Decision-makers discuss forest conservation challenges with local communities

By Manoa Rajaonarivelo

On the eve of COP26 Forest4Climate&People (in collaboration with the conservation organization Madagasikara Voakajy) organized for senior Malagasy policy-makers and representatives of the British government in Madagascar to visit a community on the edge of the forest in Madagascar. The event involved an innovative role-play exercise to explore local issues.

A film of the event is available to view.

We were delighted that Madagascar’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Madagascar herself (Dr Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina) took part and brought senior members of her team including Julien Noël Rakotoarisoa (Director General of Environmental Governance in Madagascar) and Marc Behaja Rajaonarivo (the Regional Director of Environment and Sustainable Development Alaotra-Mangoro). They joined David Ashley (British Ambassador to Madagascar) and Lisa Barrett (deputy head of mission at the British Embassy) who represent the British government who of course hold the COP presidency. Also involved were Alain Mparany Rasolofonjatovo (the Chief of District) as well as Noelson Randriamahadera (the Mayor of Ambohibary commune), and Solofojaona Ratsimanary (the president of the fokontany of Antsily). It was an opportunity to bypass the usual table-top debates and facilitate a much more direct discussion with those arguably with some of the best understanding of the implications of forest conservation policy. 

The event was opened by Voahirana Randriamamonjy, Regional Director of Madagasikara Voakajy, who highlighted the importance of such an event for the local community to be heard and the opportunity for them to exchange directly with decision makers. Minister Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina then reiterated her desire to listen to local voices. She also stated her support for the communities and managers in their role as guardians of the forest. 

We played our film "Voices of the Forest" and this was followed by an open discussion between decision makers and the local community. The community reinforced what the film talked about the difficulties linked with the implementation of conservation and restoration. Rolland, a local person from Andranomandry reaffirmed the necessity of taking care of local livelihoods for conservation and restoration to be effective while others raised the challenges which come from the poor road and health infrastructure in the area. Other people relayed the problems of land tenure and those faced with migrants in the conservation issue. 

The Minister indicated the need of intersectionality to better achieve the effort of conservation. She also highlighted the policy reform which is underway which more explicitly takes into account the livelihoods of the community in the implementation of conservation "No conservation project is acceptable if it does not take into account the livelihoods of the local communities... We will protect our biodiversity, but we will also protect our communities”.