Sacred Seeds leader Rafael Ocampo explains the motivations and methods...
The biodiverse island of Madagascar is one of the poorest nations in the world. With child mortality, malnutrition, malaria, and cholera as major threats, the people rely on the forests and their traditional knowledge to survive. This is a fragile relationship, as farming, overharvesting, and poaching has contributed to vast deforestation and degradation. Conservation and community-building programs here have a great opportunity to stop this degradation of forests and health, and clear the way for the Malagasy to cultivate a prosperous future.
Sacred Seeds has teamed with a successful long-running conservation program of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Conservation teams work with the communities to reduce poaching, use better agricultural techniques and replenish the forest with saplings. Locally-run nurseries cultivate both economically important and native plants for use and reforestation.
The Ambalabe Sacred Seeds sanctuary will serve 5 villages with a population of over 7000 people. The area is fairly isolated; there are no roads and the nearest market is 72 kilometers away, making access to goods difficult. They rely mainly on the surrounding land and their own innovation. There are few backyard gardens, but the people could benefit greatly from the added nutrition these gardens could provide. It has been determined that, done correctly, a Sacred Seeds sanctuary will have a high impact on the health and prosperity of the Ambalabe community. The top priorities for Sacred Seeds Ambalabe are community involvement, crop choices that reflect the people’s needs and desires, and increased nutrition, especially for children. As the program matures we will add education about local plants, cooking and nutrition courses, and plant use manuals.
Sacred Seeds is utilizing the traditional knowledge of the people, gathered by Malagasy graduate students, to design a sanctuary full of rare and necessary foods and medicines, to reduce pressures on forests and provide a highly manageable source of important plants within the communities.