The Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ) has long been regarded as one of Madagascar’s top conservation priorities and numerous studies have catalogued its rich biodiversity. To date over 2,043 species of plants have been identified (85% are endemic). By far the greatest threat to the forest corridor in terms of forest loss is slash-and-burn agriculture and this threatens the long term existence of the corridor. If this pressure is not alleviated, CAZ will soon disappear and with it the incredible biodiversity it houses, but also the essential ecosystem services it provides to countless rural families in the area.
In order to reduce forest fragmentation, while also promoting alternative livelihood opportunities for the impoverished communities, the Government of Madagascar, with the support of Conservation International and the BioCarbon Fund is promoting the Ankeniheny-Zahamena-Mantadia Biodiversity Conservation Corridor (CAZ) project. The CAZ project aims to reduce deforestation and forest degradation of primary Malagasy forest by creating a corridor to protect the remaining native forests between the Zahamena National Park and the forests collectively known as “Ankeniheny” in central eastern Madagascar. In addition to protecting forest and stocked carbon, CAZ will protect one of the planet’s most important sites for biodiversity conservation and provide a protected biological corridor that links 3 existing protected areas: Zahamena national park, Manongarivo special reserve and Mantadia national park. These parks are at the core of the remaining fragments of the eastern Malagasy rainforest, are extremely rich in terms of biodiversity, and continue to be severely threatened by deforestation. The CAZ carbon project covers 370,000 hectares and is made up of the CAZ protected area and some areas of forest that are contiguous with the protected area and managed by the same communities that are involved in the protected area management.
Through the creation of a protected area, the project is reducing green house gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). It is one of the first REDD initiatives in Africa. The project used a new REDD+ methodology developed jointly by the BioCF and Fundação Amazonas Sustentável. CAZ is registered under the voluntary carbon platform, Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and has generated about 3 million carbon emission reduction credits.
CAZ provides important ecosystem services to both the surrounding area and greater region. It protects the headwaters of eight large rivers that directly supply approximately 325,000 residents with water. Further, the protected area is helping to conserve the rich biodiversity that is being threatened by deforestation.
The project is generating substantial benefits to the community. Activities that sustain livelihoods, such as fish farming, improved irrigated rice cultivation, and bean production, are providing alternatives to the traditional slash-and-burn agriculture. This has potential to increase agricultural productivity in the region. Revenues from the sale carbon credits will also offer further incentive for communities to conserve the area's forests. In addition, the revenue from the sale of carbon credits will also be used by the Government of Madagascar to finance the long term management of the protected area and to expand economic opportunities for local communities.