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The Sheroes of Madagascar's Flora Conservation: Ms. Jeannie Raharimampionona, Winner of a National Geographic Award
On this day of March 8, 2021, International Women's Day, Soava is pleased to celebrate and direct a spotlight on the "she"-roes of flora conservation in Madagascar and in particular on our compatriot Ms. Jeannie Raharimampionona. Ms. Raharimampionona is a Malagasy woman winner of the National Geographic/Buffet Award for Leadership in Conservation in November 2020.
While a lot of attention is often given to Madagascar's fauna through the island's lemurs and many other endemic species, the country's unique yet also endangered flora receives less buzz.
In November 2020, for the first time ever, a Malagasy person won this prestigious international award. Ms. Jeannie Raharimampionona is a systematic botanist and currently serves as the Conservation Unit Coordinator for the Missouri Botanical Garden project in Madagascar. (Systematic Botany deals with plant classification, description, and nomenclature). She joined the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) in 1999, shortly after graduating from the University of Madagascar. She started her career in a position that entailed collecting plants data from Madagascar's forests and painstakingly entering the information into Tropicos, a global database of plants managed by the MBG.
According to Ms. Raharimampionona, over 14,000 species of flower plants currently exist in Madagascar and new species continue to be discovered even nowadays. Unfortunately, that flora is being threatened by:
- 1) Mining exploitation
- 2) Fire, and
- 3) Logging.
Ms. Raharimampionona and her team have the vision of transforming 80 priority areas around the island into natural protected areas. As at the end of 2020, her team, together with the communities living in those areas, successfully created 13 protected areas. Those areas were chosen for the endemicity of the plants that grow there (meaning the plants are native of Madagascar and that they only grow there); 2) the scarcity/rarity of the vegetation species, and 3) the climate and the nature of the oil.
Through her work, Ms. Raharimampionona uses a community-based conservation approach. She is convinced that the forest cannot be protected and spared without community involvement. Ms. Raharimampionona works hand-in-hand with numerous women grass-root organizations in and around the protected areas. The women are trained in seedling production and in tree nursery creation and management. The women also successfully coordinate community patrols around the protected areas.
Ms. Raharimampionona talks about the women being fierce advocates and enthusiastic about conservation. She emphasizes that although the award is in her name, she "dedicates the prize to the wonderful women who work in conservation throughout Madagascar".
It's that energy and enthusiasm that Soava would like to celebrate this month of March as the role of women in society is elevated and recognized worldwide as in Madagascar.
Happy March 8, International Women's Day to you!
The Delonix Velutina, locally known as Hazondrangola, is one of the very rare and threatened Madagascar plants. It is shown here with its blooming flowers and tree trunk. This plant can only be found in Madagascar, mainly in the Northern areas of the island, in the Diana region. Photo credit: Feno.
Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay News, November 11, 2020.
Photo Credit: Missouri Botanical Gardens and National Geographic.
This write-up is Copyrighted, Soava, 2021
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