December 2014 marked a significant step towards effective conservation of the iconic, Endangered Grandidier's baobab Adansonia grandidieri, endemic to western Madagascar. Despite its high cultural significance in Madagascar, the species has limited protection from overexploitation. Non-timber forest products from the species, including bark, fibres, leaves, fruits and seeds, are utilized for various purposes, and particularly for food, medicine, construction and oil production, and to generate a small income. Local people recognize that the species is most heavily used ‘when people don't have money’ (Biodiversity Conservation, 2009, 18, 2759–2777), suggesting that the species may be at risk of overexploitation.
Supported by the Global Trees Campaign, the NGO Madagasikara Voakajy has been working closely with local communities to secure management rights to key baobab forests. This will allow communities to manage the forests sustainably to avoid deforestation and the overexploitation of the species. Towards the end of 2013 the team secured the transfer of forest management rights to the community in the village of Bepeha in the west. The site covers 6,453 ha of forest, with 400 adult Grandidier's baobabs.
Building on the successful transfer of rights in 2013, the process was replicated in December 2014 for a second village, Betainkilotra. As before, a new management plan was developed, outlining natural resource use within different forest zones: a core conservation zone (the critical area for baobabs), a subsistence use zone and a third area for reforestation. The communities will be supported and monitored in the implementation of the plan by the Direction Régionale de l'Environnement et des Forêts.
The Global Trees Campaign and Madagasikara Voakajy continue to support a similar process in Ambodimadiro in northern Madagascar. This site supports a population of c. 500 Endangered Diego's baobab Adansonia suarezensis. A management plan for the area was developed with communities in April 2015 and has been submitted to the local Direction Régionale de l'Environnement et des Forêts. It is hoped this work can successfully replicate progress in the west of the country.