The approach

The ECDD project’s approach is based on the belief that conservation efforts need to engage and address the needs of the local population to be effective in the long term. This is especially clear on small crowded islands such as Anjouan.

We recognise that the whole landscape is used by rural populations in diverse ways, and that conservation therefore needs to address issues at the landscape level, in an integrated approach. Our actions are based on finding sustainable solutions to environmental problems, and empowering communities to make decisions and actions about their landscape and natural resources.

Before starting any actions, the ECDD project ran a participatory analysis phase with all the communities we work with, to understand the problems communities faced, and identify potential solutions. As the majority of rural Comorians rely on traditional agriculture to supply the bulk of their staple foods (crops such as banana and cassava), the major concern was sharp declines in soil fertility witnessed by farmers, leading to reduced yields.

Villagers were also very worried about deforestation, older people recount memories of the forest being only a short walk from the village when they were young, and it’s now over an hour’s walk up the mountain. Over the same period they report changes in climate, but it is the loss of fresh water supplies which is the main concern, as people have seen permanent rivers dry up and stop flowing all over the island.

Taking all this into account, the project’s landscape approach has three main components: sustainable agricultural intensification, alternative sources of revenue, and collective management of natural resources.

The need for new fields is a major pressure on the remaining forest as existing agricultural land loses its fertility and the population grows. The project offers farmers training and support in taking up new sustainable production techniques based on agroforestry and agroecology which aim to maintain fertility and prevent soil erosion. The goal is that the techniques allow farmers to produce more over the long term, so the need for new land is reduced. See agroecology section for details.

The ECDD project supports market gardening as a revenue-generating activity, and also as an activity that can reduce pressure on the forest. Diverse sources of income also make families more resilient to shocks, so the project is also looking to develop other revenue generating activities. See market gardening section for details.

Individual take up of sustainable behaviour is an important part of the approach, but is not enough on its own. Protection of communal forest resources needs a collective approach engaging all the resource users.  To this end the ECDD project is working to facilitate the development of local structures to enable community decision making and actions to protect natural resources. See natural resource management section for details.

The ECDD project also runs a programme of ecological research and monitoring to inform conservation planning in the project’s intervention zone, and more widely throughout the Comoros. See ecological research and monitoring section for details.