The end of ECDD is just the beginning …

 

As we publish the final reports from the ECDD project, the Project Coordinator looks back over his last six years in the Comoros.

 

L'équipe ECDD

L’équipe ECDD

It seems like another age when I arrived in Anjouan in October 2007 to get the ECDD pilot phase up and running. I’d spent three months in the Comoros in 2005 leading a student project researching the causes and consequences of deforestation, and then worked hard to build the support and partnerships to make a longer-term intervention a reality. So my arrival was both the start of something new and the culmination of a lot of effort.

I remember fondly those early days when everything was new, I was able to spend much more time in the field, and there wasn’t the pressure of substantial funding and a large team and programme to manage. We started work in the first village, Kowé, in January 2008. Both Badrou and Siti were with me then, and both have since had kids that are frighteningly old already! We spent at least a couple of nights each week sleeping in the village, sharing mattresses with those who were generous enough to put us up. And during the day we discussed the livelihood and environmental problems the villagers were facing and planned our first intervention with the creation of a community vegetable garden.

Gradually the team grew as we expanded to our second village Nindri and recruited agricultural experts to manage our livelihood interventions. Moustoifa was another early recruit who is still with us, taking up the role of wise old owl in the team, as well as Misbahou, who evolved into our local coordinator and is now in the UK on a Darwin Initiative Fellowship. The expansion of both our intervention zone and our activities continued, and by 2010 the team was up to 20 and the initial annual budget of £40,000 had grown to over £300,000.

Our work in the field underwent a similar transformation since those early days. Whilst the vegetable garden made a lot of money, a large proportion of it didn’t go where it was meant to, and our participatory analyses were both too long and failed to give us the full understanding that we needed to devise appropriate interventions. It’s been a long process of trial and error evolving from those first stages, and of learning from our partners in the Comoros and in the region, particularly Madagascar.

Kitty, en action lors du tournage

Kitty en action lors du tournage

Now we are justifiably proud of our impact on rural livelihoods and agriculture in the Comoros: over 1800 farmers have been supported to improve their revenues in a sustainable manner, which makes around 10,000 direct beneficiaries when their families are included, and innovations that ECDD introduced are being reproduced by our partners in the Comoros and integrated into agricultural policy. Similarly, the forest maps and species distribution models produced by the ecological team – all unique for the Comoros – have been provided to the authorities for integration into national conservation planning and the creation of protected areas. Our work on collective natural resource management also laid down a first for the Comoros, with the development of a model for collective work based on voluntary labour – I was particularly delighted when we managed to learn from our early mistakes in Kowé to support the villagers in replacing their ageing water supply system and transform water availability for the entire village. Another personal highlight was seeing the impact of the Hadisi ya Ismaël film that was produced at the end of 2012 and drew on a lot of what we had learnt through the project to encourage more farmers to engage with our work and adopt sustainable agricultural practices. The film went viral in our intervention villages as well as winning the second prize at the Comoros inaugural international film festival.

We went through a lot of ups and downs to reach those achievements; working in the Comoros proved more challenging than I could ever have imagined. The large number of failed interventions is both testament to difficulty of working in the Comoros and one of the reasons why it took a long time to gain trust in the villages. The lack of social cohesion and respected power structures made all the work tricky, particularly the efforts at collective management, and the isolation of working in the Comoros produced many challenges. I am hugely grateful for the commitment of the different team members through the life of the project to stick at it through all the difficulties. That commitment and their skills shine through to anyone that meets them, something that never fails to make me proud.

 

The culmination of ECDD is of course the creation of the new NGO Dahari, which is now coming to the end of its first year of existence. We took a lot of care and time over the development of Dahari, and I think it’s perhaps the one aspect of the work where I can’t see where we could have made big improvements in the process we followed. We have a fantastic set of members who have voted an engaged and competent Conseil d’Administration (the French equivalent of a Board of Trustees). Several of the ECDD team that has benefited from so much training over the last few years have become employees of the NGO at the same time as the opportunity has been taken to bring in some fresh blood. And the NGO is launched with already a strong integration in its initial area of interventions, and key financial and technical partnerships already organised in the Comoros, in the region, and internationally.

 

The challenge for Dahari in the field is to integrate habitat and biodiversity protection measures into the landscape management model – something that is being explored through the adoption of a payment for environmental services system – whilst developing a better monitoring and evaluation framework and continuing to improve the agricultural support. And institutionally, the key will be to gradually improve the NGO’s functioning to leave it more and more independent of external support whilst continuing to build its profile in-country and in the region. I am confident that the necessary bases have been already laid for Dahari to achieve wide-ranging change in the Comoros into the future, and I aim to accompany Dahari in its first couple of years of existence to solidify those foundations.

