TRADITIONAL VALUES, SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND PRACTICAL MANAGEMENT
TO ENHANCE CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES IN THE ANDRINGITRA
MOUNTAINS, MADAGASCAR; LESSONS LEARNED! ©
Rabetaliana and Peter Schachenmann
The Andringitra Mountains in south-central
Madagascar have been a Strict Nature Reserve since 1927 because they
were recognized by early explorers (Perrier de la Bathie, 1911; Humbert,
1924) as a bio-geographical convergence zone of different landscapes,
ecosystems and habitats. Each had an outstanding biological diversity
with an Eco-regional function as an important watershed area. Protected
by legislation, relative inaccessibility and a rude climate, the Andringitra
Mountains were left in "splendid isolation" for over 65 years.
Eventually, a concerted effort by national and international conservation
interests produced the 1st Malagasy National Environmental Action Plan
in 1989. L'Association Nationale pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées
(A.N.G.A.P.) is designated as the future National Park Service Organization.
Among other sites, Andringitra Strict Nature Reserve became a priority
for intervention during the 1st phase environment program (1991-95),
assisted by various conservation NGO's.
In 1993, a tripartite convention between
the Direction des Eaux et Forets (D.E.F.), A.N.G.A.P. and the German
Development Bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), contracted
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-International) as project executive
for the creation of a National Park. The agreement included two mission
statements: A) The long-term preservation of unique biological-,
genetic- and aesthetic values and ecological functions of Andringitra
and B) Sustainable socio-economic development through diversification
and intensification of the traditional agro-silvo-pastoral farming system
outside and the development of ecotourism inside the park, respecting
ecological principles for local natural resources management and economic
The contractual agreement between the
above mentioned stakeholders stipulated eight major objectives,
which translated into indicators for project achievement after
5 years at the end of the orientation phase. They were: 1) The values,
functions and potentials of the Andringitra mountain ecosystems are
better known and understood; 2) Concepts and strategies for protected
area management and use are developed; 3) Ecological approaches for
economic development of peripheral zones are found and applied; 4) Water
sources, water catchment and watershed areas are protected to assure
the sustainable function of Andringitra as a quality water reservoir
for agricultural and socio-economic development by local communities;
5) Destructive agricultural- and pastoral practices (swidden agriculture,
uncontrolled bush fires), which lead to deforestation and soil erosion
are halted and alternatives found; 6) The interconnected roles of "conservation
(of natural resources) for (socio-economic) development"
and "development for conservation" are understood by
local communities and other stakeholders; 7) Institutional, NGO, and
local capacities are developed or reinforced for self-reliance and self-governance;
8) The potentials and feasibility for Eco-tourism in the Andringitra
Mountains are identified. To realize these eight objectives, the intervention
was designed as an Integrated Conservation and Development Project
(ICDP), where protected areas interact with the surrounding landscape
matrix and activities of people generating direct and indirect impacts
are tolerated, obliging the project executive to define a functional
intervention zone in a broader framework of space and time.
THE ANDRINGITRA INTEGRATED CONSERVATION
AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (ICDP)
In the beginning of 1993, rapid rural
appraisals (RRA) highlighted a longstanding irregularity: a situation
whereby natural resources, (including particular forests and the Andringitra
Strict Nature Reserve) belonging to the state agency, Direction des
Eaux et Forets (DEF) were being illicitly used by local communities
according to their needs. In other words, the owner had no uses and
the user had no rights. This effectively disconnected the primary objectives
of the two key stakeholders, forcing their relationship into a game
of cat and mouse. We believed that this question of relationship
between land and its resources, owners and users was our most important
challenge and decided to address it with priority.
We therefore set ourselves three operational
mission statements: 1) Clarify the role of and compatibility between
traditional local conventions and state legislation concerning natural
recourses use and management. 2) Reduce positions of conflict e.g. between
use values (local communities) and existence / option values (scientists,
conservationists), non-market resource uses (local communities) and
market-resource uses (DEF and ANGAP) and facilitate functional and synergistic
relationships of key stakeholders by narrowing the gap between extreme
positions. and 3) Catalyze approaches for ecological stability and equally
important, permitting social integration for economic and political
viability and longer term sustainable solutions.
After a one year interdisciplinary and
collaborative situation appraisal we concluded:
a) Protection of natural resources by
the strict interdiction of access and user rights to natural resources
(e.g., the application of state legislation) is a non-sustainable
approach. It depends on centralist, top-down prescribed law and order,
difficult to comprehend and enforce in the remote countryside of a
poor developing country. In addition, certain intangible properties
like sacred sites, taboos or even certain natural resources like water,
firewood, medicinal plants, bushfood, are perceived as common goods
by local communities.
b) The "paternalistic" approach
towards protection for local people gives poor results.
