Natalie Sena, Allie Essinger
Madagascar’s ecosystem is one of the most threatened on the planet. A nation comprised of subsistence farmers, Malagasy people do not have the luxury to see beyond their daily needs to consider the long-term consequences of deforestation. Nevertheless, there is an air of optimism in the small village of Andasibe. The film follows the grassroots efforts of community members galvanized to save not only their landscape, but also their longevity as a community. Their solution? Turning the remaining forest into a park, to both embolden locals to protect it and to spur financially supportive tourism from outsiders. Andasibe focuses on the efforts of two dedicated individuals and one organization: NIRINA, a fifty-nine-year-old guide who regales folklore of the natural world, solicits men to stand guard around a remaining fragment of native forest; CLAUDE runs workshops on sustainable practices, unionizes women craft-makers, and trains young people as nature guides; MITSINJO, a grassroots organization, is determined to protect the natural habitat where lemurs dwell. Through primary school workshops, they teach empathy between native children and the animals that live along side them – thus empowering children as the crucial next generation to carry on the efforts of change. Working against these efforts is the mindset of the everyday community member struggling to survive, continuing to practice slash and burn agriculture, making charcoal out of native trees, and engaging in illegal sales of rare hardwoods. The film includes commentary from various field experts and renowned scientists such as DR. CRINAN ALEXANDER from the British Royal Botanic Garden; DR. RAINER DOLCH, a Finish reforestation expert; DR. MEREDITH GORE, an American professor of conservation criminology; DR. PATRICIA WRIGHT, an American primatologist and anthropologist; DR. NORMAN UPHOFF, a renowned social scientist and agroecologist; and DR. HAL NEEDHAM, a climatologist and storm surge expert from Louisiana State University. Together, they paint a picture not only of environmental turmoil, but the relationship the Malagasy people have, and traditionally have had, with the land; in addition, there are discussions on over-population and instability in the central government. We also hear from Malagasy people on the dire need to support their families and the effect that regulation has had on their abilities to feed themselves.