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Impact of cyclone Batsirai on the Bamboo Lemur program

On the night of February 5 to 6, 2022, Cyclone Batsirai hit severely the southeast of Madagascar, crossing the Vatovavy region where Helpsimus is located.

© &

This high-intensity tropical cyclone caused extensive damage, forcing nearly 2,700 people to flee their homes in the rural commune of Tsaratanana.

The wooden houses whose roof is made of Ravenala leaves did not resist winds of more than 170 km / h with peaks at 235 km / h.

© Impact Madagascar

The heavy rains generated by the cyclone caused severe flooding in some villages. The water thus rose up to 3 m in Sahofika.

Village of Sahofika © Helpsimus

Many roads were damaged or blocked by falling trees further isolating many villages.

School infrastructure such as schools in Sahofika and Ambodigoavy were sometimes heavily affected.

School of Sahofika © Helpsimus

The most dramatic aspect concerns the crops since many of them have been destroyed.

It is a real disaster for the inhabitants of the commune of Tsaratanana who, for the most part, practice subsistence agriculture.

Finally, the groups of lemurs, in particular the greater bamboo lemurs, have dispersed, requiring closer monitoring.

We are currently implementing an action plan to deal with the consequences of this cyclone and limit the pressures on the habitat of lemurs which will inevitably increase in the weeks/months to come.

It consists of :

  • Providing humanitarian aid to the population: in February, we distributed emergency assistance (food & equipment) to more than 600 families in our 18 partner villages, which will be supplemented as needs are identified.

© Impact Madagascar

  • Supporting the restart of crops around our partner villages: apart from the rice fields which withstood the cyclone relatively well (but whose yields will still be very low because of the floods), all the other crops have been destroyed. We have distributed seeds (beans & vegetables) to 700 families who will also benefit from increased support from our agronomists. In addition, we have extended the guarding of the rice fields to our entire area of intervention: the team of guards is now made up of 68 people.

Guarding © S. Meys

  • Supporting the restart of the fish farming program: most of the fish ponds have been flooded causing the escape of fish. Fifteen of them were completely destroyed. In addition, repairs will certainly have to be done on many bassins (under evaluation). Fingerlings will be distributed to the 65 beneficiaries of the program whose support will also be reinforced.
  • Breaking the isolation of the most remote villages caused by the destruction of tracks and bridges: the last bridge on the track before Vohitrarivo was destroyed. This bridge is being rebuilt (in concrete this time).

© Helpsimus

  • Supporting our partner villages so that they limit the pressure on natural resources: material has been distributed to help rebuild houses (nails and annealed wire).
  • Reinforcing the protection of the lemur habitat: it includes evaluating the impact of the cyclone on the forest fragments, increasing the controls on logging and supporting the village associations to control the location of the cuts and their quantity.
  • Reinforcing the monitoring of lemurs: the cyclone caused a significant dispersal of lemurs, in particular the greater bamboo lemurs (count: 600 before the cyclone vs. 400 after). The animals have not disappeared, they are just very scattered. And since they are also very mobile, locating and counting them is much more complicated. However, we expect a reorganization of the groups which could be more numerous after than before the cyclone due to the movement of the animals. The team of guides has been reinforced, in particular for monitoring the greater bamboo lemurs. Finally, we are preparing a study of the impact of the cyclone on the groups of the greater bamboo lemurs.

© S. Meys

  • Restarting the forest restoration program / the community reforestation program and rehabilitate the plots of the beneficiaries : in 2021, our 3 nurseries produced more than 22,000 seedlings, including 7,000 seedlings of forest species, 20% of which were destroyed by the cyclone. The team of nurserymen was reinforced by the gardeners after the destruction of the school vegetable gardens.
  • Supporting children’s education: the school canteens will continue to operate after the Easter holidays until the summer holidays. Damage to schools will be repaired (see below).

© S. Meys

In the commune of Tsaratanana, 27 primary schools and 2 colleges were completely destroyed by the cyclone.

Overall, the 14 permanent classrooms built by Helpsimus withstood the cyclone well.

The damage to our infrastructure is listed below.

In Sahofika:

  • The office of the VOI Samivar was submerged during the floods and the door washed away.

© Helpsimus

  • The condition of the school canteen kitchen (built in 2016), on which there were already repairs to be made, has worsened.

© Helpsimus

  • The camp, made of wood and leaves from Ravenala, was destroyed by the cyclone. It will soon be rebuilt with slightly more permanent infrastructure: a semi-hard kitchen and a refectory with a sheet metal roof.

© Helpsimus

  • The entire electrical installation of the school must be replaced: the technical building (where are the batteries), the power sockets, etc. were submerged.
  • The wooden school building built in 2013 by Helpsimus was submerged by the floods. In bad condition before the cyclone, this building is now in an advanced state of disrepair.

© Helpsimus

In Vohitrarivo :

  • Two footbridges (built above the rice fields for the greater bamboo lemurs) were destroyed in the territory of groups 1 and 2.

© Helpsimus

In Ambohipo :

  • The list of repairs to be done on the school building built in 2018 (on which numerous damages were noted in December 2021) has lengthened after the cyclone: floor to be redone, holes to be plugged in the walls (including 1 resulting from attempted break-in), painting, etc.

© D. Roullet

  • The ridges of the school building built in 2021 were blown out by the strong winds which also moved the purlins of the frame. The roof, which was thus severely weakened, is being repaired.

© Helpsimus

  • The wind bent sheet metal from the roof of the school kitchen (under repair).

© Helpsimus

In Ambodigoavy :

  • The camp at Volotara suffered significant damage (the refectory was blown out by the winds). It will soon be rebuilt with slightly more permanent infrastructures (like in Sahofika).

© Helpsimus

Significant damage was also observed in the schools of Sahofika and Ambodigoavy on buildings that were not built by Helpsimus:

  • The main school building in Sahofika was submerged during the floods caused by the cyclone (see photo above).
  • A wall (made of earth) of one of the school buildings in Ambodigoavy school is in danger of collapsing (due to water) and the roof is rusty. The building is old and dangerous. A new permanent school building will be built in 2022.

© Helpsimus

On February 22, a second cyclone crossed the Vatovavy region: fortunately, the cyclone Emnati did not significantly increase the toll of the cyclone Batsirai.

Cyclone Emnati © &

We will not be able to protect the lemurs and their habitat without strengthening support for local populations and guaranteeing them a minimum of food security.

We have been able to start several of the activities described in the action plan thanks to the support already obtained from several donors whom we thank warmly.