Ifaty, Madagascar, December 2010


At the Ifaty tournament in Madagascar, a photo alone can summarize the spirit of the Eco-Sys Action Football Cup (EAFC).


An unusual penalty shootout; the spectators form an almost perfect circle around the goal and the players, united by the same emotion on this “football planet”; the fervor mounts, the final will be determined by the final goal; the player will soon approach in the burning hot sand, the ball will fly, too high, too long, he will miss the target; but it is not important, it is the beauty of the sport in a cliché, the victory goes to the tortoises and nature, the weekend, perhaps more. Today, there are only winners.




After Kenya (Cheetah Tournament) and French Guiana (Black Cayman Tournament), it is to Madagascar, treasure of the world's biodiversity, that the Eco-Sys Action Football Cup (EAFC) headed. After a very successful tournament in the capital city, Antananarivo, Ifaty welcomed the EAFC Sokake Tortoise Cup.




In partnership with Salamandra Nature, organizer of the two tournaments, the Eco-Sys Action Football Cup (EAFC) hopes to create awareness amongst the local population regarding the destruction of their rich natural resources.

Less known than lemurs, the Radiated Tortoise (Asterochelys radiata) isone of the jewels of Madagascar's natural heritage. Unfortunately, this tortoise is critically endangered due to habitat destruction, local consumption of its flesh and increasing demand from the Asian market.


Gwen Rakotovao, Miss Madagascar 2009, and Sophie Perrichon, representative of Paris-St-Germain women's team, were the ambassadors of these two tournaments. Many renowned artists offered a quality musical program, creating an atmosphere that was as festive as it was athletic. The tournament hymn to nature was written by Bana and performed by Hanta and Dama (Mahaleo).


The EAFC is the athletic party for the environment, and in Madagascar nature is an integral part of daily life. Personally if I had to summarize in one word this voyage to Madagascar, it would be the four letter word WOOD.


Between Antananarivo and Ifaty I saw so much wood: on its way to be sold, on enormous trucks, stretching the length of the road, but healthy forests and other birds, very few.


Malagasy fauna and flora are subject to extreme pressure. Today, only 10% of Madagascar's original forests remain and each year an additional 300 000 hectares disappears. At this rapid rate of deforestation an ecological and human catastrophe is inevitable. In addition to the irreversible disappearance of endemic species, the island is experiencing appalling erosion rates, soil depletion, silting up of rivers, and climate modification which is resulting in accelerated desertification that is becoming more and more evident.


In the space of two weekends with local and national communication (activities, newspapers, magazines, radio, tv, internet), the radiated tortoise became the ambassador of a mistreated environment. Forests disappear, it as well, us as well.


Without trees, Madagascar will become an arid region where water will come too abundantly or too rarely depending on the season and the year. This dramatic phenomena can already be seen in other African countries, like Ethiopia, where the forest has been slashed. I was there so I can confirm it. Madagascar could then, very quickly, become the same symbol of international climate change and an exceptional waste of biodiversity.


Solutions exist (stop slash-and-burn agriculture, protect the remaining forests, alternatives to charcoal, establish ecological corridors, etc.), but demand a general and almost immediate realization of the gravity of the situation. Too few Malagasy understand that their future is linked to that of nature. While the locals are very proud of their environment they do not realize the gravity of the situation and are even ignorant of their true national riches. It is not entirely too late to act, but the weight of this last minute response rests on the shoulders of the generation of children who took so much pleasure playing during the EAFC, my little friends, your children!


The impact of the EAFC cannot be measured in such a short period. These tournaments need to perpetuate, extend into other regions, and above all, include the possibility to establish projects in the area and prove to the local populations that protection is more profitable than destruction.


To do this Eco-Sys Action has exactly the same vision as Salamandra Nature and hopes to bring together a maximum number of associated players. The eco-village during the tournament in Antananarivo demonstrated this desire to work together. With no religious or political affiliations, Eco-Sys Action and myself are an open door to people from all background to share and act. Solutions must be local and integrated. Madagascar must take its destiny in its hands without waiting for foreign aid. This country has extraordinary diversity and richness, yet very often in the discussions I heard there was a lack of confidence and chronic discouragement. Who then can create the momentum necessary to save the natural heritage?


My response, from the perspective of a little sparrow can seem both candid and strong as you can tell from above: children. They have the greatest influence on adults. They also have the power to say “stop” and to be heard. But for them to do this we must help, to make their daily life easier, to explain to them, to positively educate them. The environment, which is currently not their principal worry since daily life is much too complicated, must become their strength. It is the power of the Malagasy youth that will decide the destiny of Madagascar and that will inspire other children in other countries.


We have a duty to provide the tools to allow a generation of children to not only be today's inspiration, but to be tomorrow's decision-makers.


Complete pdf file.

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