Young men fishing in Lac Alaotra (Photo by Rachel Kramer), Madagascar Conservation & Development

An evaluation of the interactions among household economies, human health, and wildlife hunting in the Lac Alaotra wetland complex of Madagascar

Cortni Borgerson, Miadana Arisoa Vonona, Tojojady Vonona, Evelin Jean Gasta Anjaranirina, Richard Lewis, Fidy Ralainasolo, Christopher D. Golden

Abstract


In Madagascar, wildlife conservation and human food security and nutrition are deeply interconnected as many people rely on wild foods for sustenance. The Lac Alaotra wetland complex is an ecoregion which is indispensable to both the future food security of Madagascar’s people and the conservation of its endemic wildlife. The region is Madagascar’s largest rice production area, providing thousands of tons of rice and fish to the residents of one of the world’s least food secure nations. The wetland complex also provides habitat to numerous threatened species, including two Critically Endangered mammals found only in the Lac Alaotra wetland complex. Environmental managers must understand how people affect their local environment and how the environment, in turn, affects these people, their livelihoods, and their motivations for future natural resource use. Without an adequate understanding of the complex interactions of local people and their natural environment, it will be impossible to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to future unwanted changes in this complex social-ecological system. We used health assessments of 1953 residents and semi-structured interviews of members of 485 households in 19 communities within the Lac Alaotra wetland complex to investigate human-environmental interactions (including current natural resource use and hunting, and how these behaviors affect local economies and human wellbeing). Our team found that, while rates of wildlife consumption were very low throughout the region, the members of 485 surveyed households ate 975 mammals in 2013, including at least 16 Alaotra gentle lemurs. Thirteen percent of households had consumed wildlife in 2013 and less than 1% of hunted wildlife was sold. Employment rates and annual income were both higher than other regions in Madagascar, and food costs were comparatively low. Nevertheless, 98% of household experienced food insecurity, and coping mechanisms (e.g., reducing portion sizes) appear to disproportionately affect young children and non-working members of households. Half of households did not receive the minimum recommended kilocalories per person per day. We found high rates of child malnutrition consistent with national rural statistics. While wildlife consumption does not appear to have significant economic or health benefits in the communities in the Alaotra wetland complex, high food insecurity significantly increased the number of forest and marshland mammals eaten by households. To improve child nutrition and wildlife conservation, we recommend targeted interventions that improve food security.

 

Résumé

À Madagascar, la conservation de la faune, la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition humaine sont étroitement liées, car de nombreuses personnes dépendent des aliments sauvages pour leur subsistance. Le complexe des zones humides du lac Alaotra est une écorégion indispensable à la fois pour la sécurité alimentaire future de la population malgache et pour la conservation de sa faune endémique. Cette région est la plus grande zone de production de riz de Madagascar, fournissant des milliers de tonnes de riz et de poissons aux habitants de l'un des pays les plus touchés par l’insécurité alimentaire. Ce complexe des zones humides abrite également de nombreuses espèces menacées, notamment deux espèces de mammifères gravement menacées de disparition qui ne se trouvent que dans les zones humides du lac Alaotra. Les gestionnaires de l'environnement doivent comprendre comment les gens affectent leur environnement local et comment l'environnement, à son tour, affecte ces personnes, leurs moyens de subsistance et leurs motivations pour l'utilisation future des ressources naturelles. En l’absence d’une compréhension adéquate des interactions complexes entre les populations locales et leur environnement naturel, il sera impossible de prévenir, d'atténuer ou de s'adapter aux futurs changements qui pourraient être néfastes dans ce système socio-écologique complexe. Nous avons conduit des évaluations sanitaires auprès de 1953 personnes, et des entrevues semi-structurées auprès de 485 ménages dans 19 communautés du complexe des zones humides du lac Alaotra pour étudier les interactions entre l'homme et l’environnement (y compris l'utilisation actuelle des ressources naturelles et la chasse, et comment ces derniers affectent le bien-être). Bien que le taux de consommation de la faune soit très faible dans toute la région, nous avons constaté que les membres des 485 ménages qui ont fait l’objet de nos enquêtes ont consommé 975 mammifères en 2013, dont au moins 16 Hapalémurs du lac Alaotra. Treize pour cent des ménages avaient consommé des animaux endémiques au cours de l'année 2013 et moins de 1% des animaux chassés avait été vendu. Les taux d'emploi et le revenu annuel étaient tous les deux plus élevés que dans les autres régions de Madagascar, et les coûts alimentaires étaient relativement bas. Néanmoins, 98% des ménages ont souffert de l'insécurité alimentaire, et les mécanismes d'adaptation (par exemple, la réduction de la taille des portions) semblaient affecter de manière disproportionnée les jeunes enfants et les membres des ménages qui ne travaillaient pas. La moitié des ménages n'avait pas reçu les kilocalories minimales recommandées par personne et par jour. Nous avons trouvé des taux élevés de malnutrition infantile, cette situation étant conforme avec les statistiques rurales nationales. Bien que la consommation d'espèces sauvages ne semble pas avoir d'avantages économiques ou sanitaires significatifs dans les communautés du complexe des zones humides de l'Alaotra, l'insécurité alimentaire élevée a augmenté de manière significative le nombre de mammifères forestiers et des zones humides consommés par les ménages. Pour améliorer la nutrition des enfants et la conservation de la faune, nous recommandons des interventions ciblées qui améliorent la sécurité alimentaire.


Keywords


Lake Alaotra; Hunting; Bushmeat; Livelihoods; Food Insecurity; Hapalemur alaotrensis; Lemurs; Tenrecs; Newcastle disease; Non-Timber Forest Products; Natural resource use

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