 

So that leaves me with the job of thanking everybody who contributed to the success of ECDD and made the creation of Dahari possible. On behalf of the team I want to thank them all, from the beneficiaries who were patient with us as we learnt, to local and international partners and advisors who stuck with us during the difficult times. We hope that they are as proud as we are of the role they played in ECDD, and as excited about what Dahari can achieve in the future.

L'équipe Dahari - Janvier 2014

L’équipe Dahari – Janvier 2014

Dahari launches into eco-tourism by welcoming the Mayotte Naturalists

welcoming the Mayotte Naturalists

This October Dahari was privileged to welcome to Anjouan a delegation from the Naturalistes de Mayotte. The Mayotte Association for Naturalists, Environment and Heritage (www.naturalistesmayotte.fr) aims to teach people about Mayotte’s natural and cultural heritage and to inspire them to protect that heritage. This partnership was an opportunity to exchange knowledge and points of view centring on a mutual passion: that of the Comoros archipelago. “I loved meeting the people and finding out about what Dahari has achieved, all of which portrays a positive picture of the country.”

For five days, our guides accompanied these guests to discover local communities, Anjouan culture, and the island’s landscapes and biodiversity.

In Mutsamudu our tourists got lost in the Medina (the capital’s Arab quarter) and trod upon the stones of the famous citadel. In Domoni, they visited the mausoleum of Ahmed Abdallah and the Royal Palace of Abdallah III. In the island’s interior they journeyed to the Dzialande lake. In Bambao, after a trip to the Royal Palace of Mawana, they had their first taste of maize stew during one of the communal meals, which were valuedmoments of connection with the local population. “I found Anjouan very moving. The people are welcoming and full of smiles, and their daily life demands respect and admiration.”

On the southern coast they got to know Moya, one of the Comoros islands’ oldest villages, which had long been cut off from above by the Moya forest and from below by the Ouvanga ridge, but was reconnected after independence by the construction of Anjouan’s only tunnel. And they made the most of its beautiful beach.

In terms of fauna, flora and ecosystems, they were able to glimpse the famous Livingstone’s fruit bat including watching mothers carrying around their babies, as well as seeing native birds, aromatic plants such as Ylang Ylang, clove, lemon grass, orchids and medicinal plants. Finally, not far from Sima they had the chance to see one of the branched coconut palms, a rare and striking phenomenon.

Our tourists were impressed by the market gardening production on the island. In addition, they were especially moved by the issue of deforestation on Anjouan, which has caused the Lingoni hydroelectric power plant – which usually supplies the villages on the south side of the island – to function erratically. “I loved the balance between nature, culture and the social dimension – seeing the scenery, some historical sites and getting a first-hand view of what the lives of farmers are like.”

Dahari’s expertise and sustainable tourism

Dahari offers a sustainable tourism founded on respect for people and nature, on a wild island still sheltered from mass tourism. This activity generates direct profit for the local population, as well as bringing indirect revenues through reinvestment of any profit that Dahari makes into its field activities. That’s what the Mayotte Naturalists really liked: “This eco-tourism experience makes you feel like you’ve come face to face with real lives”, “I really enjoyed this type of trip, which gave the opportunity for real dialogue with local people, a sincere and spontaneous encounter.”

The central theme of this journey of discovery was Dahari’s mission for the sustainable management of natural resources. Our friends also learnt in detail about Dahari’s activities in the villages and were able to meet beneficiaries of Dahari’s work. They suggested that for a future visit we organise “a morning of physical work on a plot” in order to “lend a hand for harvesting, collecting or hedging.”
“I’m especially impressed by the quality of the NGO’s work. You don’t often see an organisation’s employees going to such effort, with genuine concern for involving those who will benefit from the work, respecting their needs: that much is clear from the quality of the links that have been developed with the people.”

Dahari’s strength lies particularly with its expert team, made up of agronomists who are well integrated into the communities – such as Badrou, for example – and biodiversity specialists like Ishaka and Amélaid, who knew how to share their knowledge and how to listen to the tourists and their questions: “The combination of Badrou, Ishaka and Amélaid gives three voices to show and explain a complex reality, that of the land.”

Check out the naturalists’ photo album here on our Facebook page Facebook..
For any further information, please contact us directly.
And you can read Lonely Planet’s article on tourism in the Comoros which features Dahari here: lonelyplanet.com.

Understanding the hydrogeology of Anjouan and the impact of deforestation on the availability of water resources

Arnaud Charmoille, PhD in Hydrogeology and volunteer for the NGO AVSF, came to study the groundwater resources of Anjouan and our intervention around the forest area Moya for two weeks during the month of August 2012. The objective of the study was to better understand the problems of deforestation and its impact on the availability of water on the island. The full report (in French) with summary entitled “Outline of the hydrogeological functioning of the island of Anjouan (Comoros): Typology of available water resources and discussion on the impact of deforestation” is available through this link.

