A conservation plan for Madagascar


Expand protected areas

As many areas as possible should be protected in Madagascar. If protected areas can be developed in a manner to generate income for local communities, an increasing number of parks should theoretically create more economic benefits for a greater share of the population.

Increase surveillance of and patrols in protected areas.

This can be done at reduced cost if local communities benefit from the success of the park. If locals have a vested interest (i.e., are compensated via entrance fees, hired as guides, make handicrafts to sell to tourists, and learn to value their ecosystem for the services it can provide), they will want to watch the park so that the source of their income is not diminished. Community surveillance is the most effective way to patrol a protected area, though it will probably be necessary to have park staff conduct patrols as well. Guides should also be trained to keep watch for activities that are damaging to the ecosystem and report suspicious activities at park headquarters.

Build research facilities for training Malagasy scientists and guides

Madagascar needs to build its intellectual capital to grow its economy and make the best use of the country's resources. There need to be further studies of endemic species (many just have a name and a location, and new species are being discovered every year) for both pure research reasons and potential commercial applications. Improved crop yields and reduced erosion could also be possible with future research.

Establish programs that promote sustainable use

Programs that promote sustainable use are key to elevating the standard of living for people living around Madagascar's protected areas. Not all members of a community will see the direct benefits from employment in the service or production sector, and many people will still rely on traditional use of the natural resources around them. These resources must be used in a more effective manner to maximize productivity and minimize the impact on the environment.

Compensate displaced people

As more protected areas are set aside, it is inevitable that some people may be asked to move. It is important that these people are compensated for abandoning their existing livelihood and homes. While direct cash payouts is an option, a better strategy is providing these displaced people with long-term income possibilities through training in better agricultural techniques or alternative crops.

Promote ecotourism

Ecotourism is perhaps the best hope for developing Madagascar's economy. Planners should seek to minimize the environmental impact and maximize the benefits for local communities.

Ensure economic success does not result in increased deforestation

As Malagasy begin to reap benefits from conservation-related activities, it is important that they not reinvest this income in activities that result in further deforestation. Traditionally in many villages, the more money someone made, the more money was put back into land-clearing. Rural banks and savings institutions are virtually unknown in many parts of Madagascar. Such facilities, which would enable both saving and lending, could rapidly change the lives of millions of Malagasy through increased entrepreneurship and the ability to put away money for the future.

Encourage entrepreneurship

Encouraging entrepreneurship through such a microcredit strategy could pay significant dividends for the Malagasy economy as a whole. Studies in other developing countries have found that entrepreneurial skills among the poor are actually quite high when they are given access to capital. Default rates are typically quite low as well (do the poor have a greater respect for money?). Stimulating entrepreneurship through small low-cost loans is possibly a better approach than handouts, which may do little more than breed dependency and reduce human dignity.

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