Holcim supports the conservation of the Ibity Massif, Madagascar
Chris Birkinshaw, Madagascar Research and Conservation Program, Missouri Botanical Garden
Much of the cement used in Madagascar comes from Holcim’s factory at Ibity (20°03’41”S, 46°59’27”E) approximately 22 km south of Antsirabe on Madagascar’s Highlands. The factory is adjacent to Ibity Massif, a 6000 hectare quartz mountain that has been identified as one of 78 priority areas for plant conservation in Madagascar due to the presence there of a rich flora that includes a number of locally endemic plant species and many plant species that are not included in any existing protected area.
The site is in the process of being designated as a new protected area as part of the Malagasy government’s initiative to triple the area of Madagascar that is managed for conservation. This protected area will be managed by three committees of local stakeholders, one for each of the communes that intersect with the Massif, who will be supported in this task, both technically and financially, by Missouri Botanical Garden and Conservation International.
To ensure the long term conservation of this site it is essential that local stakeholders value its natural ecosystems and appreciate the extent that they contribute to their quality of life. The Massif’s ecosystems do indeed provide local people with a range of goods (e.g. pasture, timber, medicinal plants, food) and services (e.g. water), and part of the conservation strategy for this site is to increase awareness among these stakeholders of this value.
In addition, the site will be further valorised by developing its considerable potential for tourism and developing markets for seedlings of native plants propagated by local people from seeds collected from the Massif. As part of Holcim’s strategic commitment to sustainable development, the company is supporting a village nursery at Ibity that in 2010 will produce 5000 seedlings of native trees and shrubs, 2500 young plants of mulberry (Morus alba) and 2500 seedlings of fast-growing non-invasive alien tree Acacia mangeum. At the start of the next wet season Holcim will purchase these plants, using the native species to re-vegetate exhausted parts of its mine and distributing the A. mangeum and M. alba to members of the local community who want to establish woodlots for fuel and mulberry plantations for feeding silkworms. Thus Holcim’s support will both contribute to the re-vegetation of the landscape surrounding the proposed Ibity Massif protected area and provide income for local people by valorising the local flora.