Thursday, June 12, 2008

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The large circular fields of irrigated sugarcane near Morondava in western Madagascar are an anomalous sight in this area more known for its baobab trees. While the average temperature in the area is ideal for sugarcane cultivation, a long dry season (April to November) makes irrigation necessary. These three images show the region before irrigation (1973), after irrigation was introduced (2000), and after further expanded irrigation (2006). Managed by a foreign company, most sugar cane grown in the area is exported. Ironically, sugar must be imported for the local market. Roughly 22 000 metric tonnes of sugar were produced here in 2006.

Baobabs, (see photo panel below) sometimes called "upside down trees" can live for up to 5 000 years. While there is only one baobab species on the African continent, Madagascar is home to seven different species. The volume of water needed for irrigating sugar cane fields may threaten the survival of these ancient trees if sugar cane farming extends into baobab areas—particularly the "allée des Baobabs" (Baobabs Boulevard, yellow arrows). Baobabs are also under threat by local community rice farming. Since August 2007 the "allée des Baobabs" has been temporarily classified as a protected area, the result of consultation between local communities, local authorities, and government authorities.
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