Mitsinjo’s environmental education program

Improving livelihoods, training para-ecologists, enthralling children: Earning trust for effective community-based biodiversity conservation in Andasibe, eastern Madagascar

Rainer Dolch, Jean-Noël Ndriamiary, Tianasoa Ratolojanahary, Mad Randrianasolo, Irène Augustine Ramanantenasoa


The rainforests of eastern Madagascar are shrinking due to population growth, poverty-driven land degradation and widespread ignorance of ecological dynamics. This has resulted in large-scale transformation and fragmentation of these forests, threatening their unique biodiversity. Many of these problems are also manifest in and around the village of Andasibe. Based on the example of Association Mitsinjo, and drawing from more than a decade of experience of community-based natural resource management in Andasibe, we highlight the challenges and successes of a community-run conservation organization that builds trust through a holistic approach resting on five building blocks: (i) management transfer of natural resources to the local community, (ii) community-based nature tourism, (iii) training of para-scientists, (iv) rainforest restoration and improving local livelihoods, and (v) environmental education. This has resulted in the creation and legal protection of two community-run reserves, Analamazaotra and Torotorofotsy, accompanied by ecological monitoring programs. We illustrate how handing over responsibilities to local communities can be a promising approach to conserving natural resources and biodiversity in Madagascar and elsewhere.



La superficie des forêts tropicales de l’est de Madagascar diminue avec la croissance démographique, la dégradation des terres par effet de la pauvreté, ainsi que par l'ignorance générale des interrelations écologiques. Tout cela a abouti à une transformation profonde et étendue ainsi qu’à la fragmentation de ces forêts qui menacent leur biodiversité. Ces problèmes globaux sont pour la plupart rencontrés à la périphérie du village d'Andasibe. Ici, l’exemple de l'Association Mitsinjo est présenté avec plus d’une décennie d’expérience en gestion communautaire des ressources naturelles à Andasibe. Sont ainsi exposés les défis et les succès d'une organisation de conservation gérée par la communauté qui gagne la confiance à travers une approche posée sur cinq piliers : (i) le transfert de gestion des ressources naturelles à la communauté locale, (ii) l’écotourisme à base communautaire, (iii) la formation de para-scientifiques, (iv) la restauration de la forêt tropicale humide en augmentant les moyens de subsistance des gens vivant sur la périphérie, et (v) l’éducation environnementale. Les actions entreprises ont abouti à la création et la protection efficace de deux réserves gérées par la communauté, accompagnées de programmes de surveillance écologique. Grâce à la responsabilisation des collectivités locales dans la protection de la biodiversité, elles montrent une fierté des actions entreprises qui est un indice prometteur pour la conservation des ressources naturelles et de la biodiversité à Madagascar et ailleurs.


CBNRM; Andasibe; management transfer; nature tourism; para-scientists; ecosystem services; livelihoods; environmental education; transfert de gestion; biodiversity; biodiversité;

Full Text:



Andreone, F., Carpenter, A.I., Cox, N., du Preez, L., Freeman, K., et al. 2008. The challenge of conserving amphibian megadiversity in Madagascar. PLoS Biology 6(5): e118. (doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060118)

ANGAP. 1995. Liste des plantes d’Andasibe. Association Nationale pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées. Unpubl. Report.

Angelsen, A. and Wunder, S. 2003. Exploring the forest-poverty link: key concepts, issues and research implications. CIFOR Occasional Paper No.40. Bogor, Indonesia, CIFOR. (doi:10.17528/cifor/001211)

Aquino, A. 2008. Madagascar: the Mantadia Biological Corridor REDD/AR project, BioCarbonFund Training, February, 8th 2008. Available at

Ballet, J., Rakotohariniaina, B., Ramaroalison, S., Randrianalijaona, M. & Tolizara, C. 2011. Vulnérabilité économique des populations et vulnérabilité des ressources forestières: le cas d’Andasibe. In: Vulnérabilité, Insécurité Alimentaire et Environnement à Madagascar. J. Ballet & M. Randrianalijaona (eds.), pp. 159–190. Editions L’Harmattan, Paris.