It creates a passive relationship between actor and beneficiary or
in other words a "teacher" and his "pupil". Same
goods and services are seen out of variable believes, desires, perceptions,
different perspectives and knowledge with unequal use, existence and
option values. Subsistence or market priorities can position project
executives opposite local stakeholders and logic based science opposite
myth based traditional cultures, public versus private benefits, and
c) Following a review of earlier experiences
and guidelines for designing Integrated Conservation and Development
Projects, we proceeded to develop a collaborative approach of conservation
and development together with local people.
ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT, LEARNING BY DOING!
COORDINATING TRADITIONAL VALUES, SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
(R&D) TO FOSTER CONVERGENT INTERESTS, A RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST AND
During the following year of project implementation,
we encountered many unexpected effects and setbacks. Scientists or project
executives need public support and participation to increase credibility,
reduce conflict, and become more effective. Local communities need intervention
partners who are prepared to observe, listen and learn from the wealth
of traditional experience and local intuition. In a "Learning
by doing" scenario, interested stakeholders develop a holistic,
multi-lens vision, permitting them to observe and address details within
a broader framework. It enables them to respond to and to test processes
creatively and dynamically rather then statically. Within a given
cultural and economic context, such a systems approach allows a strategic
interconnection of different scales of biological, social and institutional
parameters within the multi-stakeholder logical frameworks of an ICDP.
In other words, one interconnects specific questions simultaneously
at different levels: a wide angle lens (the importance and meaning
of cattle pasturing on altimontane prairies for cattle owners, biologists,
National Park managers, tourists, the ecosystems and its biodiversity);
a loupe (what logic governs local communities to develop a sophisticated
rotational grazing system -- "alpage" in French -- on altimontane
prairies?); and, a microscope (the impact of cattle grazing on
soil erosion, biodiversity dynamics, water pollution, and the visitor
Over time, a basis of mutual respect between
the various stakeholders such as local communities, scientists, natural
resources managers (ANGAP, DEF) developed. We all became aware of the
divergent interests and priorities and these could be discussed. Compromises
were identified, evolving finally towards convergent interests which
could thrive in an environment of confidence and trust. For instance,
interested villagers became para-scientists, integrating their
"soft" traditional knowledge in a database from "hard"
sciences (the scientist learning from long standing observation and
experiences of local people). At the same time, they learned to comprehend
and even apply Cartesian logic and the methodology of modern science.
In another example, state legislation permited the integration of traditional
"law" as conflict resolution or different land-uses like agriculture,
pastoralism, conservation, and tourism. These elements, segregated in
the past, developed more and more synergy and reciprocal benefits from
a matrix of multiple land-use systems.
Over the following three years we learned,
that in the long run attitudes and actions of resident stakeholders
(local communities, local natural resources managers,
local politicians, local rural development approaches,
etc.) which make or break integrated conservation and development efforts.
In an evolutionary process of trial and error we developed our own Andringitra
project-specific brand of ICDP design and management evolving progressively
towards conservation by local people. Conservation by
local people is a process of awareness creation, leading to a paradigm
shift for conservation scientists and academic project executives. Resident
communities can become --under certain favorable conditions-- good natural
Example: The role of cattle
and fire on the altimontane prairies inside the protected area.
Due to their location in relation to latitude (~22°10')
and altitude (~2000 m al), and natural environmental dynamics
(a marked seasonality between dry and wet conditions and high daily
temperature oscillation) this ecosystem is unique in Madagascar and
thus attracts high conservation interests. Seasonal occupation for cattle
grazing and sporadic fires used as a pasture "management"
caused these natural prairies to become over time a unique "sustainably
disturbed" natural vegetation mosaic with enhanced esthetic,
biodiversity and socio-cultural values for multiple stakeholders. Contrary
to conventional conservation wisdom, traditional land uses are at least
compatible with or even necessary for landscape diversity, biological
diversity and functionality. We patiently worked through relationships
between multiple stakeholders towards a unified vision: a synergistic
co-evolution with practical applications and win-win solutions for an
increased number of stakeholders.
LESSONS WE LEARNED
Learning is the result of a continual
process of investigation, analysis, interpretation, trial and error
and adaptation (Figure 1). It cannot produce
absolute solutions and standardized approaches because in a living system,
each situation, episode, question, opportunity and problem is a unique
snapshot in space, time and context. Below, we share with you some important
project experiences and what they meant for us project executives:
- The notion of a "pristine environment"
is a myth. The landscape keeps a memory of human "footprints"
and impacts. Conversely, the cultural history of people seems entwined
with the natural history of the land with its specific geo-morphology,
climate, flora and fauna. Land users are therefore automatically land
managers. They are principally relationship managers, who continuously
need to interpret physical, ecological, economic, social and political
contexts and processes and adapt to, or manage interactions between
nature and people over space and time.
