CEPF Interview: Serge Rajaobelina

Serge Rajaobelina is the secretary general of Association Fanamby. He talks with CEPF about the organization and the importance of protecting the golden-crowned sifaka in this January 2002 interview.

Q. What are the two most important things that have contributed to the success of your organization?

A. The two most important things that have contributed to the success of Fanamby are: (1) we have a young energetic and committed staff that is dedicated and proud of their initiative to conserve biodiversity in Madagascar. (2) We use innovative techniques, such as developing regional and community-based development programs by promoting an open, dynamic and participatory relationship between Fanamby, local communities, regional authorities and local and national stakeholders.

Q. What has been or is your greatest challenge?

A. The greatest challenge to any project in Madagascar, including ours, is building capacity and consensus on the ground. It is difficult to introduce the concept of conservation and expect the community and other organizations to be able to take over right away.

Due to the extreme poverty of the country, the people are concerned about a meal today; we cannot expect them to change their long-term outlook in a month or two. They understand the need for forests and biodiversity, but are forced, because of customs and available resources, to work for the day not the future. We spend a lot of time teaching staff, communities and collaborating organizations basic management principles and long-term planning.

Q. What is the most important reason to save the golden-crowned sifaka?

A. The logical reason to save the golden-crowned sifaka is because it is one of the 25 most endangered primate species in the world. But there are other reasons as well. We are using the sifaka as a symbol for the larger issue of lifestyle change.

Madagascar will not develop without changes in culture, mentality and the way natural resources are conserved and exploited. By saving the sifaka we will have achieved a process that allows a community to manage their natural resources, feed themselves and conserve valuable species.

Q. How have Fanamby's efforts helped this lemur to date?

A. Fanamby's efforts have helped the sifaka through: (1) Intensive awareness raising and community education programs. We have participated in festivals, created informational pamphlets and worked with children teaching songs, stories and riddles about nature and sifakas. The education campaign has been broadcast on the radio, television and in newspapers. (2) Substantial achievements have been made through implementation of sustainable community development plans. One has been completed and will help the community to save vital habitat for the sifakas.

Related story - In Focus, March 2002: Association Fanamby