Parc National Ranomafana. Credit Desmond Fitz-Gibbon. Madagascar Conservation & Development

A history of conservation politics in Madagascar

Catherine Corson

Abstract


In this article, I argue that reconciling conservation and livelihoods in Madagascar requires an examination of the historical processes and political-economic systems through which the strong foreign influence on conservation has formed. I begin by documenting how a group of scientists and policy-makers came together in the 1970s and 1980s to mobilize global attention to the importance of protecting Madagascar’s flora and fauna. I illustrate how their influence materialized not only through formal political negotiations and bureaucratic practice but also via informal collaborations across multiple geographic and institutional sites. Then, I examine how the critical historical conjuncture of the mid-1980s—with its emphasis on biodiversity, sustainable development and neoliberalism—prompted a reconfiguration in power relations among public, private, and nonprofit actors. This reconfiguration provided the political-economic context for the transformation of a scientific campaign into a well-funded foreign aid agenda, encompassed in the Madagascar National Environmental Action Plan. I illustrate how, although numerous actors advocated for integrated conservation and development approaches throughout Madagascar’s environmental history, the political, scientific, and financial strength behind the international conservation lobby often overpowered the push for more comprehensive or integrated development approaches. Finally, I conclude by arguing that effective and equitable conservation in Madagascar will require transforming the power relations that have both created Madagascar’s environmental crisis and efforts to redress it.

 

Résumé

Dans cet article, j’avance que pour réconcilier la conservation de la nature et les moyens de subsistance des gens à Madagascar, il faut commencer par un examen critique des processus historiques et des systèmes économiques politiques qui ont eu une forte influence étrangère sur la conservation dans le pays. Je commence par documenter comment un groupe de scientifiques et de responsables politiques se sont réunis dans les années 1970 et 1980 pour mobiliser l'attention mondiale sur l'importance de protéger la flore et la faune de Madagascar. J'étudie comment leur influence s'est matérialisée non seulement par des négociations politiques officielles et des pratiques bureaucratiques, mais aussi par des collaborations informelles dans de nombreux endroits sur le terrain et dans les institutions. Ensuite, je montre comment la conjoncture historique du milieu des années 1980 qui était caractérisée par un accent mis sur la biodiversité, le développement durable et le néolibéralisme, a permis de reconfigurer les relations de pouvoir entre les entités publiques, privées et les organisations à but non lucratif. Cette reconfiguration a forgé le contexte politico-économique dans lequel ces acteurs dévoués ont transformé une campagne scientifique en un programme d'aide étrangère bien financé et inclus dans le Plan National d'Action pour l'Environnement de Madagascar. Je montre comment, bien que de nombreux acteurs aient depuis longtemps défendu les approches intégrant conservation et développement pour protéger l'environnement de Madagascar, la force politique, scientifique et financière derrière le lobby de la conservation a souvent surpassé les efforts consentis pour des approches plus exhaustives et intégrées de développement. Enfin, je conclus en faisant valoir que pour réaliser la conservation efficace et équitable à Madagascar, il faudra transformer les relations de pouvoir qui ont à la fois créé la crise de l’environnement à Madagascar et les efforts destinés à la redresser.

Keywords


Foreign aid; Biodiversity Conservation; National Environmental Action Plan;

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References


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Madag. conserv. dev.
ISSN: 1662-2510