In August 2012 Arnaud Charmoille, hydrogeologist and volunteer for the NGO AVSF has collected testimonies, data and field observations on the island of Anjouan to better understand the hydrogeology of Anjouan and the impact of deforestation on the availability of water

In August 2012 Arnaud Charmoille, hydrogeologist and volunteer for the NGO AVSF has collected testimonies, data and field observations on the island of Anjouan to better understand the hydrogeology of Anjouan and the impact of deforestation on the availability of water

As mentioned on several occasions in this blog, the island of Anjouan is facing a supply problem for drinking water and reduction of its surface water resources. Deforestation is systematically evoked to explain the apparent decrease in the flow of rivers, by the public and the various authorities of the island.

My name is Arnaud Charmoille, hydrogeologist and volunteer for the NGO AVSF. I have been sent on this mission to work with the ECDD project to give an opinion on the specific water problematic of Anjouan. The question, the expectations of the population, being the first to do this kind of work in Anjouan were prime motivating factors to carry out this mission.
My work began with a visit to Anjouan in August 2012, I collected testimonies from the different water actors and collected data and field observations. These data were hydrological, hydrogeological, geological, hydrochemical, geomorphological and geographical.

This visit was followed by a major work of interpretation of the acquired data and observations in the field. In particular, I compared the results with data available in the literature dealing with volcanic islands that are contextually approaching the island of Anjouan.

Example of analysis of hydrochemical results. Samples are represented depending of their sodium and chloride concentration. This kind of graph allows the differentiation of shallow aquifers from deep aquifers.

Example of analysis of hydrochemical results. Samples are represented depending of their sodium and chloride concentration. This kind of graph allows the differentiation of shallow aquifers from deep aquifers.

This analysis allowed me to draw a diagram of the hydrogeological and hydrological functioning of the island. Once this was done I could analyze how the deforestation could have an impact on the water resources of the island.

A cloud forest in Anjouan.  This forest type is formed on the peaks, slopes and ridges, the reliefs are often bathed in fog

A cloud forest in Anjouan.
This forest type is formed on the peaks, slopes and ridges, the reliefs are often bathed in fog

Originally, a part of the Anjouan natural forest is a forest type “cloud forest”. This forest type is formed on the peaks, slopes and ridges and is often bathed in fog. In these forest types, specific plant species develop that are capable of capturing the fog droplets. This phenomenon is frequently observed on islands of small area and high relief which is the case on the island of Anjouan. In tropical region, the provision of additional water produced by cloud forests increases the amount of water available for infiltration and maintains high flows during the dry season. This ecosystem also prevents flood during rainy season, two points that are currently lacking on the island of Anjouan!

Impact of cloud forest mutation and disparition on hydrogeological cycle (Foster, 2001)

Impact of cloud forest mutation and disparition on hydrogeological cycle (Foster, 2001)

At the isle of Anjouan deforestation, except in some areas, has completely removed the original vegetation cover; part of the cloud forest has been transformed into a habitat consisting of species introduced by man as coconuts, clove, banana, etc. However even if there is a certain vegetation cover, these introduced species do not exhibit a good intercept of fog droplets. There is no provision of intercepted additional water by the fog. Groundwater that feed streams is therefore seeing its rate decrease significantly during dry season. Considering that the majority of primary forest has disappeared, we can imagine that the situation is being stabilized…

These findings, which are the result of the early work of this type carried out on the island, must of course be supplemented by work and further investigations.

Although a reduction in the flow of streams exists and can be attributed to deforestation, it seems, however, from the results and observations made during this mission that water resources are sufficient for Anjouan. It looks more that the provision to the population is a real problem. In the future it will be hard to envisage that if the population continues to grow, to limit the water distribution system in catchments such gravity. Exploitation of groundwater seems inevitable in certain sectors of the island that are provided with little surface water.

Finally, I wish to thank all people, which directly or indirectly helped me to carry out this mission. Special thanks to the ECDD project team that left me with unforgettable memories of the island!

For those interested in reading the article (in French), you can download it here.

Studying the birds of Anjouan

ECDD ecological technician Amelaïd Houmadi is studying for a distance learning Masters from the Université Libre de Burkina Faso and has just finished the fieldwork for his research project into the birds endemic to the Comoros on Anjouan. To celebrate he’s put a few pictures together for us of some of the striking birds he’s been seeing (and hearing) in the forests of Anjouan…

 
We are very grateful to the anonymous donor to Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust who agreed to fund the cost of this project.