozambique Channel, Madagascar’s central highlands take their job as a cloud-barrier seriously leaving the western parts of the island in a pretty arid state. Now let’s take a closer look at the position of our Kianjavato Ahmanson Field Station, simply known as KAFS: 21°22’52.70”S, 47°53’51.15”E. Clearly on the east coast, we can happily proclaim that we have a lot of rain during the rainy season, which is one of the most important factors for a functioning reforestation program!
Well, not always: what were you doing in the first two weeks of March 2012? Madagascar was stuck in between two tropical storm systems on either side of the island rotating in opposite directions – a cyclone and an anticyclone. Due to the counter rotation we were embedded in an impenetrable blanket of rain for two long weeks. During those days you would find in the kitchen Varecia-volunteers, Simus-volunteers, Reforestation-volunteers and Aye-aye-guides, in usually moist clothing and only weak smiles on their faces. Andrew, who had just arrived from Omaha and was ready to do some full-power reforestation during his four-week stay, was tied to the shelter of the kitchen’s more or less effective palm-leaf roofing. Roads turned into rivers and the river next to our “road” turned into a water barrier, once again blocking our entry into the forest by washing away the makeshift bridge to never be seen again. The driveway for MBP’s cars could have made the finest arena for a world mud wrestling competition and red rivers, saturated with iron-rich soils from the hills, started forming behind our kitchen area. I soon realized that swimming shorts were the most effective way of keeping dry clothes and lived in those trunks for a few days. Showers were made easy if you liked them natural and all jungle camp competitors of the world would have fled back to their safe homes behind the TV-screens.
Then at last after all hopes for a change of circumstances had been drowned: a small gap in the grey roof of clouds and a tiny speck of sunshine! Gradually the clouds started to part and with the next morning came a beautiful sunrise. What followed was at least a week with searing sun and no water from the sky. In what way could we have angered the gods so much as to give us these conditions for planting a new forest?! Reforestation work in Madagascar is not a piece of cake! But with all the effort we could give, ten thousands of new seedlings were planted into those bare hills around the villages of complicated names (like Ambodifandramanana).