When protected areas sustain life and support development: myth or reality? by Ravaka Ranaivoson

Thursday, Jan 22 2015

To ensure the balance between development and conservation, government at national and local levels, businesses and local population must develop and implement suitable tools including policies, guidelines and plans. The development of these tools must be participatory for all stakeholders to own and use them efficiently. The value of PAs must be ascertained and incorporated into these tools in order to make wise trade-offs between conservation and development.

Knowing the economic value of natural resources is among the key steps to sensitize people on their importance and to arouse among them the preservation and the rational exploitation of this wealth while considering the required compensations if needed. Thus, it is important: (1) to know short, mid and long economic value of the protected areas and natural resources; their value according to local use/to exploitation, their long-term value if they are maintained. In both case, the assessment must consider the advantages and drawbacks of the option. (2) To integrate conservation and development through direct activities linked to conservation (ecotourism, handcraft...), through the synergy between conservation and development programs.


What is the current context?

Establishing a fair balance between conservation and development is really challenging, mainly in developing countries like Madagascar. In fact, Madagascar has two main characteristics: its richness in biodiversity, hosting 5% of the world’s biodiversity, of which 70% are endemic; and high levels of poverty, which currently affects more than 75% of Malagasy people. Poverty is one of the main threats to biodiversity with associated pressures including slash and burn culture, poaching, small-scale mining, wood fuel, and charcoal production. Moreover, local people often ignore the important role provided by natural resources such as ecosystem services (water supply and alleviation and mitigation of disasters) and the incomes it can generate (from ecotourism for instance).

Initiatives aimed at integrating conservation and development are already emerging around some of Madagascar’s protected areas, through compensation programs in:

The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park where people living around the park have created three schools and increased the area of rice plots thanks to the 50% of entrances fees that Madagascar National Park allocated to them.

The Makira New Protected Area, where the Wildlife Conservation Society in partnership with the Foundation Tany Meva has implemented a “green belt” around the park in order to preserve the integrity of the park while improving the livelihood of local communities, through carbon offset.

In the current Malagasy context where the benefit from the carbon market is still uncertain, and the development of tourism is still fragile and cover less than 25% of the existing parks, the main challenge is to find a suitable way to upscale the above achievements so as to cover Madagascar’s 6 million hectares of Protected Area.

Assessing the economic value of the biodiversity and using this value as a way to support development may be a solution to cope with this challenge


Why is it important to assess the value of natural resources?

Madagascar‘s biodiversity is certainly one of the main incentives for people to visit Madagascar. Nature-based tourism, and particularly in protected areas, is a leading sector in Madagascar[1], which generated around USD 6 million in 2010. In addition to this, protected areas provide clean water to thousands of people, help in food supply... However, on the other hand, the degradation of the natural resource has cost USD 450 to 500 million per year.


In order to consider natural resource as part of a country’s wealth, one key step is to “value” the natural resource and to include it in the national accounting.

The assessment of the value of natural resources helps:

Understanding the importance of natural resources: Makira forest provides clean water for 250 000 people, prevents the release of 30millions tons of CO2 , ; protect Has of watershed and agricultural plots,  provides m3 of timber production and how much money if valorized; and can create a lot of job; Identifying and quantifying the advantages or losses for each stakeholders. Identifying the stakeholders that benefit or may be affected by the conservation and/or the use of the natural resources.

The result of the assessment:

Provides a strong argument to convince targeted audiences to get involved in the initiatives, combining conservation and development, at local, national and international levels. Will help choose the best option between conservation and development (with the required compensation if needed); defining the suitable measures to implement in terms of policy, regulation and strategy regarding the two sectors.


How does the assessment work?

While assessing the economic value of natural resources, it is important to consider their short, medium and long term values if they are used for development purposes, or if they are maintained. In both cases, the assessment has to consider the advantages and losses of each option regarding social aspects (health, food security), environmental aspects (ecosystem services such as water supply) and economic aspects (income, employment…).

The idea is to ensure a fair trade between conservation and development!


Why the proposal is considered as inspiring solution?

It establishes an accurate bridge between conservation and development, through quantifying biodiversity services.

Due to its pragmatism: The assessment of the value of natural resource is based on real facts: i.e. how do local people use the resources? How much money do they earn from that? What are the impacts on the resources, impacts on the population? How much does it cost (utilization, impacts…)?

Adaptable: Tools for economic assessment are the same as for other products, e.g. the System of Environmental Economic Accounting established by the United Nations. Moreover, these tools apply to every type of governance of protected areas.

Impacts: Improvement of local livelihood around Andasibe Mantadia National Parks (three new schools built, watershed protection activities implemented) thanks to entrance fees to the park and support from development programs at the World Bank. Moreover, the national accounting of the value of forest and marine protected areas are currently initiated through the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services initiatives.

Replicable: Eight countries are now involved in Natural Capital Accounting, including Rwanda, Colombia, and Costa Rica.



What makes this solution work?

Reconciling development and conservation is feasible as long as:

•       We take into account the “gains” and “losses” when assessing the value of natural resources; so as to identify the suitable measures and compensation if needed;

•       We consider “temporal dimensions” : short, medium and long term values of natural resources to ensure the sustainability of the measures;

•       We ensure the availability of the data for all the stakeholders at different levels (local, national and international), to get them involved in the process. The idea is to give answers on the reasons why it is important to conserve biodiversity, (ii) what are the interests of each stakeholders’ group in the conservation and development programs. (iii) How could each stakeholder best contribute to this incentive? (iv) What advantages and benefits could each stakeholder gain?


The key enabling factor is the integration of the populations surrounding the parks during the economic assessment of the natural resource and when analyzing the projects to be supported – to ensure that we address the right issues. These projects must consider local contexts (social, economic, environment) and local population needs (technical needs, capacity building, financial support...).


[1] World Bank, Country, 2013 : Madagascar, Country Environmental Analysis


This article was published in the NAPA - News from African Protected Areas : n°74; n°80 and was selected by the IUCN WPC committee to be presented during the WPC, Stream 5 reconciling conservation and development_ Sub Stream 5 safeguard for equitable, sustainable development and inclusive decisions.


Ravaka Natacha Ranaivoson is a trained economist; she has 14 years of experience in environmental and development sectors at the Tany Meva Fund, the first Malagasy environmental fund with focus on communities. She serves as a program officer in charge of the design, the implementation and monitoring of programs that liaise conservation and improvement of local communities’ livelihood. Her attributions cover the identification and development of partnership related to these challenges. Moreover, she contributes to Tany Meva’s fund raising activities. Member of different networks (CT REDD Madagascar, Renewable Energy Group, Climate Change Thematic Group, etc.), she also serves as the Executive Secretariat for the network of African Funds for the Environment – CAFÉ, which aims at building a learning community that shares best practices and pursues innovative finance mechanisms in order to foster conservation, environmental management and sustainable development in Africa. Ravaka has been a CFA member since 2011.


Photo CreditsFrank Vassen

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When protected areas sustain life and support development: myth or reality? by Ravaka Ranaivoson
Thursday, Jan 22 2015


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