Strengthening the capacity of managers for more resilient and equitable conservation in Madagascar

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

For resilient and equitable conservation, PA managers aspire to a better understanding and consideration of social issues. To this end, the MiRARI project conducted a five-day training course from 6 to 10 February 2023 in Andasibe and in villages near the Torotorofotsy and Maromizaha PAs. The training brought together 16 protected area (PA) managers from across Madagascar and involved two local community representatives. The training aimed to help managers understand and better manage social aspects such as identifying and measuring the social impacts of PAs and of safeguard and development projects around PAs. The aim was to help them design, implement and evaluate safeguard and development projects, and to estimate the levels of funding realistically required.

The different themes covered include:

  1. The principles of social safeguarding and its implications,
  2. Ethical principles related to PA management,
  3. Identification and monitoring of the different social impacts of PAs and of safeguarding and development projects around PAs,
  4. Identification of the populations affected by the establishment of PAs and the beneficiaries of safeguard and development projects, 

The training started with direct interaction between the participants and the communities in Torotorofotsy. We proceeded with the viewing of the film "Voices of the Forest" to share and initiate various thematic discussions between the participants and the local communities. The film was followed by a role-playing game that allowed participants to put themselves in the position of the different conservation actors: local communities, protected area managers and donors. The enthusiasm of the participants made for both lively and hilarious debates and facilitated local communities to share their perspectives with PA managers, contributing greatly to the training.

Local communities and PA managers doing the role-playing games

Back in the classroom, participants discussed the principles of social safeguards and its links to poverty reduction and sustainable development. This included a review of what Malagasy law and international standards require of protected area managers in terms of social safeguards. This was supplemented by key principles of impact assessment (such as the importance of counterfactuals) and the findings of the P4ges research project on the impacts of conservation on local communities.

Participants working on the importance of monitoring and evaluation of social and economic impacts of conservation

The training included several interactive sessions to get PA managers reflecting on their approaches to monitoring and evaluating social impacts. One of these sessions focused on exploring what managers would do when faced with a multitude of ethical dilemmas in conservation scenarios (e.g. how free, prior and informed consent is practically implemented in the creation of a new PA).

We also presented our key recommendations for the ongoing reform of the Environmental and Social Management Framework led by the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, notably on the Community Management Agreement. This agreement, signed between the manager and the local community, is a management tool established by the Code of Protected Areas and clearly states the rights and obligations of the local communities and the manager as well as their modalities of intervention in the management of the PA. The establishment of a Community Management Agreement should help to avoid conflict and mitigate social issues arising from conservation. Our project plans to conduct pilot capacity-building workshops for local communities and managers in the negotiation and implementation of this convention in three protected areas in Madagascar, in partnership with Impact Madagascar, Kew Botanical Gardens, Madagascar National Parks, and Natural Justice.

Participants during the restitution session after exploring various ethics’ scenario related to conservation

On the last day of the training, participants had the opportunity to practice methods for monitoring and evaluating the impacts of PAs and safeguard and development projects. They were able to test a variety of evaluation methods such as the discrete choice method, the contingent valuation method (using a random card sort approach), structured surveys, and qualitative methods (SAPA). They were able to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of these methods, the validity and reliability of the data collected, the representativeness of the samples from whom the data are collected, and the importance of independent evaluation. Defying the norms, local residents acted as trainers this time, moving from "mock respondents" to commentators on the methods used and interview techniques, etc.

Participants doing a practice of the methods for monitoring and evaluating social impacts of conservation with local communities

Overall, participants found the training clear, insightful and in line with their expectations. One participant noted that

"The training in general was satisfying and meets my expectations on the aspect of social safeguard and the ethical aspects of its implementation. It was enriching despite the short time."

The workshop also encouraged participants to take the learning from the training and apply it in their work and put forward practical recommendations for the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of safeguarding activities within their respective organisations. Before leaving, participants were asked to prepare a short action plan of things they planned to change or communicate to their colleagues in their organisations. We will be following up with participants in a few months’ time to discuss how they are getting on with their plan, and any ongoing support they or their organisations might need.