Funding conservation in Madagascar


Conservation programs are not going to be cost-free. Madagascar already gets considerable aid from foreign donors, both NGOs and governmental development agencies, but funding these initiatives may require more creative sources of income to be truly successful. Handouts will not last forever and have the tendency to breed dependency. Here are some other funding strategies to consider:


Ecotourism can fund efforts both through the park entrance fees and employing locals as guides and in the service sector (hotels, restaurants, drivers, boat drivers, porters, cooks) and in handicrafts.

Bio-prospecting fees

Madagascar can earn revenue by allowing scientists to develop products from the island's native plant and animal species. The pioneer in the area was Costa Rica which entered into an agreement with an American pharmaceutical company, Merck, to look for plants with potential pharmaceutical applications. Under the agreement, a portion of the proceeds from compounds that do prove commercially valuable will go to the Costa Rican government, which has guaranteed that some of the royalties will be set aside for conservation projects.

Similarly, in 2001, Givaudan, a Swiss fragrance and flavor company, sent a team to look for new exotic smells and flavors in Madagascar. Following their survey, Givaudan researchers "reconstituted" 40 aromas that could be used commercial products. The company has agreed to share a portion of the profits from these products with local communities through conservation and development initiatives.

Sustainable pet trade

A second potential source of income for locals is the breeding and export of Malagasy plants and animals, notably reptiles and amphibians. Right now the export of reptiles and amphibians is poorly managed and leads directly to over-exploitation and probable extinction of some species. Many reptiles are illegally collected from reserves where they are becoming quite rare. Authorities know about the collectors, but corruption is rampant, and laws go unenforced. A 1990s survey found that locals were paid about US$0.01 for each gecko captured, while the exporter sold the animal for US$9-13 to U.S./European importers, where it retails for US$75. This system cannot be sustainable if villagers must catch 110 geckos to earn US$1: overharvesting is imminent. Instead, the implementation of breeding programs and/or farms for the exotic pet trade could employ Malagasy while satisfying market demand in a sustainable manner. The exportation of Malagasy reptiles and amphibians alone is estimated to have an economic potential of more than $US 1 million annually, or about equivalent to the foreign currency generated by clearing 39,500 acres (16,000 ha).

Carbon credits

For setting aside forest for the purpose of atmospheric carbon mitigation, developing countries like Madagascar can receive payments from industrialized countries looking to offset their carbon emissions. Carbon offset programs are popular in many circles since they can "provide a mechanism for motivating wealthy countries to pay for a benefit of forest conservation that transcends national borders." In effect, such programs promote "the transfer of funds from industrialized countries to tropical countries as a commercial transaction rather than an act of charity" (Costa, P.M. "Tropical forestry practices for carbon sequestration: a review and case study from southeast Asia," Ambio Vol. 25 No. 4, June 1996)).

More on carbon finance in Madagascar

Corporate sponsorship

Corporations have been a bit slow in "adopting" parks but they have the money and a marketing-driven interest in taking a closer look at such schemes. See below for more details on a potential plan.

The Linden-Lovejoy-Phillips plan

One interesting idea proposed by Eugene Linden, Thomas Lovejoy, and J. Daniel Phillips for tropical rainforests consists of dividing natural areas into blocks and then soliciting funding commitments from international environmental groups, development institutions, corporations and other credible donors. There would be a bidding process after which an entity would take responsibility for maintaining forest cover and forest health in each block of the entire forest system. This plan could be a road for corporations to become involved in conservation as a public relations/marketing tool. A given percentage of the proceeds could be put into a trust fund with the payout ear-marked for ongoing conservation and sustainable development programs

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