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Evaluating Madagascar's EAP: Problems for the future!

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Introduction

Evaluating Madagascar's EAP: Problems for the future! Madagascar is globally recognized as a biodiversity hotspot. The world's fourth largest island is home to some 10,000 plant species, 316 reptile species, 187 amphibian species, 199 bird species, and 84 mammal species (including 71 primates) found nowhere else in the world.1 It is also home to a population of 17 million people plagued by abject poverty: 71% live below the poverty level and 75% live on less than $1 a day.2 In rural areas, the picture is bleaker, with the average income as low as 41¢ a day. Most rural people rely on natural resources for their survival, eking out a living as subsistence farmers. Agricultural yields are among the lowest in the world because farmers use primitive slash-and-burn agriculture techniques, and have almost no access to land-title due to a corrupt and decrepit bureaucracy. Increasing demand and competition for fertile land has caused alarming habitat loss. Deforestation (due to slash-and-burn agriculture and for firewood) has reduced the country's primary forest by over 90% since human inhabitance less than 2,000 years ago. In the past forty years, Madagascar's population has doubled and the forest area has halved. In the past twenty years, the forested area has been reduced from 20 to 9 million hectares.

Middle

for providing short-term incentive to rural Malagasy to adhere to land restrictions and conservation policies; he should know, though, from the nation's experience with Ranomafana National Park, launched in 1992 as a showcase project combining conservation and development, the limited revenue-generating potential of ecotourism in practice.7 If he thinks it will be different for Madagascar this time around, he need only to look to other parts of the world to see that ecotourism has had a limited capacity to generate sufficient revenue to support conservation efforts in practice. Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP) in Nepal is one of the most heavily visited parks in Asia. By creating economic incentives for impoverished villagers and their communities, ecotourism at RCNP is thought to encourage local guardianship of biological resources. However, a study of ecotourism's effect on villagers found minimal economic impact: 1,100 of 87,000 (4%) locals were employed directly by the ecotourism industry, and only 6% earned direct or indirect income from ecotourism. 8 Researchers attribute the remarkable success of RCNP in restoring its rhino and tiger populations to the strict protection by Nepalese army and park staff, the law-abiding nature of Nepalese citizens, and the absence of firearms among the rural populace, rather than from any incentive program.9 By contrast, the CAMPFIRE program in Zimbabwe, in which local people have financial stake in preservation of wildlife because they receive a sizeable portion of revenues generated from safari fees, does provide tangible benefits from ecotourism for conservation.

Conclusion

Education about the importance of biodiversity and conservation will have no resonance with individuals whose fundamental concern is day-to-day survival. Without the cooperation of rural Malagasy-because enforcement of land restrictions on 6 million hectares is financially and physically unfeasible-the EAP is unlikely to succeed in affecting its noble conservation and development goals. Ravalomanana's commitment to more than triple the size of protected areas has been hailed by conservationists as one of the most important announcements in the history of conservation, as Madagascar-with megadiversity and levels of endemism unlike any place on earth-is globally recognized as an urgent biodiversity priority. While his efforts are certainly commendable, the EAP at present is just "hot air" and without serious reevaluation and coordination at local, national, regional, and international levels, the few remaining primary forests of Madagascar will go up in smoke. Resources Article: Cocks, Tim. (Nov. 8, 2004) "Madagascar Readies More Protected Nature Sites" in Planet Ark. <www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=28028> Other Articles: Cocks, Tim. (Dec. 20, 2004) "Madagascar's Poor See No Benefit From Conservation" in Planet Ark. <www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=28629> Cocks, Tim. (Mar. 16, 2005) "Madagascar To Spend $110M US Aid on Land Reform" in Planet Ark. <www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=29955> Stoddard, Ed. (Jul. 17, 2003) "Madagascar's Lemurs Cling to Survival" in Planet Ark. <www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=21533> Stoddard, Ed. (Sept. 26, 2003) "Park Initiatives May Connect Dots of Life" in Planet Ark. <www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=22368> Stoddard, Ed. (May 14, 2004) "World Bank Gives Madagascar Record Environment Grant" in Planet Ark. <www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.

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