Communist Madagascar in the 1970s: an island in the Indian Ocean with one of the most extraordinary and diverse pharmacopeia in the world.
But under an oppressive regime, people struggled socially and financially. In part, they struggled to get medicines and so returned to traditional remedies that had been known and understood for generations. These medicines, extracted from indigenous plants, were efficacious for aspects of health and wellness, but also for beauty. Thousands of years of cultural knowledge became current lore, moving back into common use. For other reasons, in this time Madagascar also came under severe environmental stress – biodiversity was under constant threat and many people were affected as their natural environment began to suffer.
This is where Stephan Helary grew up. Fascinated by the intrinsic value of the unique plants, and brought up by a passionate and liberal family, his education in the outdoors and nature was supported by a rigorous love for science and biology. During these formative years, he became aware of the necessity of protecting biodiversity but also the social and economic challenges of doing so. In one of the poorest country in the world, preserving natural resources was glaringly obvious.