in Madagascar

Madagascar’s poor pay the costs of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor REDD project in Madagascar

A recent study looks at the costs to local communities of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor REDD project in eastern Madagascar. “Conservation restrictions result in very significant costs to forest communities,” the study concludes.

While some households have received compensation, the authors of the study “conservatively estimate that more than 50% of eligible households (3,020 households) have not”. But comparing the compensation received to the costs to communities, the authors argue that no one was fully compensated.

The paper, titled, “Who bears the cost of forest conservation?”, is published in the peer-reviewed and Open Access journal PeerJ. The authors are Mahesh Poudyal (Bangor University), Julia P.G. Jones (Bangor University), O. Sarobidy Rakotonarivo (University of Stirling), Neal Hockley (Bangor University), James M. Gibbons (Bangor University), Rina Mandimbiniaina (Université d’Antananarivo), Alexandra Rasoamanana (Université d’Antananarivo), Nilsen S. Andrianantenaina (Université d’Antananarivo) and Bruno S. Ramamonjisoa (Université d’Antananarivo).

The Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor REDD project

The Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ) covers an area of 382,000 hectares linking several existing protected areas in eastern Madagascar. It is also a REDD pilot project run by Conservation International.

A larger Conservation International project called “Sustainable Landscapes in Eastern Madagascar” consists of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor and the Ambositra Vondrozo Forest Corridor in central Madagascar. Funding comes from the European Investment Bank, Althelia Ecosphere, and the Green Climate Fund.

A 2016 paper by the same team of researchers found that safeguards were failing the local people affected by the project, and that the poorest of the poor were least likely to receive compensation for the costs they face because of the project.

In 2016, tens of thousands of people moved into the area after sapphires were discovered under the forest. Thousands of acres of forest were cut down. In April 2017, REDD-Monitor sent some questions to Conservation International about the sapphire rush and the impacts on the forests and communities in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor. I’m still waiting for a reply.

A recent DW Documentary from Madagascar shows that the sapphire rush is still ongoing.

“It’s poor people in far away places having to change their livelihoods”

In their recent paper, the authors describe the livelihoods of the people living in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor:

People living around the CAZ forest are extremely poor. Food security is low: the median number of months for which families have enough to eat was just seven. Household assets are low: the median household owns just 0.05 Tropical Livestock Units (equivalent to five chickens). The vast majority of people live in small, poor quality houses of just one or two rooms made of local materials and have insufficient access to light. Most household heads are illiterate or have less than two years of schooling. A total of 90% percent of people in the study area are dependent on swidden agriculture for their livelihood. A total of 20% of respondents have obtained land directly from clearing the forest (others have bought or inherited cleared land), although this varies between sites. Only 37% of households have access to irrigated rice fields.

In an interview with The Independent, Professor Julia Jones, one of the research team, highlights the structural inequity of REDD:

“Instead of you and me having to fly less, and drive less, and people in cities around the world having to live their western lifestyles less – it’s poor people in far away places having to change their livelihoods.”

Another member of the research team, Dr Sarobidy Rakotonarivo, a Malagasy researcher at the University of Stirling, told The Independent that in addition to not being able to grow food to feed their family, local people face the impacts of conservation enforcement:

“I have heard firsthand reports of people being arrested and held in deplorable conditions for cultivating on forest fallow which they consider ancestral land. In a country where jail conditions are inhumane, this shows how desperate people are.”

Land rights matter

The authors ask whether conservation in low-income countries can be achieved without the poorest bearing the costs. Their answer is that resolving land tenure is vital, including recognising and respecting customary rights.

They highlight two benefits for local communities if local peoples’ rights over forest are legally recognised:

  • If their rights over forest are legally recognised, local people are in a stronger position to argue for effective compensation, and the transaction costs of negotiating fair compensation would be reduced. The possibility of a “resources rush” is also reduced.
  • Weakly enforced state ownership undermines customary tenure and can increase deforestation. If local people cannot prevent others from clearing their forest fallows, a perverse incentive is created to clear the land more often, resulting in shorter fallows and land degradation.

But under Madagascar’s forest code mature tree fallows are considered state land, and formal tenure cannot be granted to local people. Many of the people living in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor area are inside protected areas. Under Madagascar’s current tenure laws they are not eligible to formalise their tenure.

“Too little received by too few”

The authors estimate that the local opportunity costs of conservation restrictions in the Ankenihemy-Zahamena Corridor amount to US$13-15 million. Yet the project plans to spend less than US$425,000 on compensating households.

The authors conclude that their research shows that,

the local people, some of the poorest in the world, have lost out as a result of the protected area establishment, and that compensation provided to mitigate these costs has been inadequate. Too little has been received by too few and it has not reached those most in need.


PHOTO Credit: p4ges newsletter 7: March 2018.

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