Almost every year fires occur in and around the forest of Ankarafa and often this causes substantial damage. The establishment and maintenance of a fire break is one of the ways that the AEECL uses to stop and control these fires. With its partners (MNP, CSC and the villagers) the AEECL carries out a fire break session in the Ankarafa forest. The idea is to invite the villagers to come to the forest and cut any vegetation that grows on the old fire break or even clear some new openings if necessary. The (re)establishment of the fire break normally requires three days but this time it was extended to four days. Each group of villagers assists for one day (six hours) only and is replaced by a different group of villagers the next day. The SCC (Structure de Concertation Communale - a cooperative community organisation) Volamaitso informs the villagers of the activity through a written notice.
Over the four days, a fire break 2200m long and 7m wide has been cleared of vegetation. This was done in the area where fire occurs most often, namely in the Northern part of the forest between points S14 ° 22' 18.8; E 47 ° 46' 04.7 and S14 ° 52' 53; E47 ° 58' 59.8.
Madagascar National Parks (MNP) staff were present, as were 112 villagers from 15 villages in the Ambolobozo district, and one person from Maromandia. 16 of the 42 subsidized teachers were physically present and seven more had notified us in advance that they would be unable to assist this year.
Unfortunately there was a 50% decrease in participants this year when compared to last year, however there were a number of possible reasons for the decline, including a ball being organised bt the Mayor of Ambolobozo on the same day, a teacher training course coinciding with the event and villagers possibly not receiving the notice.
An evaluation was carried out with the participants at the end of each day and a number of ideas were put forward to try next year to increase participation. These included: asking for a receipt for each notice sent; ensure everyone respects the working hours rather than starting late and finishing early (8am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm); arriving the evening before the day of work; limiting the number of people preparing food; providing more materials (such as rakes or shovels) for those participants that forget to bring theirs; to manage the handles of the shovels better so that future participants can reuse them, as participants tend to cut young trees to make new handles.
Further ideas to strengthen the motivation of participants included: organizing a ball for the last day of the work; distributing t-shirts to participants with designs related to the work; renovating the school of the village that gathers the most participants; the organizers looking into the reasons why some subsidized teachers did not participate as this seemed unfair to those that did and if the excuses seemed questionable, to substract the salary for the days they don't turn up and use it to buy the participants some drinks. The lack of transportation from Maromandia may have prevented some teachers from attending, but it was discussed that they could clear the weeds around the seedlings in their village reforestation sites and the SCC could oversee the progress of this work.
The organizers of the fire break also used this time to start preparing for the Lemurs Fair. They decided that it will be held again in the village of Antafiabe on the 24th and 25th of September. They chose the following topic: "Yesterday is gone, today is difficult and what about tomorrow?". The topic focuses on education and invites villagers to be more careful about the use of natural resources. Apart from the usual activities, a documentary about climate change (in Malagasy) will be shown. The preliminary meeting with the villagers has been held on August 11th, 2011 and another meeting will be held on September 11th.