Overall Objectives of the Nursery Program
- To comply with environmental permitting conditions as part of the environmental licence for the project, by making available seedlings for replanting prior to mining taking place, and to investigate which species are best suited for the rehabilitation and biodiversity program.
- To contribute to an increased awareness amongst the local communities about reforestation and the importance of the environment and conservation in general.
- Assist in improving household income for local communities by the introduction of selected species via the nurseries that can generate future income through cultivation. In this regard, the WWF has provided recommendations to Toliara Sands of what would be best suited for this purpose, with the focus being on woodlots that would generate economic returns for local communities.
- The current nursery program is providing important base data that will ensure the success of future replanting and rehabilitation work once mining commences.
History of Plantings: 10 years of Activity
- Since the beginning of the exploration programs in early 2000s, each drilling or bulk sampling program was accompanied by an EIE authorisation and a Cahier de Charge (statement of obligations).
- Drilling rehabilitation programs required a 90% regrowth, and this was readily achieved as care was taken where possible not to disturb/remove roots systems during the creation of the drilling lines.
- For the 2001-2007 drilling line programs, successful regrowth was demonstrated in yearly monitoring reports to the Office National of the Environment (ONE).
- Monitoring is ongoing for regrowth for the most recent 2012-13 drilling rehabilitation program.
Pilot Plant Trials: Bulk Sampling
- Each pilot plant trial was accompanied by an EIE authorisation and Cahier de charge.
- 2006-2007 pilot plant work was followed by immediate rehabilitation of the disturbed areas for the trial. Aim was to demonstrate the ability to regrow existing local species.
- Seeds were collected and sown in independent nurseries and replanted on site using water from company bores and using company employees. Plants were irrigated in the initial year.
- Plants were also contributed to the Ministry of Environment annual replanting event.
- Decision was made to establish formal community nurseries after the 2012/13 trial mining bulk sampling program, to increase awareness amongst local communities of environmental issues, given the rate at which deforestation had been taking place in the vicinity of the planned mining area.
- Nurseries were established at 5 local villages, in parallel with the creation of women’s associations to operate the nurseries.
- Locations were chosen to use existing water courses (such as irrigation channels located near existing villages) and near Ranobe Lake.
- Seeds of local plant species used by the local population were gathered and sown in each new nursery site.
- There has been an evolution of plant species established at the 5 community nurseries, with a peak of 49 plant species sown, comprising a mix of native and exotic tree/shrub species and some fruit trees. The Ranobe forest is the prime source of seeds for the tree and shrub species, with the villages being the source for the fruit trees.
- While there has been some variation over time in the species cultivated, the most recent plantings have typically been in the ratio of 64% forest trees/shrubs, 22% exotic trees and 14% fruit trees (having been introduced more recently during 2016).
- The womens associations are also being provided with advice on growing vegetables so that this can become part of the rehabilitation program and create future income streams for the communes.
Moving forward, once project construction begins, the nursery activity will clearly escalate to allow for the rehabilitation work and biodiversity offsets required within the terms of the environmental licence.
Nurseries: Structure and Operation
Five community nurseries have been established as follows:
- 1 in Sakabera: The Miray Nursery
- 2 in Ranobe: The Fitiavana and Milavonjy Nurseries
- 2 in Tsiafanoka: The Tongasoa and Mandrosoa Nurseries
Nurseries are supervised by Women Associations from each village, typically having 8 members and run by a nominated association president. Toliara Sands is responsible for the establishment of the nurseries, and provides the necessary labour, materials, technical assistance and equipment to do so. The company also sources the seeds for cultivation in the nurseries.
- The Womens Associations are responsible for the cultivation of the seedlings. Regular activities comprise sowing the seeds, potting seedlings, daily watering of the seedlings, as well as maintenance and cleaning of the nursery site and reporting on seedlings progress or site issues to Toliara Sands monitoring technicians.
- Replanting of seedlings at rehabilitation sites – typically an annual event during the start of the seasonal wet season (Q1 of each calendar year), and occurs over a 10-12 day period.
- Toliara Sands has agreements with the Womens Associations for the upkeep of the nurseries and to purchase “viable” seedlings for replanting, with each association having identical agreements.
- Seedlings are also made available to villages and local schools in the area.
Seedlings Production Overview
- Since the community nurseries were started in 2013, full year production has been between 23,000 and 33,000 plants per annum.
- Peak diversity of seedlings was in the 2014 planting year, during which some 49 species were seeded.
- In 2016, 64% of the seedlings cultivated were exotic species, with 22% native and 14% fruit trees.
- In 2015 some 25,248 seedlings were replanted in Trial Mining Pits 1 and 2 from the 2013 bulk sampling and pilot plant program. An additional 7,700 seedlings were provided to local villages, for community programs and for schools.
- No seedlings were replanted during the 2016 season due to the lack of rainfall.
- In 2017, 16,988 seedlings were planted in the rehabilitation areas, and 11,631 were donated to the local villages and communities.
Preparing for the 2018 Planting Season: Seedlings in June 2017 vs October 2017
Rehabilitation and Biodiversity Offset
- The nursery program is the first step in meeting the requirements of the rehabilitation and biodiversity offset agreed as part of the EIA for the project.
- Prior to the construction phase of the project an overall project offset agreement will be put in place along with the associated EMP’s (currently being compiled by CES for submission to ONE by end 2017).
- Toliara Sands will participate in a committee that will manage the area identified by the Ministry of Environment for preservation. The committee will also include key stakeholders such as local NGOs, Government Ministries, and representatives from the local community.