Instructions for doing research at Bezà Mahafaly

baobab tree Obtaining permission to do research
In order to obtain the research permit required to work at Bezà Mahafaly, you should submit your research proposal to the Department of Forestry at the School of Agronomy (ESSA-Forêts), University of Antananarivo (c/o j.ranaivonasy@gmail.com), 6 months prior to your arrival.  ESSA-Forêts oversees the evaluation of proposals and manages the approval process with the appropriate authorities (Madagascar National Parks and the Ministry of Environment and Forests).  National authorities require that one national student or researcher be associated with projects led by overseas researchers. The following information is required: – Research Proposal, including budget – CV of all participants – copy of last report, if researchers undertook previous activities at Bezà Mahafaly or other protected areas under the administration of Madagascar National Parks.  A preliminary report must be submitted to the Coordinator of the Monitoring Team at the end of your field work, and then a final report 10 months afterwards to ESSA-Forêts (submitted through j.ranaivonasy@gmail.com).  Please consult the Madagascar National Parks web site (http://www.parcs-madagascar.com/) for the research fee, payable in advance in Antananarivo.   The camping fee of $5.00/night/researcher is payable upon arrival at the Field Station to the Monitoring Team Coordinator.

Helpful resources for research
The expertise of local Monitoring Team members is among Bezà Mahafaly’s greatest assets.  Monitoring Team members are available to offer advice and help, but arrangements must be made in advance for sustained field assistance.  A marked, 100m-based grid of trails facilitates movement and location in the eastern part of the Reserve.  The comprehensive herbarium, extensive invertebrate collections, and an osteological collection are well-curated and permit rapid identifications at species level.  A special issue of Malagasy Nature was published in 2016 that reports on the long-term ecological and socio-economic monitoring at Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve.  The intention is to make available detailed long-term field records covering up to 25 years of information.  Terms and conditions for access to these records are under development. ESSA-Forêts will help with logistical arrangements before and during your stay at Bezà Mahafaly. A pdf of a Mahafaly dictionary, the dialect spoken in the region, may be downloaded here.

Facilities
At the Field Station, you will share a squat toilet and washing facilities with other researchers. There is a common dining room, and an open, thatched space for meetings. Solar panels provide a limited amount of electricity for computers and an overhead projector for teaching. Local transport is on foot or by oxen-cart.   Some researchers purchase a motorcycle to travel longer distances.  There is a car based at the camp in some months, but not permanently.  Guaranteed access to a car can be arranged, for a fee, with advance notice.

Phone and internet service is intermittently available at Bezà Mahafaly through a partnership between local communities, Madagascar National Parks, ESSA-Forests and Orange Madagascar, one of the leading phone companies in Madagascar.

What to bring
The Field Station is located just inside the Reserve.  You will need to bring your own camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, flashlight etc.) .  It is highly recommended that you also bring a hat, cap, sunglasses and sunscreen. Good walking shoes and a raincoat are helpful, especially during the rainy season.  You will need to bring your own food provisions and bottled mineral water or water filter for your stay. Unfiltered well water is available for washing and laundry.  Food can be supplemented from the local weekly market, but this should not be counted on for core provisions.  More variety is offered by the shops and weekly market in Betioky, 35 km away.