Forest conservation has an important role to play in avoiding emissions and contributing to climate mitigation (this is the underlying rationale for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) mechanism REDD+; Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). In addition, restoring forest landscapes can contribute to locking up carbon and there is rapidly growing interest in the potential of large-scale forest restoration as a climate mitigation tool.

If done sensitively both forest conservation and restoration could potentially benefit local people. However, there are also risks of exacerbating poverty where interventions result in people losing access to land and resources critical to their livelihoods. In addition, local land tenure arrangements need to be understood if such projects are to be effective and sustainable. Inattention to social issues can also threaten reforestation itself, undermining climate change mitigation. If conservation and restoration in lower-income countries are to contribute substantially to climate mitigation, these social issues need much greater integration into policy development and implementation.

Madagascar is known around the world for the importance of the biodiversity supported by its forest ecosystems. These forests are rapidly disappearing; last year Madagascar lost a higher proportion of its forests than any other tropical country. Madagascar has been through a rapid expansion of its protected areas over the last decade; with many new protected areas being recently created. There is also a renewed interest in forest restoration in Madagascar instigated by strong support from President Rajoelina and the minister of environment and rural development. Madagascar’s emissions reduction programme under UNFCCC also has a large focus on both avoided deforestation and forest restoration. Madagascar is also committed to the Sustainable Development Goals. There is therefore a strong interest in the country (right to the top) in ensuring that forest conservation and restoration are effective, and that they can contribute to poverty alleviation, rather than exacerbate poverty. Decades of research into social aspects of forest conservation (less so restoration) have the potential to contribute positively to this new agenda, however there are gaps, as in many countries, between researcher and those developing and implementing policy meaning relevant research doesn’t always get applied.The ultimate aim of this project is to ensure forest carbon programmes in Madagascar are more effective (can ultimately lock up more carbon) and pro-poor (avoid negative impacts on poor, vulnerable people and, where possible, bring benefits). The specific objectives are:

  1. To ensure that social issues (implementation of social safeguards, effective benefit sharing, consideration of the role of tenure) vital for effective and equitable outcomes from REDD+ and forest restoration are fully addressed in policy design and implementation in Madagascar.
  2. To review the evidence on the influence of current tenure rules in Madagascar on both the likely effectiveness of avoided deforestation/forest restoration efforts and the impacts on forest edge communities and ensure this information can be used by relevant stakeholders.