WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
When asked to conjure an image of Madagascar, it’s likely that dense tree canopies, lush landscapes and chattering lemurs spring to mind.
On the surface, this image is largely accurate. A huge island - bigger than Spain, Thailand and Germany - located off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is home to some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet.
Among its inhabitants, some of which are found nowhere else, are half the world’s chameleons, an aptly-named vibrant red tomato frog and of course, dozens of species of lemur, one of which - the aye-aye - has a specially adapted long middle finger to search for food.
However, this weirdly wonderful, diverse and thriving Madagascar that we imagine has become streaked with scars from unsustainable agriculture, deforestation and mining.
A TROUBLED PARADISE
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 75% of its population living on less than $1.90 per day. This widespread poverty has led to practices such as illegal logging, illegal gemstone mining and ‘slash and burn’ agriculture, which involves cutting down vegetation to clearing large areas and then burning it.
Following these unsustainable farming practices, 90% of the country’s forest was destroyed, and when you consider that 8 in every 10 of the plants and animals in Madagascar are endemic, this statistic becomes even more terrifying.
Although these processes may provide short-term financial solutions for Madagascar’s impoverished population, they hold long-term threats for the country’s biodiversity and wildlife.
Although Madagascar’s biodiversity is under threat, it seems that the diverse plants that grow there are the key to saving it.
Renala is a social and environmental enterprise based in Madagascar that has been introducing alternatives to unsustainable agriculture. They work closely with local communities to develop economic value from underutilised trees and plants, reducing the pressure placed on endangered species, while allowing economic growth that can be sustained and managed.
This alternative way of producing income encourages communities to more effectively manage their natural resources and actively conserve the biodiversity that’s helping to economically sustain them.
An example of one of Madagascar’s underutilised trees is the rarabe tree. Growing between 15 to 30 metres in height, it’s one of the many trees endemic to Madagascar. Its seeds, which have a distinct scent similar to nutmeg, are sustainably collected by local communities and are then used by Renala to produce rarabe butter, which is sold to beauty companies - Tropic included!
Alongside its sustainable credentials, rarabe butter is also an intensely nourishing ingredient. Rich in fatty acids, it effectively soothes and softens skin, which is precisely why we use it in our Whipped Body Velvet to provide long-lasting smoothness.
It’s projects like the ones Renala have set up that offer a ray of hope for the country’s wildlife.
Madagascar is often described as the land that time forgot. However, for this beautifully diverse paradise, never has time been more precious. It is now our awareness of the threats it faces that will help to ensure it doesn’t simply become a memory.