Sharing workshop on the social issues of forest restoration and conservation

By Manoa Rajaonarivelo, Sarobidy Rakotonarivo & Mirindra Rakotoarisoa

The lack of consideration of social issues (such as local livelihoods, and land tenure concerns) can be a substantial barrier to effective forest conservation and restoration in Madagascar. In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Forest4Climate&People project recently convened and facilitated a sharing workshop to address these social issues in policy design and practice. The workshop was held on 12—16 October 2021 at Feon’ny Ala and in villages close to Mangabe and Tortorofotsy protected areas and gathered 36 participants including government authorities, donor representatives, conservation and development practitioners, local communities, and academics.

The aims of the workshop were to:

  1. advance reflections on the social issues of conservation and restoration,
  2. share best practices and research results,
  3. advance the reform of the social and environmental safeguard policy of protected areas (PAs) in Madagascar,
  4. empower different stakeholders and increase their confidence in understanding and addressing social issues to deliver more effective and equitable conservation and restoration.
Participants reflecting on the past failures of conservation initiatives
Participants reflecting on the past failures of conservation initiatives

Participants first reflected on why forest loss continues despite three decades of conservation efforts and funding. Insufficient empowerment of local communities and the lack of consideration of local livelihoods were predominantly perceived as the main cause. This has led to the reform of the social safeguard policy within protected areas in Madagascar. Such reform is ongoing under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. 

Our research findings (Forest4Climate&People and P4GES) also support the necessity for such reform. We showed that the social safeguards aimed at compensating the negative impacts of forest conservation failed to reach the most affected and the value of the one-off compensation, in the form of support to pursue other livelihoods, fell far short of the costs that the communities are likely to face as a result of losing access to the forest in the coming decades. Our research also suggests that unclear rights to lands can be a serious impediment to effective reforestation and scaling up forest landscape restoration in Madagascar will be impossible without targeted efforts to resolve land tenure issues.

Participants sharing a meal while listening to the enchanting bird calls of the nearby rainforest

The workshop participants had the opportunity to comment on the draft of the reform and share the main constraints they are currently facing in implementing the safeguard policy (such as the lack of resources and involvement of other sectors). The implementation of the formal agreement between local communities and protected area managers (“Convention de gestion communautaire”) was also among the most contentious issues raised in the workshop. 

Participants also discussed why ethics are critically important in ensuring our actions do not harm people. We explored a few ethical dilemmas that conservation and development actors might face or have actually faced and reflected on what we should do in such scenarios. 

The workshop involved a one-day visit to a village at the forest frontier to allow participants to interact directly with local communities and discuss in-depth the social issues raised on the first day.

Workshop participants crossing a river while heading to a remote village at the forest frontier


The visit involved some role-playing exercises in which local communities’ roles were swapped with donors and protected area managers and development practitioners. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the 'full package experience" (river crossing, meal sharing, the forest walk and most importantly the role play where they learned new perspectives by putting themselves in each other's shoes.

Workshop participants and villagers getting to know each other

We ended the field visit with a commemorative tree planting with local communities, indicative of hope for a better future and unity.

Commemorative tree planting – hope in a better future for forest, climate and people

The workshop also included a sharing of best practices and the realities of implementing and evaluating social safeguards approaches within protected areas. Donor representatives first spoke about their safeguard policies and touched on the issues of transparency in evaluating the effectiveness of the projects that they fund. A few conservation and development practitioners then shared their social safeguard and sustainable development approaches within their conservation and restoration sites. They also talked about the challenges they have faced and the factors that have most contributed to the success or failures of their activities. Other participants reflected on how to generate funding for similar approaches and scale them up in their respective sites. 

Overall, participants’ evaluation of the training was very positive. Fredo Tera from Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP) said: "This workshop was very rich. As a manager, I learned new ways to communicate with the community and understand their perspectives better. I also gained new ideas through the different exchanges for our restoration activities, to apply for sustained livelihoods support especially for those living near PA”. 

Bruno Rajaspera from Conservation International said: "Many thanks for the organization of this exchange workshop which was very positive, both in terms of the content and the format. The discussions were very rich and focused on the most requested topics of the moment (LFR, tenure, safeguards). These reflections help us a lot in the implementation of our current projects."

Tiana Randriamboavonjy from Kew Madagascar said "I would like to thank you again for your initiative to organize this workshop which allowed us to revise our approach/working method on the implementation of conservation and restoration actions in our site in Itremo."



Number of participants

Governmental agencies 

Direction of environmental governance, Direction of protected area and natural resources, Regional direction of environment and sustainable development, National office of environment


International NGOs

Durell, Money for Madagascar, SEED Madagascar, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, Rainforest Trust, World Wide Fund for Nature, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew.


National NGOs

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, Fondation Tany Meva, Madagasikara Voakajy, Fanamby, Fond d’Intervention pour le Développement, Impact Madagascar, Fondation pour les Aires Protégées et la Biodiversité de Madagascar, Madagascar National Parks, Asity Madagascar, Sadabe


Private sector

Ambatovy (a major commercial mine)


Civil society

Natural Justice


Researcher/ Academics

Forest 4 Climate & People, ESSA-Forets, the University of Antananarivo


Local communities

Association Mitsinjo, VOI Maromizaha


Publication date: 19 October 2021