afrol News, 22 January - The Malagasy government has decided to protect what environmentalists call one of the island's "most spectacular wildlife areas." The decree, signed by President Marc Ravalomanana, came into effect this week and protects the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands.
The Mahavavy-Kinkony protected area covers almost 3,000 square kilometres of tropical wetlands, forests, savannas and caves and is considered as "crucial" for people, wildlife and birds by environmentalists. The unique area is situated in western Madagascar.
"This is a particularly important milestone for conservation in Madagascar because these are the first large freshwater wetlands to be protected that also support a significant and dependent human population," commented Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of the environmental group BirdLife's Madagascar programme.
The government of Madagascar granted the area a protected status for two years. This, according to Malagasy legislation, is a preliminary step toward the area being granted permanent protection. Another wetland, Lake Alaotra in eastern Madagascar, was also granted similar protection.
According to Mr Raminoarisoa, Mahavavy-Kinkony holds all of the wetland bird species found in western Madagascar, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. They represent key habitats for endemic birds. The wetlands are also one of the last refuges for Madagascar Fish Eagle, a critically endangered bird of prey with a population of just 220 birds.
The newly protected area also holds vitally important populations of other threatened species like the critically endangered lemur, Crowned Sifaka Propithecus (verreauxi) coronatus, and the Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Erymnochelys madagascariensis.
Finally, the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands also are a vital resource to the Malagasy people for fishing, hunting and agriculture.
The area's protection is part of President Ravalomanana's 'Durban Vision', whereby Madagascar will increase its total protected areas to six million hectares by 2008 - up from only 1.7 million hectares. The 'Durban Vision' was announced by the Malagasy President in South Africa in 2003.
Environmentalists for long had lobbied for these wetlands to be protected. In 1999, the area was classified an 'important bird area' by BirdLife International, on account of the diverse array of threatened birds found there. The news today therefore was celebrated "a significant milestone" by BirdLife, which had been working with the government and local communities, promoting efforts to manage the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands in a sustainable manner whilst monitoring and conserving biodiversity.
"It is a fantastic achievement for all involved." commented Rivo Rabarisoa of BirdLife Madagascar. "This decision is supported by conservationists worldwide, by local communities within the protected area and across the main Ministries in Madagascar who are concerned with the sectoral interests of wetlands - including agriculture, fisheries and extractive industries. We hope this achievement can be replicated elsewhere."
"We are delighted that such a large and well-known area can be offered full protection, whilst still retaining its vital use as a wetland resource for local people and communities," praised Dr Ramanitra Narisoa, President of Asity, the only Malagasy bird conservation organisation, which was also a strong contributor to the process. "This is fantastic news for conservation in Madagascar," he added.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.