Cliquennois, N. 2007. Aperçu général de la diversité des phasmes de Madagascar (Insecta, Phasmatodea). Le bulletin d’Arthropoda 32: 3–16.

Coomes, O. T., Takasaki, Y. and Rhemtulla, J. M. 2011. Land-use poverty traps identified in shifting cultivation systems shape long-term tropical forest cover. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, 34: 13925–13930. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1012973108)

Coutinho, J. B. 2007. Livelihoods, Conservation and Ethical Trade: A Baseline Study of Forest Margin Communities in the Commune of Andasibe, Eastern Madagascar. Unpubl. M.Sc. Thesis. School of the Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wales, Bangor.

Dolch, R. 2008. Sustainable natural resource management. The case of the Analamazaotra Forest Station, Andasibe, Madagascar. Monografie del Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino 45: 377–384.

Dolch, R. 2012. Species composition and relative sighting frequency of carnivores in the Analamazaotra rainforest, eastern Madagascar. Small Carnivore Conservation 44: 44–47.

Dolch, R., Ratolojanahary, T., Randrianasolo, H., Rasolofoharivelo, T., King, T. and Randrianarimanana, L. 2013. Torotorofotsy–Ihofa. In: Lemurs of Madagascar: A Strategy for Their Conservation 2013–2016. C. Schwitzer, R. A. Mittermeier, N. Davies, S. Johnson, J. Ratsimbazafy, J. Razafindramanana, et al. (eds.), pp 71–73. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, Conservation International, Bristol, UK.

Dolch, R., Fiely, J. L., Ndriamiary, J. N., Rafalimandimby, J., Randriamampionona, R., Engberg, S. E. and Louis Jr., E. E. 2008. Confirmation of the greater bamboo lemur, Prolemur simus, north of the Torotorofotsy wetlands, eastern Madagascar. Lemur News 13: 14–17.

Dransfield, J. and Beentje, H. 1995. The Palms of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and The International Palm Society, Surrey, UK.

Dressler, W., Büscher, B., Schoon, M., Brockington, D., Hayes, T., et al. 2010. From hope to crisis and back again? A critical history of the global CBNRM narrative. Environmental Conservation 37, 1: 5–15. (doi:10.1017/S0376892910000044)

Edmonds, D., Rakotoarisoa, J. C., Dolch, R., Pramuk, J., Gagliardo, R., et al. 2012. Building capacity to implement conservation breeding programs for frogs in Madagascar: Results from year one of Mitsinjo’s amphibian husbandry research and captive breeding facility. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 5, 3: 57–69.

Ferguson, B. 2009. REDD comes into fashion in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 4, 2: 132–137. (doi:10.4314/mcd.v4i2.48654)

Fiely, J. L. 2010. Teaching and Leading through Science Research Education in Andasibe, Madagascar. Final Report to the Rufford Small Grants Foundation. Available at

Giacoma, C., Sorrentino, V., Rabarivola, C. and Gamba, M. 2010. Sex differences in the song of Indri indri. International Journal of Primatology 31, 4: 539–551. (doi:10.1007/s10764-010-9412-8)

Glaw, F. and Vences. M. 2007. A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Frosch-Verlag, Köln, Germany.

Gorenflo, L. J., Corson, C., Chomitz, K. M., Harper, G., Honzák, M. and Özler, B. 2011. Exploring the association between people and deforestation in Madagascar. In: Human Population: Its Influences on Biological Diversity. R. P. Cincotta and L. J. Gorenflo (eds.), pp 197–221. Springer Ecological Studies 214, Berlin & Heidelberg, Germany. (doi:10.1007/978-3-642-16707-2_11)

Gruber, J. S. 2010. Key principles of community-based natural resource management: a synthesis and interpretation of identified effective approaches for managing the commons. Environmental Management 45: 52–66. (doi:10.1007/s00267-008-9235-y)

Hockley, N. J. and Andriamarovololona, M. M. 2007. The economics of community forest management in Madagascar: is there a free lunch? USAID, Washington, D.C. accessed 29 March 2015.

