Environmental Protection in Madagascar: An Evaluation of Program Viability

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Environmental Protection in Madagascar: An Evaluation of Program Viability

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Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs


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Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot with many species found nowhere else on the planet. The island hosts many different climates, ranging from dry forests and savannah to tropical rainforests. Much like the Galapagos Islands, the results of Madagascar’s unique evolutionary history are highly coveted among scientists and international aid organizations. Much effort has been put into conserving the island’s ecoregions, especially following its nonalignment with the Soviet Union. Aside from recent international interest for conservation in Madagascar, the country has had a functioning environmental protection program for more than a century. The Madagascar environmental program has been historically protective, either incidentally or directly, of this biodiversity at the policy level, but enforcement has often lagged behind policy declarations. Since the mid-19th century, many environmental laws sought to exclude people from using forest resources outright. Between 2002 and 2009, environmental laws in Madagascar began to shift from seeking to exclude local people from natural resources to creating contracts for sustainable natural resource use. This transition of environmental law, coupled with a presidential political crisis that began in January of 2009, has been tenuous. It’s the second time environmental law has shifted tremendously in the past two decades. During this time, the Malagasy government has had to balance economic development and environmental conservation, a difficult prospect given how tied local people are to traditional land use practices. Local communities are especially sensitive and resistant to changes that prohibit traditional economic practices if a close substitute practice that preserves perceived economic sufficiency is not available. Despite this difficulty, the Malagasy government has set three policy goals for environmental protection beginning in the 5 early 1990s and these are: the environment must be conserved, local economies must be developed, and local people must be participants in resource management (Henkels 2001-2002). Four case studies are evaluated to determine how well these policy goals are being met. Meeting these three goals is an indicator of the viability of environmental protection in Madagascar. These case studies include the Masoala Peninsula Corridor, Ranomafana National Park, the Mikea Complexe, and the Vohidrazana-Mantadia Corridor. These case studies are different in more ways than the diverse environments they represent. Social groups, governance structures, and other local contexts are unique to each case study as well. The case studies are each evaluated by four criteria, including indicators of anthropogenic disturbance, perceived economic sufficiency and opportunities available for local people, enforcement ability, and political acceptability. These criteria are based on the three policy goals of the environmental protection program. The evaluation demonstrates that the environmental protection program’s viability differs across the case studies. Much of this variability is tied to differences in enforcement ability and governance structures in each protected area, combined with local reaction to the 2009 coup d’état that unseated a democratically-elected president in favor of a military-supported autocracy. This variability carries over into the viability of the environmental program of each case study area, with the national parks of the Masoala Peninsula Corridor clearly failing and not currently viable. Ranomafana National Park is another case study that is categorically failing to achieve majority community participation and options for local economic development. Parks within the Vohidrazana-Mantadia Corridor and Mikea Complexe are still viable, with the caveat that the 2009 political crisis was likely injurious to current program viability in these cases. Out of these two case studies, the Perinet Reserve from the Vohidrazana-Mantadia Corridor and the 6 Kirindy Forest from the Mikea Complexe are the most successful and viable protected areas of Madagascar’s environmental protection program. Despite Kirindy Forest’s and Perinet Reserve’s success in meeting the three policy goals of the environmental program, applying the strategies that make them successful may not be feasible across the many protected areas of the island. Three policy recommendations are given. The first relates to China’s importation of illegal rosewood, the second relates to how strict reserves are governed, and the third relates to the need for a shift away from slash-and-burn agriculture toward modernized agriculture. There are significant barriers to the implementation of these recommendations to increase the environmental protection program’s viability, and these barriers are largely contingent upon the resolution of the ongoing political crisis in Madagascar.


In Partial Fulfillment of the Master of Science in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Degree Requirements The Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public

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Wingen, Andrew. (2011). Environmental Protection in Madagascar: An Evaluation of Program Viability. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/118610.

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