National workshop on best practices in social safeguards around protected areas in Madagascar

By Sarobidy Rakotonarivo, Sanda Rakotomalala , Mirindra Rakotoarisoa , Veloson Manankery , Manoa Rajaonarivelo and Neal Hockley

The team of the Department of Forestry and Environment of the École Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques (ESSA-Forêts) in partnership with Bangor University, has worked closely with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development since their initiative to reform management tools for Protected Areas in Madagascar in 2020.

Launched on June 17, 2022, MiRARI (Mitantana aradrariny or « managing equitably’), a project hosted by ESSA-Forêts, aims to continue supporting the Ministry in the process of reforming the Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) and to strengthen the capacities of decision-makers, managers and local communities for more resilient and equitable conservation. To this end, MiRARI has convened and led meetings of a national committee composed of the ESSA-Forets team, the team from the Directorate of Protected Areas, Natural Resources and the Environment, Madagascar National Parks, USAID, the National Environment Office, and Natural Justice.

The MIRARI project in collaboration with Natural Justice conducted a national sharing workshop on good social safeguard practices in Madagascar's Protected Areas on June 16, 2023 in Ambatobe, Antananarivo. This workshop was an opportunity to present research results by the MiRARI team and the key recommandations from the committee on the reform of the ESMF for Protected Areas in Madagascar. The workshop also aimed to collect the position and reflections of decision-makers and managers on our key recommendations.

Four key themes of the ESMF were covered i) the assessment of the social impacts of protected areas and development and safeguard projects in and around protected areas, ii) the identification of beneficiaries of development and safeguard, iii) the Community Management Agreement, iv) the complaint management mechanism.

Our research results suggest the critical lack of reliable assessment of the loss of income due to the establihsment of protected areas as well as the social impacts of the conservation and development projects around the protected areas. This lack of reliable assessment of the social impacts of projects considerably limits the knowledge needed to guide the design of future policies and projects.

Increasingly, conservation and development professionals, including donors and governments, are looking for more robust evidence on the social impacts of conservation, restoration, development and social safegaurd projects around protected areas. One of our key recommendations is to conduct more rigorous impact assessments, and we have provided a guideline to help managers.

Following the presentation of the draft synthesis of the impacts of development projects implemented around protected areas that we carried out, a participant remarked: most of the safeguard measures only concern poultry and beekeeping while local communities need wood, land for growing  rice.” and asked: “ What kind of safeguard projects should we implement? ”.

We proposed a few approaches for identifying the beneficiaries of social safeguard and development projects according to the indicators of expected effects and impacts, the strategies of the beneficiaries and the feasibility.

The implementation of the community management agreement, a key tool for the management of protected areas which defines the rights and obligations of managers and local communities is also one of our key recommendations. Establishing an effective and context-appropriate grievance mechanism is another key reform point we advanced in the workshop. Such mechanism could facilitate the resolution and management of complaints, conflicts and concerns at early as possible.

Throughout the workshop, we used the AhaSlides tool to interact with the participants and collect their perspectives and proposals on the various themes raised. Overall, the exchanges were very rich and the participants actively participated and expressed a keen interest in the finalisation of the reform of the ESMF, and its practical application.

We will apply some of the lessons we learned from this workshop to the upcoming trainings we will organize for local communities and protected area managers on how to negotiate their community management agreement. These will be carried out in partnership with Impact Madagascar, Kew Botanical Gardens, Madagascar National Parks and Natural Justice.