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Challenges of forest governance in Madagascar

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There has been a huge surge in interest in the preservation of Madagascar's forests in the past two decades, but despite the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, the goal remains elusive. Recent legislation has given the government the authority to enter into contractual arrangements with communities for the management of the country's public forests, so it has become crucial to grapple with the significant challenges involved. This paper explores the enormity of the challenge of forest governance in Madagascar in an era of decentralization. By examining several forests in one part of the country, it reveals a dizzying range of forest types and forms of use and governance within a fairly small portion of the country. These examples make it apparent that the history of forest management in Madagascar constitutes a broad-ranging experiment with forest governance. Simply monitoring the dynamics of the forest canopy is a significant technical challenge. However, this pales in comparison to the difficulties inherent in explaining those dynamics and assessing the sustainability and equity of different management regimes. Of the forests considered in the study, those where the Malagasy state has partnered with international conservation and development organizations seem to stand out, both in terms of stabilized, or even growing, forest cover, as well as a balance of interests among users.

Keywords: Madagascar; biodiversity conservation; decentralization; forests; institutions; remote sensing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change, Indiana University, 408 North Indiana Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47408-3799, USA, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2005


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