Antananarivo, also known as “Tana” or “The City of Thousands” (referring to the thousands of treasures to discover), is the capital city of Madagascar. It is found in the heart of the central highlands and has roots in the 16th century when the first inhabitants of Madagascar arrived.
Nature Abound In Madagascar's Capital
Antananarivo is located on twelve laterite hills and impresses its visitors with its immense spiritual significance and vibrant history. Many choose to visit Antananarivo for the richness of nature in its surroundings. A prime example is Lemur Park, located just 22km southwest of Antananarivo. It is home to nine lemur species, which are endemic to the island of Madagascar. It contains over 70 endemic Madagascan plants, displaying the unique flora and fauna as part of environmental education and reforestation programs. Within the parameters of the urban area, Antananarivo also has a wealth of water resources and public green spaces. It welcomes visitors to its Botanical and Zoological Garden of Tsimbazaza located just north of the National Assembly building. To accompany its green infrastructure, the city has also constructed multiple artificial water bodies, such as Lake Anosy, Lake Mandroseza, Lake Masay, Lake Mahazoarivo, as well as Ladybird Lake in the Park of Tsarasoatra. Lake Anosy, specifically, was carefully designed to take the shape of a heart and symbolize the life of the area.
Forests To Tackle Urban Challenges
Antananarivo faces many challenges alongside its rapid urbanization, such as high levels of poverty and malnutrition, high rates of unemployment, riverine and pluvial flooding, and poor stormwater drainage and waste management. The impact of tree cover loss falls disproportionately on Antananarivo’s vulnerable communities that live in informal settlements. However, these urban challenges present the city with the opportunities to implement projects that utilize trees, forests and other nature-based solutions to improve livelihoods and tackle environmental concerns simultaneously. For example, in January 2020, the World Bank also began supporting a large-scale reforestation campaign in Ampangabe located 20km from Antananarivo. In 2016, the World Bank began the Greater Antananarivo Integrated Urban Development and Resilience Project in order to rethink rapid urbanization and envision a city that belongs to all of Antananarivo’s residents. Antananarivo joined Cities4Forests in August 2018, and then in August 2019 Cities4Forest supported the Antananarivo City Hall to map the city’s tree cover for the first time, using an open-source, participatory tool called Collect Earth Online. As Antananarivo plans how to expand its urban forest and where to plant and grow additional trees to offset some of the city’s actuate challenges, knowing the extent and baseline of where trees are growing serves as an important decision-making tool for the mayor and other city officials.
Forest Loss Threatens Endemic Species
The island of Madagascar itself is home to some of its richest rainforests on earth, as well as more than 11,000 endemic plant species. According to Global Forest Watch, Madagascar had 16.4 million hectares of forest cover in 2010, equivalent to about 28% of the country’s total area. In 2020 alone, Madagascar lost 241 thousand hectares of forest. About one-quarter of the existing forests are classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense forms of forest found on earth day today. In 2018 alone, Madagascar lost 2% of its primary forests, the most substantial proportion compared to any other tropical country. Madagascar is also home to four nature reserves, 25 national parks, 21 wildlife reserves, and four other forest corridors and protected areas. The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. In 2007, six more national parks, under the name of Rainforests of the Atsinanana, were voted as a joint World Heritage Site. As the world’s fourth-biggest island, ninety percent of Madagascar’s plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world. Five percent of all known species are contained in the island, including 200 mammals, 300 types of birds, 260 reptiles and 266 amphibian species.
Despite its magnificent natural landscape, Madagascar’s forests are facing increasing threats from illegal logging and climate change. The country has lost nearly half of its forests since the 1950s, losing more than 500,000 hectares of forest, partly due to the illegal trade in Rosewood. The commercial exploitation of Madagascar’s forests has led to massive soil erosion (especially in the south), earning it the name of “Red Island.” Madagascar also faces dire water problems: nearly 11 million people in Madagascar do not have access to clean water, making diarrheal disease the second most lethal illness for children below the age of five.