chapter  9
23 Pages

Conservation politics in Madagascar: the expansion of protected areas

ByCATHERINE CORSON

In 2003, Madagascar’s former president, Marc Ravalomanana, announced his intention to triple the country’s protected areas in five years1 to cover a total of six million hectares (ha)—approximately 10 percent of the country’s territory. First known as ‘the Durban Vision’ and later entitled the Système des Aires Protégées de Madagascar (SAPM-System of Protected Areas in Madagascar), the initiative aimed to meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) target of protecting 10 percent of every country’s major biomes. The former president underscored that the new protected areas would adhere to IUCN guidelines, which endorse parks ranging from those that prohibit human entry to those that allow sustainable use; encourage consultation with potentially affected local populations; and promote co-management with a variety of public and private entities (IUCN, 2004; Dudley and Phillips, 2006). By December 2010, and despite the 2009 political crisis that ousted Ravalomanana from power, this group had created 125 new protected areas and sustainable forest management sites that, together with pre-existing parks, covered 9.4 million hectares in total (Repoblikan’i Madagasikara, 2010a, b). The president’s proclamation represented a significant international conservation success in one of the world’s highest priority biodiversity regions: it was, in the words of Conservation International (CI) President Russell Mittermeier, ‘one of the most important announcements in the history of biodiversity conservation’ (CI, 2011). It endeared Ravalomanana to conservationists for his efforts to save a country that British Prince Phillip had proclaimed, almost twenty years earlier, was ‘committing environmental suicide’, and it marked the culmination of an ongoing effort by foreign and Malagasy scientists and policy-makers to prioritize the protection of critical biodiversity ecosystems in Madagascar. To a great extent, it took over the 15-year National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), co-implemented

by foreign aid donors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—see also Chapter 7 by Kull. Advocates publicized the initiative as a ground-breaking way of establishing and managing parks-one that involved communities to a greater extent than previous approaches-and numerous policies underscored the need to consult with potentially affected communities (e.g. World Bank, 2005; Repoblikan’i Madagasikara, 2005a; Borrini-Feyerabend and Dudley, 2005b; Commission SAPM, 2006). Donors and conservation NGOs touted the program’s merits: in the words of one U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) report, the initiative ‘represent[ed] a major shift in how… protected areas are understood in Madagascar’ (USAID, 2007, p22). Yet, my research revealed limited community engagement in the initial establishment of the protected areas. While the president of Madagascar made the official decision to expand the nation’s protected areas, non-state actors from outside Madagascar-including foreign aid donors, international NGOs, consultants, and private commercial interests-shaped the boundaries, rights, and authorities associated with the new protected areas. Via active participation in the design and implementation of Madagascar’s protected area governance, these actors legitimated their claims both to forest lands themselves and to the authority to determine forest policy. Ultimately, through the promotion of private and NGO management of Madagascar’s new parks, as well as the accommodation of mining interests, the SAPM consolidated non-state and foreign access to and control over the process of determining land and resource rights, and delegitimated local claims to both resources and decision-making authority over conservation policy. I contend that while the high-profile announcement successfully mobilized funding for biodiversity conservation, the resulting political attention in fact undermined the consultation process. In fact, rather than effectively engaging rural communities, the program reinforced non-local decision-making power by creating a mechanism around which foreign conservationists, working with national government agencies, could influence Madagascar’s forest policy. In this chapter, I examine how negotiations among the Madagascar state, multilateral and bilateral donors, private sector organizations, and transnational conservation groups shaped SAPM’s implementation. Drawing on interviews representing a range of perspectives about the park expansion program and observations at public meetings, I trace the steps through which the initial protected areas were established. I begin by discussing the history and rationale behind the idea to expand Madagascar’s park system and the negotiations around the 2003 announcement. Then, I explore the everyday contestations and compromises that took place among various branches of the state, donors, conservation organizations, mining companies, and community leaders in the process of implementing the announcementspecifically by mapping, classifying, and designating resource uses in the new areas. I focus in particular on how and why only limited consultations

with rural populations took place in the process of designating initial protected areas in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena and Fandriana-Vondrozo biological corridors in Madagascar’s eastern rainforest, which were established as temporary parks in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Finally, I illustrate the potential for the initiative to not only produce ‘paper parks’—parks that exist only on paper-but to catalyze increased deforestation.2