Hume D. 2006. Swidden agriculture and conservation in eastern Madagascar – stakeholder perspectives and cultural belief systems. Conservation and Society 4: 287–303.

Irwin, M. T., Wright, P. C., Birkinshaw, C., Fisher, B. L., Gardner, C. J., et al. 2010. Patterns of species change in anthropogenically disturbed forests of Madagascar. Biological Conservation 143, 10: 2351–2362. (doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2010.01.023)

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2014.2. Available at

Janssen, T. and Rakotondrainibe, F. 2008. A revision of the indusiate scaly tree ferns (Cyatheaceae, Cyathea subgen. Alsophila sect. Alsophila) in Madagascar, the Comoros and the Seychelles. Adansonia 30, 2: 221–376.

Jensen, O. 2010. Social mediation in remote developing world tourism locations – the significance of social ties between local guides and host communities in sustainable tourism development. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 18, 5: 615–633. (doi:10.1080/09669581003615590)

Junge, R. E., Barrett, M. A. and Yoder, A. D. 2011. Effects of anthropogenic disturbance on Indri (Indri indri) health in Madagascar. American Journal of Primatology 73, 7: 632–642. (doi:10.1002/ajp.20938)

Kellert, S. R., Mehta, J. N., Ebbin, S. A. and Litchtenfeld, L. L. 2000. Community natural resource management: promise, rhetoric, and reality. Society and Natural Resources 13, 8: 705–715. (doi:10.1080/089419200750035575)

King, T., Ravaloharimanitra, M., Randrianarimanana, H. L., Rasolofoharivelo, M. T. and Chamberlan, C. 2013. Community-based conservation of critically endangered lemurs at the Sakalava and Ranomainty sites within the Ankeniheny-Zahamena rainforest corridor, eastern Madagascar. Lemur News 17: 63–70.

Kremen, C., Cameron, A., Moilanen, A., Phillips, S. J., Thomas, C. D., et al. 2008. Aligning conservation priorities across taxa in Madagascar with high-resolution planning tools. Science 320, 5873: 222–226. (doi:10.1126/science.1155193)

Louvel, M. 1909. La forêt d’Analamazaotra. Bulletin Economique de Madagascar 9: 313–349. Available at

Martin, N., Shoch, D., Dushku, A., Pearson, T. and Grimland. S. 2004. Measurement and Monitoring Plan for the Mantadia-Andasibe Corridor Restoration and Conservation Carbon Project, Madagascar. Unpubl. Report. Winrock International Report to CELB of Conservation International, Arlington, VA, USA.

Newsome, D. and Hassell, S. 2014. Tourism and conservation in Madagascar: The importance of Andasibe National Park. Koedoe 56, 2: Art. #1144. (doi:10.4102/koedoe.v56i2.1144)

Paiva, A. and Randrianarisoa, J. 2010. Partnership structures and project management in two reforestation initiatives: Emas, Brazil and TAMS, Madagascar. In: What is Needed to Make REDD+ Work on the Ground? Lessons Learned from Pilot Forest Carbon Initiatives. C. A. Harvey, O. Zerbock, S. Papageorgiou and A. Parra (eds.) p 32. Conservation International, Arlington, VA, USA.

Pawliczek, M. and Mehta, H. 2008. Ecotourism in Madagascar: How a sleeping beauty is finally awakening. In: Responsible Tourism – Critical Issues for Conservation and Development. A. Spenceley (ed.), pp 41–68. Earthscan, London.

Pirot, P. 2006. Olatra – Champignons d’Andasibe (Madagascar). Association Mitsinjo. Série Biodiversité d’Andasibe-Périnet (Madagascar) 1. Available at

Pollini J. 2009. Carbon sequestration for linking conservation and rural development in Madagascar: The case of the Vohidrazana-Mantadia Corridor Restoration and Conservation Carbon Project. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 28, 3–5: 322–342. (doi:10.1080/10549810902791507)

Pollini, J. 2012. Understanding agricultural intensification on a forest frontier in Madagascar: elements for a Malthusian/Boserupian synthesis. In: Contested Agronomy: The Politics of Agricultural Research in a Changing World. J. Sumberg and J. Thompson (eds.), pp 116–130, Earthscan, Oxford.

