Tsingy Mahaloka (on the left) viewed from the southwest of the KOFAMA community-managed conservation area

Community-managed conservation efforts at Tsingy Mahaloka/KOFAMA, northern Madagascar: Right place at the wrong time?

Ian C. Colquhoun

Abstract


This paper provides a retrospective account of efforts, from 2007 to 2013, to establish a community-managed protected area just south of Ankarana National Park that would encompass the limestone massif known locally as Tsingy Mahaloka and adjacent remnant forest patches. Community members of the rural commune of Antsiravibe came together in 2007 and, with support from the Peace Corps, formed KOFAMA (Koperativa Fikambanana Ankarabe Mitsinjo Arivo) to oversee management of the Tsingy Mahaloka site. When KOFAMA was initially established, Tsingy Mahaloka was envisioned as an ecotourist destination. Ecotourism is a pillar of the new IUCN “Lemurs of Madagascar” conservation action plan (2013–2016), and can allow rural communities to (i) secure revenue for habitat protection; (ii) create economic incentives and benefits for residents; and, (iii) facilitate locally-supported conservation efforts. Ecotourism to Tsingy Mahaloka was seen as a means for future sustainable development in the area. KOFAMA, as the local organization to be responsible for management of the protected area, was intended to operate by a “bottom-up” approach, where local stakeholders take active participation and leadership in decision-making affecting the protected area. But, obviously, an ecotourist site needs tourists; this has proven to be a problem for KOFAMA and the Tsingy Mahaloka site. The Tsingy Mahaloka site, on the face of it, would appear to offer much that would attract and educate ecotourists, including: striking topography (the massif’s sheer limestone cliffs rising 80–100 metres above a flat coastal plain), a diverse endemic avifauna, a resident crowned lemur population, and extensive caves containing human burials made over generations. However, the site’s relatively remote location and Madagascar’s recent political crisis have worked against Tsingy Mahaloka becoming established as a site that ecotourists regularly visit. Regardless, a core group of local residents remain committed to the project’s original goals. At this point in KOFAMA’s history, however, an initial assessment of the organization draws attention to the limits of a “build it and they will come” approach to ecotourism, sustainable development, and locally-managed conservation efforts. The struggles encountered by KOFAMA in its efforts to oversee the Tsingy Mahaloka site highlight the importance of detailed ethnographic and socioeconomic work prior to embarking on such locally-managed conservation efforts.

 

RÉSUMÉ

Le présent compte rendu porte sur une rétrospective des efforts déployés de 2007 à 2013 pour établir une aire protégée au sud du Parc National de l’Ankarana et qui concerne le massif calcaire du Tsingy Mahaloka ainsi que ce qu’il reste de forêt sur sa périphérie. En 2007, les membres de la communauté de la commune rurale d’Antsiravibe se sont organisés avec le soutien des volontaires du Corps de la Paix pour former le KOFAMA (Koperativa Fikambanana Ankarabe Mitsinjo Arivo) afin de superviser le site du Tsingy Mahaloka reconnu comme une aire à protéger par la communauté. Lorsque KOFAMA a été initialement établi, le Tsingy Mahaloka avait été retenu comme une destination écotouristique. L’écotourisme est d’ailleurs un pilier du nouveau plan d’action de conservation des lémuriens de Madagascar de l’UICN pour la période 201 3–201 6. L’écotourisme est ainsi proposé aux communautés rurales de la périphérie des aires protégées comme un moyen de sécuriser des revenus en échange de la protection de l’habitat, mais aussi un moyen de proposer des incitations économiques et des avantages pour les résidents, et enfin une structure destinée à faciliter les efforts de conservation qui sont supportés localement. L’écotourisme lié au Tsingy Mahaloka a été considéré comme une activité de développement durable qui s’inscrit dans l’avenir de la région. KOFAMA, en tant qu’organisation locale responsable de la gestion de l’aire protégée est destiné à fonctionner selon une approche de bas en haut dans laquelle les acteurs locaux s’engagent réellement et dirigent les prises de décisions affectant l’aire protégée. Mais, de toute évidence, le processus a besoin de touristes, ce qui a constitué un problème pour KOFAMA et le Tsingy Mahaloka. À première vue, le Tsingy Mahaloka semble offrir de nombreuses caractéristiques propres à attirer et éduquer des écotouristes, dont une topographie remarquable avec des falaises calcaires abruptes de 80–100 mètres de haut dominant une plaine côtière, une avifaune endémique variée, une population résidente de Lémurs couronnés et des grottes abritant des sépultures humaines déposées par plusieurs générations. Mais, non seulement le Tsingy Mahaloka est-il relativement isolé, mais la crise politique de 2009 à 2014 Madagascar a également joué contre le développement de l’écotourisme. Malgré cela, un groupe de gens motivés poursuit les premiers objectifs du projet. À ce stade de l’histoire de KOFAMA, une évaluation initiale de l’organisation montre les limites d’une approche du type « proposons quelque chose, ils viendront voir » aussi bien pour l’écotourisme, le développement durable que les efforts déployés localement pour la protection de la nature. Les problèmes rencontrés par KOFAMA dans ses efforts pour protéger le Tsingy Mahaloka soulignent l’importance de mener un travail ethnographique et socio-économique détaillé avant d’embarquer dans des efforts de protection de la nature gérés localement.


Keywords


community-managed protected area; ecotourism; lemur conservation; Peace Corps; collaborative research; gestion communautaire des aires protégées; écotourisme; protection des lémuriens; Corps de la paix; recherche collaborative

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v10i1S6

Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510