Port of Call
Ehoala, Madagascar: Tree Planting with the Local Community, Jan 2, 2017
Rivo Robinson gives a lecture on environmental conservation and tree planting to Peace Boat participants.
On the second day of 2017, Peace Boat docked in Madagascara destination many participants had been eagerly awaiting. A group of 30 participants made the three-hour journey across breathtaking landscapes to the village of Ranomainty, where they planted baobab tree saplings with the local community. Madagascar has suffered deforestation over a significant area of its land masseach year one per cent of its remaining forests are levelled. Peace Boat participants hoped to make a small contribution to environmental conservation on the island, and in so doing contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 "Life on Land".

Peace Boat participants were welcomed with big smiles in Ranomainty village. .
Participants were accompanied on the programme by Rivo Robinson of Volunteer Southern Cross Japan Association (VSJA). VSJA was established in 1990 to enable the sustainable co-existence of human life and nature in the spiny forest of southern Madagascar, which is home to unique species of plants including the iconic baobab trees. Ninety per cent of the flora and fauna in this forest is found nowhere else in the world. VSJA aims to restore and conserve natural landscapes and ecosystems, control the spread of non-indigenous plant species, and provide environmental education to villagers.

Nakajima Misaki, a Peace Boat participant, dances to traditional Madagascan music with the villagers. .
On route to Ranomainty, participants called at a tree nursery near the town of Fort Dauphin, where they examined various species of plants and trees and listened to a short lecture on nature conservation and tree planting. Mr. Robinson, a fluent Japanese speaker, explained the unique characteristics of the baobab trees; participants were interested to learn that over a dozen species exist worldwide, more than half of which can only be found in Madagascar. He also highlighted the environmental degradation caused by non-indigenous plant species, such as Eucalyptus which was originally brought to the island from Australia.

Villagers teach a Peace Boat participant how to play the Madagascan guitar.
Upon arrival in Ranomainty, participants were greeted by the villagers with traditional music and cheers. Everyone engaged in a lively exchange which included dancing, singing and playing musical instruments. Participants enjoyed a delicious lunch of baked chicken, fried shrimps, meat patties, rice and salads, which provided a much-needed burst of energy for the rest of the day's activities. After the meal, participants offered the villagers support goodsmainly children's clotheswhich had previously been collected in Japan in response to the needs of the local people as part of the United People's Alliance .

A Peace Boat staff member plants a baobab tree with the people of Ranomainty village.
Together, local villagers and Peace Boat participants carried 64 baobab tree saplings to a nearby location and planted their roots firmly into the ground. Ino Maiko, a Japanese participant who was deeply moved by the experience, described how she had never imagined the daily struggles faced by such communities. Nakajima Misaki, another participant, also shared her thoughts: "Although I only planted one small tree today, it makes me happy to imagine it growing large over years to come. I am glad I could make this small contribution to protecting the beautiful nature of our world."