Tapia forests and water supply projects in Madagascar gets a boost

A project to conserve Madagascar's tapia forests and revive its wild silkworms, is one of the two Malagasy entries which have won funding in the World Bank's 2005 Development Marketplace Competition.

Ny Tanintsika ('our land'), a Malagasy NGO working in land management and community development issues, is to receive about US $110,000 to reforest the Tapia woods, which cover roughly 50,000 ha in the Amoron'i Mania region of southeastern Madagascar. Tapia trees (Uapaca bojeri) are known locally for their edible fruit and as the habitat of the wild Malagasy silkworm.

Tapia trees, which serve as the primary protector against erosion in the area, are being cut down to grow subsistence food crops and graze cattle, while the excessive collection of wild silk and the consumption of silkworm chrysalids had almost completely wiped out the species, said Ny Tanintsika.

The projects, which will function in tandem, expect to cover 1,000 ha of forest and contribute to the annual reforestation of 10 ha with tapia trees. The community will also be trained to breed wild silkworms and market the produced silk.

Over 14,000 villagers and 150 silk weavers are expected to participate, which could increase their incomes by 40 percent.

Another NGO, Bush Proof, will receive $150,000 to provide clean water to rural and coastal areas by rapidly constructing jetted wells with hand pumps. This method of well drilling involves the use of a high-velocity stream of fluid to cut a hole in the ground and transport the loosened material out of the hole.

The NGO hopes to reach all the coastal areas of Madagascar, helping it to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for access to safe drinking water. Only 14 percent of Madagascar's population in rural areas has access to drinking water.

Many of these rural areas contain naturally occurring, shallow, sandy aquifers that are sources of soft water, but the local communities lack the means of tapping it. With a combination of two low-cost technologies - well jetting and the Canzee hand pump, which draws water out of the well - the Bush Proof project expects to provide drinking water to more than 15,000 villagers, with the potential of scaling it up to reach one million people.

The team expects to construct 150 wells in seven months to prove that a large number of wells can be drilled very rapidly, and use the natural sand filtration of the process to clean the water, avoiding the use of costly disinfectant chemicals. The NGO also intends to manufacture the pump locally, to make it available widely at low cost.

Thirty-one environmental entrepreneurs from around the world won nearly $4 million for their projects from the World Bank. -IRIN

June 2005