Agroforestry and Conservation in Northern Madagascar: Hopes and Hindrances

by Lisa L. Gezon and Benjamin Z. Freed


In this manuscript we pursue the question, under what circumstances is agroforestry a viable component of conservation? We describe tree-planting and conservation efforts in two protected areas in northern Madagascar. Mt.d’Ambre and Ankarana lie close to each other, have been subject to similar historical pressures, and are administered by the same conservation authorities. Yet aspects of local ethnicity, economy, political organization, social organization, and land tenure differ. The areas also differ in forest structure and conservation pressures. We pay particular attention to the agroforestry efforts of the integrated conservation and development (ICDP) phase of conservation. We note issues particular to protected area management and to the dual needs of protecting forest resources while providing for the needs of the people living around the forests. While some potential and identifiable benefits exist, tree-planting has not always aided conservation efforts in northern Madagascar. Problems have occurred when planners have ignored local forest use, recent forest history, and socioeconomic issues (e.g., land tenure, immigration/migration, local traditions, intergroup conflict, subsistence patterns, kinship). This paper highlights factors that have deterred the overall effectiveness of tree-planting efforts in this region and identifies factors that resource managers and conservationists need to address when initiating successful projects. While critical of many aspects of the agroforestry efforts, we argue that agroforestry should not be abandoned as a component of conservation and protected area management. Such efforts may work in this region if planners: 1) encourage local participation in the development, implementation, and maintenance of these projects, working within the context of local political organization; 2) enhance and maintain long-term communication between planners and local people; 3) facilitate communication both within and between villages; 4) assure individuals or households the ultimate rights or responsibilities for land use; 5) establish a fair distribution of project benefits; and 6) separate the roles of extension workers and enforcement agents.

Lisa Gezon is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the State University of West Georgia. Since 1990, she has conducted ethnographic interviews about local forest use, recent forest history, and aspects of community life throughout her extended field visits. Along with a team of researchers and conservation workers, she developed and administered socioeconomic surveys in villages south of Ankarana and west of Mt. d’Ambre in 1991. During 1992 – 1993 she lived in and studied local resource use in villages around Ankarana (Gezon 1995). She returned for brief follow-up visits in 1995 and 1999. Gezon’s primary field site was a commoner village named Bevary in northwestern Ankarana. She also conducted ethnographic research in the royal Antankarana village in southwestern Ankarana.

Benjamin Z. Freed is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology at Emory University. He conducted a three-year study of primate ecology and conservation in Mt. d’Ambre. In 1989 he surveyed and interviewed local people throughout Mt. d’Ambre. He conducted follow-up interviews in northeastern and western Mt. d’Ambre during 1990 – 1991.