How we trained local communities and protected area managers on collaborative conservation

In July, MiRARI teamed up with Natural Justice Madagascar to train locale residents around two protected areas in the Community Management Agreement (CMA). The two protected areas were the Itremo Massif Protected Area and Madiromirafy, which are managed by our partners Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre and IMPACT Madagascar, respectively.

The Community Management Agreement (Convention de Gestion Communautaire, CGC in French)  is a management tool specifically designed for local communities’ participation  in the management of the Protected Area. It is an agreement negotiated and elaborated together between PA manager and Local Communities. The CMA states the rights and responsibilities and their modalities for local communities and PA managers regarding customary use of natural resources, social safeguards measures, conservation activities, and PA governance in general.  

The training was part of our project MiRARI, which aims to promote co-management of protected areas by local communities and protected area managers. That is reflected by the implementation of the CMA, which is required by Malagasy law, but has not yet been implemented by the vast majority of PAs. The training followed on from preliminary field work in October 2022 to assess the needs and expectations of the stakeholders about PA governance and management .

These four-day training courses built the capacity of local community representatives, but also, local officials, PA managers, regional environmental ministry and traditional authorities on CMA especially on the following topics:

  • The benefits and challenges of protected areas for people and nature
  • The rights and obligations of different stakeholders in protected areas
  • The skills and strategies for an effective negotiation
  • The CMA as a tool for collaborative conservation
  • The social safeguards to protect the interests and well-being of local communities

We explained to the participants what a protected area is and how it can be managed in a fair and equitable way. We introduced the CMA as a tool to establish a relationship between the co-managers, to define their roles and responsibilities, and to resolve any issues that may arise from their collaboration. We also presented the steps to follow for the implementation of such an agreement.

Moreover, the training was an opportunity for both local communities and protected area managers to strengthen their knowledge about their respective rights, obligations, and responsibilities. This session was very important as it allowed each party to openly discuss how they should work together as co-managers and how to achieve a more inclusive conservation.

The training was a mix of interactive sessions where the participants did role plays and group work as a simulation of negotiating a CMA.

At the end of the training, we asked the participants to reflect on what they would do when they returned to their villages and organisations and how they would engage in the next steps regarding the development of a CMA. Several participants felt confident to inform their communities about the CMA using the poster we produced, and/or to lead local communities’ internal negotiations, and/or lead negotiations with the PA managers in the CMA elaboration process.

MiRARI will continue to support communities, PA managers and other stakeholders around these two PAs through the process of negotiating the CMA, and we hope to be able to widen this work to other PAs in future, as well as developing a toolkit of resources to help ensure successful implementation of CMAs in all PAs in Madagascar.

The MiRARI project gratefully acknowledges the support of the UK Government’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs through a Darwin Initiative Capability and Capacity grant  to ESSA and Bangor University.