Supporting urgent biodiversity conservation in Madagascar

June 23, 2011


In the last decade, more than 600 new species have been discovered in Madagascar.

  • Madagascar is less than half a percent of the earth’s landmass but has 5 percent of its biodiversity
  • $52 million will help protect 30 national parks that cover 2.7 million hectares of land
  • The project also helps improve the livelihoods of people living near the parks

Washington, June 23, 2011 – The Board of Executive Directors approved $52 million in Additional Financing to continue supporting conservation efforts led by Madagascar’s independent National Parks system. The financing includes a $42 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) and a $10 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Of the total financing, $15 million are earmarked for community development activities that will provide 90,000 households with legitimate alternatives to illegal exploitation of national parks. The project also includes an action plan for managing Masoala National Park (the epicenter of illegal logging), $23 million for managing other national parks and forestry corridors, and much-needed support to Madagascar’s high-potential ecotourism industry.

Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries but is endowed with some of the world’s richest natural assets that are irreplaceable. We recognize the global public good that Madagascar’s species provide for the planet and we are absolutely committed to helping protect them,” said Haleh Bridi, World Bank Country Director for Madagascar.

A current World Bank-financed environmental project was due to close later this year and, with its closure, surveillance of two-thirds of Madagascar’s famed national parks would have stopped. There was considerable risk that this would exacerbate poaching within the parks and rampant exploitation of natural resources like ebony and rosewood. More importantly, social safeguard activities for nearly 26,000 households living in the vicinity of the parks would have ended.

Combining Environmental and Social Objectives

The $15 million earmarked for social safeguards activities includes community conservation work and building long-term sustainability into the livelihoods of people living near protecting areas. Park rangers will be hired, watchdog groups will be funded, ecosystem mapping will be conducted, and income-generating sub-projects will be implemented. “By improving the livelihoods of people living near conservation areas, we can also improve the sustainability of the parks and help ensure the protection of the plant and animal species living in them,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, Senior Environmental Economist and project team leader based in the Madagascar Country Office.

For the sake of Malagasy communities and biodiversity, we are relieved that this financing was approved and the Africa team – with our local and international partners – is fully committed to monitoring carefully the environmental and social aspects of this financing,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, Environment Sector Manager, Africa Region. “We will work closely with civil society and the independent Madagascar National Parks to help set up lasting conservation efforts in Madagascar.”

Political Impasse Threatens Conservation

The Bank has been involved with Madagascar’s environment sector for more than 20 years. During this time Madagascar has suffered recurrent political crises, each of which has set the clock back on development and jeopardized conservation.

In 2009, Madagascar’s President, Marc Ravalomanana, was ousted by street protests with the army’s backing. Since then, the World Bank’s program in Madagascar has been on hold due to its policy for dealing with de facto governments that come into power through means not provided for in the country’s constitution.

As a nation that depends on foreign aid for 40 percent of its budget, Madagascar instantly saw public spending drop dramatically. Between 2005 and 2010, poverty increased by more than 9 percentage points and now affects 77 percent of households. Given the high cost of monitoring conservation areas, the current political situation poses significant risks for Madagascar’s biodiversity.

The Board of Executive Directors approved this additional financing on environmental and humanitarian grounds given the global significance of Madagascar’s biodiversity and the needs of people living near the parks. This does not signal the World Bank’s reengagement with Madagascar, but signals its recognition that the environmental and social costs of inaction are too high. The Bank will suspend the project if Malagasy legislation on illegal logging is not enforced.