Have you ever heard of a Word Mangrove Day? Neither had I before having the chance to celebrate it at Honko.
World mangrove day is a day to raise awareness about the mangroves and appeared to be the biggest day at Honko of the year! Because the things here in Madagascar do not work as quickly as back home in “the west”, the Honko team, with its partners, led by Nina and Tess had started to organize the event already several months earlier. We, the volunteers were however left with the most important responsibility in the preparations, namely the painting for the welcome sign! I, Jes and Liz, were the responsible artists, and decided to paint some mangroves and birds on our piece of art. Even though there were MANY kids from the nearby villages watching, we managed to do pretty good job. We were thus ready for the next day, for the long awaited, la Journee Mondiale de la Mangrove!
The day started with welcoming our precious guests to the celebration. We realized that the event was going to be quite an big this year as 20+ of villagers arrived already long before nine when the celebration was going to start. We were happy to welcome also a group of volunteers from the Reef Doctor NGO, from local partners and finally arrived also the respected village administration persons and presidents.
When everyone had arrived it was time for the flag raising and singing of the Madagascar national anthem by all, some welcoming speeches followed and handing out of prizes for the winners of a kid’s school mural drawing competition. The two winners will have their pictures painted on their school walls and seemed very happy for the honor. The best part was still to come and after the formalities had been conducted everyone got a baby mangrove from the Honko tree nursery in their hands headed together to the mangroves to plant the new trees. Excited children running with their plants and adults digging the holes and learning how to plant new trees was an event I was very happy to be part of. All these communities together, smiles on their face creating the new forests, which hopefully will be protected in the future by these villagers. This kind of event surely help the villagers to understand the importance of planting trees and saving their own environment.
When everyone had finished planting, the day continued by running and dancing competitions to which people attended gladly as there was money prizes offered. I don’t think I have laughed that hard in a long time as I did during the dance competition when the villagers danced the traditional local dance shaking every muscle of their body in a manner I could never even think my muscles could move. After all the activities people were starting to get hungry and were provided with a nice lunch (rice and zebu sauce for everyone) and a cocktail event for the special guests (drinks, sombos).
Even with all the fun activities, the purpose of the day was most importantly to increase the knowledge of the mangroves and so Nina and Tess had organized many learning activities in funny forms such as a game show called Jeopardy that included questions on mangroves, health and nature and provided the winning team with good prizes. The highlight of the day was a show with a clown that appeared with his friends juggling and “the Mangrove man” who in his mangrove suit that was made of bottles to tell about the conservation of the mangroves. No big event ever goes as planned and the performance teams taxi brousse had broken down on the way to Honko. Luckily our not always so trustworthy Toyota, Thunder was working that day and Nina was able to pick up the group from the road and we were able to hear the story of the mangrove man and the four elements.
The very funny and educational day ended with a football match between the two villages who had made it to the finals after many games and semifinals played during the earlier weeks. We heard the yells and dancing and all the noise while still playing pin the propagule on the mangrove (a play on pin the tail on the donkey game) with the children and turned into a game for the Honko workers and volunteers after all the guests had left, and everything had been cleaned. Everyone felt very satisfied with the successful day in every way, with some beer and satisfied company!