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Article as published in National Geographic on July 29, 2019.

People in the port city of Mahajanga, Madagascar, are coming together to fight deforestation by fire. Thanks in part to initiatives like Zippo’s Fight Fire with Fire campaign in partnership with WOODCHUCK USA’s BUY ONE. PLANT ONE.® program, the local population are restoring their plant life, and the unique animals that live in it, and showing the rest of the world that the power for positive change lies in our hands.

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Photo by Shutterstock

Wildfires are an increasing, global-scale threat – with notable blazes destroying swathes of forest in the US, India, China, UK, Germany, Chile and Portugal in the last four years. Historically, Madagascar has been one of the countries hardest hit, losing 90 per cent of its forests to human-caused wildfires and land clearance.

Photo by Jack Neighbour

Early birds catch more fish: Local Malagasy fisherman head out at first light to get a decent catch, but their hauls have been getting less hefty in recent decades. However, reforestation efforts can help biodiversity return to the island—which will also bring the fish who, when young, thrive on the carbon biomass that shed leaves from replanted trees release into the water.

Photo by Peter Lamberti

Blackened stumps litter plains of land that used to be thick with trees. Charcoal production and fire-cleared farmland are seen as one of few sources of much-needed income in Madagascar. Small fires started for these purposes can easily burn out of control if the wind picks up. Now though, wildlife preservation initiatives driven by locals are providing employment alternatives that provide a good income.

Photo by Jack Neighbour

Everyone’s doing their part: Zippo partners with WOODCHUCK USA, who in turn work with replanting initiatives like Eden Reforestation Projects – a non-profit which employs and trains local Malagasy people to restore their land to its former green glory.

Photo by Jack Neighbour

Every morning, before the day gets too hot, workers with Eden Reforestation Projects negotiate the sticky mud banks of the Mahajanga estuary to plant around two thousand mangrove propagules (pod-like seedlings that grow while attached to mangrove trees). These long pods fall from the trees naturally, but can end up being swept away, eaten, or burning in the sun. Instead, they’re collected and planted in prime areas to help them thrive.

Photo by Jack Neighbour

Mangroves are able to sequester up to four times more carbon dioxide from the air than a rainforest can, which they filter into the ground. The mud they live in is anaerobic, so they absorb oxygen through vertical roots called pneumatophores (pictured).

Photo by Peter Lamberti

In Antsanitia village, local Malagasy people understand that the traditional practices of slash and burn farming agriculture for charcoal production and pasture, are contributing to a range of serious issues related to deforestation. More progressive views are taking hold as locals buy into the need for reforestation projects and learn more sustainable agricultural practices.

Photo by Peter Lamberti

Malagasy replanters cultivate dry deciduous plants to regenerate forests further inland, which are areas particularly vulnerable to fire. Having to survive in intense heat, these saplings have around a fifty per cent survival rate, until surrounding trees thicken to form a more temperate protective canopy.

Photo by Peter Lamberti

As the name suggests, biodiversity must be diverse, so seeds are sorted and allocated to ensure a good mix of species are being planted. A seed research and development department in the nursery is dedicated to finding ways of reintroducing varieties of flora into the ecosystem to help them grow successfully.

Photo by Peter Lamberti

Like all lemurs, the crowned sifaka is only found in Madagascar. As more of their habitat is burnt, they’re unable to supplement their diverse diet. They’re now an endangered species, and like animals on the brink of extinction everywhere, it’s up to us to make sure we don’t lose them for good.