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Environmental change and adaptation in degraded agro-ecosystems: the case of highland Madagascar

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While the view that the poorer agricultural populations in developing countries will be at the forefront of negative consequences due to environmental change is widely accepted, this perspective must become considerably more nuanced in order to recognise and take advantage of emerging opportunities for realistic adaptation. This paper presents a case from Madagascar that suggests adaptation opportunities involve more than looking for alternatives to what are presently perceived to be negative socio-ecologic processes. In Madagascar the severe erosion occurring on the deforested central plateau actually appears to create, over time, opportunities for increased food security and environmental management compared with uneroded portions of the same landscape. The paper proposes that while concern and action are needed to attend to the problems that the poor of the developing world will face due to impacts from environmental change, the repercussions of such change on agricultural systems also need to be looked at in ways that involve recognising the local and aggregate potential opportunities that they may present in certain systems, in order to realise the prospects for adaptation.

Keywords: Madagascar; adaptation; environmental change; erosion; land degradation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2009.00928.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2K6, Email: jon.unruh@mcgill.ca 2: Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, 13 Natural Resources Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1222, USA 3: Department of Geography, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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