Ankafobe Forest New Protected Area and Andranofeno-Sud Model EcoHealth Village


Madagascar - Ankazobe Commune in the Analamanga Region of the central highlands


Site  (part of the Madagascar Research and Conservation Program EcoHealth Hub)


Mid-elevation evergreen humid forest and grassland

Land Tenure

Protected Area with co-management by Missouri Botanical Garden and the local community


Jean Jacques Rasolofonirina and Dinasoa Tahirinirainy, Missouri Botanical Garden-Madagascar Research & Conservation Program


Area of the site: 135 hectares
Date of initiation: 2004
Institutional collaborators: Malagasy Government; Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG); Université d’Antananarivo; Nature Fund; Rainforest Trust

Ecological importance of the site

• Rare fragment of highland forest.
• Habitat for the critically endangered endemic tree Schizolaena tampoketsana.
• Habitat for the critically endangered frog Anilany helenae.
• Habitat for three lemur species.

Socio-economic importance

• Recreation
• Water source

Restoration efforts underway

Experiment investigating the effect of shade and distance from forest edge on seedling survival and growth © Chris Birkinshaw

The Ankafobe Forest is a fragment of very rare highland forest surrounded by the vast anthropogenic and fire-prone grasslands of central Madagascar. In the recent past, the forest had been degraded by exploitation for timber and charcoal extraction, and by wildfires. MBG has been active at the site since 2004, seeking to restore the forest to the extent and condition it enjoyed in the recent past according to historical records, relevés, and photographs. Activities at the site include an array of horticultural and silvicultural experiments to define best practices for restoration in this highly challenging milieu and environment. These experiments have examined such interventions as: use of mulch, use of green manures, seedling inoculation with mycorrhizae, use of organic fertilizers, and use of wind breaks. Experiments have also been undertaken to elucidate the influence of both forest edge proximity and slope aspect on tree seedlings’ survival and growth.

In a parallel initiative, the project is currently working with 23 local famers in the landscape surrounding the protected area to identify best practices for dynamic agroforestry within local conditions.

Other restoration activities include:
• Promoting natural regeneration by preventing wildfires from entering the forest. This is achieved through the annual maintenance of 6.5 km of double firebreaks encircling the forest, and by supporting fire-spotting patrols and fire-fighting teams during the dry season.
• Controlling the alien invasive plant Desmodium incanum, which is rampant in degraded parts of the forest and can smother young trees.
• Propagating native tree seedlings of various species and out-planting them to aid recovery of badly degraded parts of the forest.

Key accomplishments to date

• No part of the forest has burned since 2014.
• Threats to the forest (i.e., shifting cultivation and exploitation of wood for timber) have been controlled, leading to an increase in mean trunk basal area per hectare from 28.34 m² in 2013 to 33.99 m² in 2018.
• Ca. 85,000 seedlings of native trees and shrubs have been out-planted to launch restoration over 21 ha of former forest. Unfortunately, many of the earliest seedlings planted were wasted due to poor protocols and consequent high mortality.

Andranofeno-Sud Model EcoHealth Village

Andranofeno-Sud © Chris Birkinshaw

As an extension of the work at Ankafobe, the team is also seeking funding to launch a long-term, community-led initiative that would transform the village of Andranofeno-Sud, located just 2.5 kms from the forest, into a model EcoHealth Village. Andranofeno-Sud, like many other towns and villages in Madagascar, is a sterile environment largely devoid of native vegetation despite the exceptionally rich Malagasy biodiversity. The community-led initiative seeks to transform this village and its surrounding landscape into a demonstration site showing the power of an ecohealth approach for human well-being, with ideas including shelter belts of native trees, home gardens with lush vegetable plots, productive fields of dynamic agroforestry, attractive green public spaces for relaxing and socializing, and thick hedgerows of native species linking the village to adjacent forest fragments. The village would become a model for Madagascar and the world showing how local people can more fully embrace their natural heritage and benefit from their native biodiversity.

Further reading:
How small is too small? The uncertain fate of Madagascar’s forest fragments (Mongabay, October 2017)
A Tale of Two Highlands Part II: Ankafobe, Madagascar (Natural History of Ecological Restoration, February 2015)
Ankafobe (Natural History of Ecological Restoration)