The forest sustained our lives, like parents caring for their children. When there was a hainandro (drought) we went and sought shelter under “our parents’ wings”.
Zanaboatsy, male, 58, Petriky
All narrators speak with deep regret about current or potential restrictions on access to the forest, and forest loss, because of mining activities. They have relied on the forest for food, timber to construct houses, material for weaving mats, nets, roofs and ropes etc, medicinal plants, firewood and essential materials for cultural practices such as honey for the circumcision ceremony.
There are differences in the way the four communities experience these limitations but the implications are the same for all – they are losing access to natural resources that have long underpinned their life, livelihood and culture. And as the forest has also been a vital source of survival in times of food insecurity, a crucial safety net is now under threat.
There are powerful statements about the “absurdity” of outsiders managing resources which for generations local communities, supported by the government, have cared for, ensuring their survival and renewal through sustainable management practices.
Narrators in St Luce talk about the unique biodiversity of the forest, which used to attract many researchers and tourists. They explain that QMM has stopped them charging an entry fee to visitors, thus depriving them of valuable income that used to be divided among community members. Narrators from Ilafitsignana and Ambinanibe also describe the wide-ranging implications of loss of access to the forest. At the time the testimonies were recorded forest restrictions were imminent for Petriky communities.
Petriky was my ancestor’s resources. They raised their children from the forest… in the past…people only cut down a big tree once in two or three years. People were aware of the importance of the forest. They wanted to make sure that it recovered…before they cut down other trees. The felled tree was destined for boat construction. And the swamps and Petriky forest supplied other needs of the villagers. People cut goelette (branches) from Petriky to fence their houses… It was our medicine [chest]. Now, I cannot heal my family because I do not have access to it any more.
Tsilefa, male, 83 years, Petriky
They selected a few people to be forest guards. People must pay fees if they want to walk in… People will not be able to make baskets and mats because we don’t have access to forest resources and we don’t have money to pay the [access] fee… They should let people use the forest because it sustains our life. But this is just a wish we have. We farmers cannot convince foreigners to change their ideas.
Manintsy, female, 40 years, Petriky
The forest around here is protected now. We are not allowed to cut trees any more… There are forest guards prohibiting people from going in there. In the past, people relied on fruits from the forest to supplement their meals. For example, when people did not have anything to eat they would go into the forest to collect the diverse fruits that they found there. These fruits were sufficient for lunch and could hold people over until dinner… People rely so much on firewood to provide energy for their households and this is not possible any more… Currently, people are forced to purchase and use charcoal.
Flogone, female, Ambinanibe
[QMM] do not understand that firewood is our only source of energy… The consequence of their decision [to cut off forest access] is food insecurity, because our main dishes – cassava and sweet potatoes – need firewood to be cooked. We don’t even have the coal stoves to switch from firewood to charcoal.
Alter, male, 65 years, St Luce
Farmers prefer to plant their crops on forested land because not only does it have better soil, but it also has moisture that allows crops to grow well… [In the past] it was necessary to have a permit [but it] allowed one to exploit the forest for a year. Now, applying for a permit [is different]… So with the decrease in fishing production, and the new policy of the forest management, where will people find land to plant their crops?
Flemmond, male, 48 years, St Luce
The reason why there is not enough rainfall in our region is that…there is no more forest left. I think forest stimulates the weather to produce rain for the land. But now QMM has access to the mountains, the forest is gone, instead of giving us rainfall… Only a region that has forest trees can receive rainfall and those open areas without forest trees remain dry.
Marie Louise, female, Ilafitsignana
The worst thing that happened was that QMM removed a large mountain, devastating its forest cover. So how will rain come with such a disaster? … With [QMM’s] plan to remove three mountains, forests covering these mountains will disappear with them. However, that is where we people collect firewood, construction wood and medicinal plants. Now, people have started to purchase firewood and construction wood because QMM have restricted access to the forests… Petriky Forest was useful to people because that is where people collected anything they needed such as construction wood, medicinal plants, fruits and vines. I think QMM’s activities will harm people because they are blocking all sources of income for people.
Paulette, female, 37 years, Ilafitsignana
Once the forest disappears [or] is under threat, honey bees are threatened as well because they live off the tree flowers and pollen throughout the forest… So no forest means no bees.
Brinaldine, male, 42 years, Ilafitsignana
There are no other places like Petriky. I was so happy with the state of the forest. You know Petriky Forest contains many things: such as fruits. I cannot list them here. I went there whenever I needed something for my life. In Petriky, water and resources were abundant. This assures the survival and the growth of vahy, fishes and other species. That is where I went to cut wood to build a boat. But now such opportunities are gone. That is why I am so sad and I cry for that.
Tsilefa, male, 83 years, Petriky