Translation & transformation


  • Alison F. Richard Cambridge University & Yale University


Finishing my PhD field research in 1971, the environmental challenges facing Madagascar were already clear and I decided to try to help.  At the time, I viewed this as a separate track in my life that had little or nothing to do with my academic career as a biological anthropologist. This was to change over the ensuing decades.  At the outset, the then President of the School of Agronomy at the University of Madagascar, the late Gilbert Ravelojaona, encouraged a small group of us from ESSA, Yale, and Washington University, to establish a partnership with a rural community.  There would be three goals: conserve the surrounding forests and wildlife, improve community members’ livelihoods, and provide a site for training and research.  Ravelojaona was ahead of his time: only in the 1980s did community-based conservation approaches gain wide attention.  His vision took us eventually to Bezà Mahafaly, where the partnership continues and has expanded to encompass neighboring communes. 

Author Biography

Alison F. Richard, Cambridge University & Yale University

Senior Research Scientist & Crosby Professor emerita
Department of Anthropology
Yale Universitym New Haven, CT


Gardner, C. 2014. Publishing for conservation and development? Madagascar Conservation & Development 9, 1: 3–4. <>

Jones, J. P. G., Rakotonarivo, O. S., and Razafimanehaka, J. H. 2022. Forest conservation on Madagascar: past, present, and future. In: The New Natural History of Madagascar. S. Goodman (ed.), pp 2130–2140. Princeton University Press.

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

Ranaivonasy, J., Ratsirarson, J. & Richard A. (eds.) 2016. Suivi écologique et socio-économique dans la Réserve Spéciale de Bezà Mahafaly (Sud-ouest de Madagascar). Malagasy Nature 10.

Richard, A. 2022. The Sloth Lemur’s Song: Madagascar from the Deep Past to the Uncertain Present. William Collins, London, UK.

Sodhi, N. S. and Ehrlich, P. R. 2010. Conservation Biology for All. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Soulé, M. E. and Wilcox, B. A. (eds.). 1980. Conservation Biology: An Ecological-Evolutionary Perspective. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, USA.

Vintsy. <> gives a brief description of the program’s aims, scope and history.

Wright, H. T and Rakotoarisoa, J.-A. 1997. Cultural transformations and their impacts on the environments of Madagascar. In: Natural Change and Human Impact in Madagascar. S. Goodman and B. Patterson (eds.), pp 309–330. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.

Alison F. Richard