The Zazamalala forest

The Zazamalala forest was established in 2000 when blind Simon Rietveld returned after 30 years to the Morondava area in west Madagascar and was shocked that most of the dry forest had been cleared. “We’ve got to do something,” Simon must have said to his Malagasy wife Jocelyne Farazanamalala. “If we remain passive now, all those species will soon become extinct!” By that time, indeed the infinite dry western forests Simon visited in 1969 were cleared, although pockets of forests remained, as well as a few beautiful reserves. Simon and Jocelyne purchased an impenetrable Jujube-dominated thorny scrubland with huge Baobabs and many young trees, but the valuable trees had all been logged. They named it Zazamalala, meaning lovely child and started protecting the area against infiltration from local people.


After 2000 people from all corners of Madagascar came to the Morondava area to cultivate rice. By 2005 the Zazamalala forest was a green island in between wetlands. By that time most Sakalava in rural areas were still afraid of white Europeans, but nonetheless many entered the forest at night to cut trees and hunt for bushmeat, something they and their ancestors had always been doing. With a handful of guards Simon and Jocelyne defended the heron chicks, the lemurs and the wild pigs. Several battles with villagers armed with spears and axes resulted in a killed Zazamalala guard and villagers sentenced to prison. However, times were changing and the local people appreciated the forest as a relict from their ancestors, worthwhile protecting. In the meantime, Simon and a team of international volunteers, together with paid local people, planted thousands of seedlings of rare species that once lived in the area and gradually the Zazamalala forest started to flourish. Many local people received a paid job in the forest, which made their families economically independent. Nowadays, Zazamalala is a beautiful dry forest with numerous endangered plants and animals. Visitors from all over the world come to enjoy its richness.


The Zazamalala foundation works on the reforestation of a green corridor between the Zazamalala forest and the Mena Be nature reserve, formerly known as Andranomena, Marofandilia and Kirindy. This implies a 30 km strip of new forest, 500 hectares in all. Ultimately, this forest will be a lasting habitat for endangered animals and plants, favouring genetic diversity, importand for their healthy survival into the future.


Protecting and enhancing the forests of west Madagascar.