Pollini, J., Hockley, N., Muttenzer, F. D., Ramamonjisoa, B. S. 2014. The transfer of natural resource management rights to local communities. In: Conservation and Environmental Management in Madagascar. I. R. Scales (ed.), pp 172–192, Routledge, New York.

Raik, D. B. and Decker, D. J. 2007. A multisector framework for assessing community-based forest management: Lessons from Madagascar. Ecology and Society 12, 1: 14. Available online at

Ramsar Convention. 2012. The Annotated Ramsar List: Madagascar. Available at

Randrianarimanana, L., Ravaloharimanitra, M., Ratolojanahary, T., Rafalimandimby, J., Rasolofoharivelo, T., et al.. 2012. Statut et conservation de Prolemur simus dans les sites de Ranomainty et Sakalava du Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena. Lemur News 16: 2–7.

Ratolojanahary, T. H. 2011. Para-ecologist profile. Available at

Ravaloharimanitra, M., Ratolojanahary, T., Rafalimandimby, J., Rajaonson, A., Rakotonirina, L., et al. 2011. Gathering local knowledge in Madagascar results in a major increase in the known range and number of sites for Critically Endangered Greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus). International Journal of Primatology 32, 3: 776–792. (doi:10.1007/s10764-011-9500-4)

Rendigs, A., Reibelt, L. M., Fidimalala, B. R., Ratsimbazafy, J. H. and Waeber, P. O. 2015. Ten years into the marshes – Hapalemur alaotrensis conservation, one step forward and two steps back? Madagascar Conservation & Development 10, 1S: 13–20. (doi:10.4314/mcd.v10i1.S3)

Salafsky, N. and Wollenberg, E. 2000. Linking livelihoods and conservation: A conceptual framework and scale for assessing the integration of human needs and biodiversity. World Development 28, 8: 1421–1438.

Scales, I. R. 2012. Lost in translation: conflicting views of deforestation, land use and identity in western Madagascar. The Geographical Journal 178, 1: 67–79. (doi:10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00432.x)

Toillier, A., Lardon, S. and Herve, D. 2009. An environmental governance support tool: community-based forest management contracts (Madagascar). International Journal of Sustainable Development 11: 187–205.

Toillier, A. Serpantié, G., Hervé, D. and Lardon, S. 2011. Livelihood strategies and land use changes in response to conservation: Pitfalls of community-based forest management in Madagascar. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 30, 1–2: 20–56. (doi:10.1080/10549811003742357)

Torti, V., Gamba, M., Rabemananjara, Z. H. and Giacoma, C. 2013. The songs of the indris (Mammalia: Primates: Indridae): contextual variation in the long-distance calls of a lemur. Italian Journal of Zoology 80, 4: 596–607. (doi:10.1080/11250003.2013.845261)

Wallach, V. and Glaw, F. 2009. A new mid-altitude rainforest species of Typhlops (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) from Madagascar with notes on the taxonomic status of T. boettgeri Boulenger, T. microcephalus Werner, and T. capensis Rendahl. Zootaxa 2294: 23–38.

Wendland, K. J., Honzák, M., Portela, R., Vitale, B., Rubinoff, S. and Randrianarisoa, J. 2010. Targeting and implementing payments for ecosystem services: Opportunities for bundling biodiversity conservation with carbon and water services in Madagascar. Ecological Economics 69, 11: 2093–2107. (doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.01.002)

Wesener, T. and Schütte, K. 2010. Swarming behaviour and mass occurrences in the world’s largest giant pill-millipede species, Zoosphaerium neptunus, on Madagascar and its implication for conservation efforts (Diplopoda: Sphaerotheriida). Madagascar Conservation & Development 5, 2: 89–94. (doi:10.4314/mcd.v5i2.63137)

Woodhead, C., Vences, M., Vieites, D., Gamboni, I., Fisher, B. L. and Griffiths, R. A. 2007. Specialist or generalist? Feeding ecology of the Malagasy poison frog Mantella aurantiaca. The Herpetological Journal 17, 4: 225–236.


Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510