Lesson we learned: Conservation
objectives can better be considered by inclusion rather then exclusion
of people and by favoring a synergistic co-evolution of transformation
- "Learning by doing" is an
open ended and flexible approach of "informed trial and error."
This requires a holistic approach of interconnecting systems research
and process research with an iterative feedback of information and
scaling. It permits the recognition of heterogeneity, variability,
and multiple objectives. This "perpetuum mobile" of investigation,
experimentation, evaluation and adaptation helps to tailor the approach
and permit rapid elimination of unsatisfactory approaches and results
by favoring adapted solutions. In order to function well it needs
a decentralized, bottom-up, flexible management structure and a relationship
between stakeholders of mutual trust and interactive communication.
Lesson we learned: "Learning
by doing" was a suitable approach to foster trust and with it
feedback and creative interaction and co-evolution.
- Sectorial interests, such as community
objectives, are principally governed by needs, traditions, intuition
and opinions. Scientific objectives are guided by curiosity,
hypothetico-deductive and objective approaches to fact finding and
understanding. Management objectives are driven by strategic
targets, logical frameworks and expected results can be successfully
addressed by democratic partnerships and collaborative management
agreements (Figure 2).
Lesson we learned: Creative
interaction and co-evolution grows and strengthens among equal partners
having mutual respect for each others views, perceptions, and logic.
- Data refraction, where the same information
can be seen supporting opposing viewpoints, is a major constraint
to project design and management and must be given serious attention.
This situation arises when one compares development objectives
with conservation objectives, short-term impacts with
long-term effects, or economic benefits weighed against cultural
impacts. Examples: 1) short term productivity per land unit (development
objective) may lead to long term land degradation (conservation objective)
or contrarily, 2) devastating fire impact (short term conservation
view) may lead to vegetation heterogeneity with enhanced biodiversity
(long term conservation view), 3) tourism offers rural communities
the opportunity to diversify local employment and economic development
at the price of lost cultural identity.
Lesson we learned: There is
no simple recipe or best policy for choosing the "right"
way. The way forward should be a negotiated agreement and not a top-down,
- Developing and managing the Andringitra
ICDP with these innovative approaches caused us to overlook the pathology
of outside induced and managed projects. We were prepared for shared
duties and responsibilities, but maintained intellectual, technical
and financial leadership. Interactive communication, technical and
financial joint ventures do not have enough meaning if the project
donor or executive's relationship with other stakeholders, particularly
local communities, remains one of discrete dependencies.
Lesson we learned: Project
donors and executives easily fall into the trap of continued leadership
and dominance. Over time, this produces inflated leaders at the expense
of deflated "beneficiaries". For a conservation and development
objective to become sustainable, catalysts must learn to let go.
PROJECT EXECUTIVES MUST LEARN TO LET GO!
STAKEHOLDERS MUST BECOME SHAREHOLDERS
Responsible stakeholders must become over
time accountable shareholders, sharing not only duties and responsibilities,
but also rights and powers. This means finally conservation by people
and political negotiation between equal partners, anchored
within institutional and legal frameworks. This was probably the most
important lesson learned from the Andringitra Integrated Conservation
and Development approach over a five year period. The most durable stakeholders
within the vicinity of a National Park are local communities, having
their spiritual and livelihood rooted in the natural landscape. If conservation
and development objectives are to become sustainable, as postulated
in the mission statement, then these stakeholders turned shareholders
must have institutional rights, powers and legal security. For foreign
dominated project executives (eg. WWF, KfW, scientists, visiting consultants,
and specialized development NGO's) or state-based public interests such
as National Parks or more abstract objectives like biodiversity conservation,
the transformation of this lesson into action, becomes the most crucial
and most difficult part of the whole program initiative. Examples: At
the project level, 1) Resident villagers around the periphery of the
newly decreed Andringitra National Park volunteered as unpaid, self-help
National Park Guards, each individually and collectively responsible
for a section of the park boundary and the park as a whole; 2) fire
is collectively managed by traditional conventions and modern legal
agreements among key shareholders (DEF, ANGAP, project executive, and
the community); 3) fire control is organized autonomously for each village
territory. At national level, 4) the approval by parliament in 1996
of a law permitting local management of renewable natural resources
outside protected areas; and 5) within the Andringitra National Park,
the Government approved our jointly drafted decree for its creation
in which grazing rights and the collection of natural resource products
for personal domestic use (within limits of ecological sustainability
jointly established and approved in the park's management plan), and
existing customary traditions (passage on existing trails and access
to sacred sites) are guaranteed by public legislation.
The five years of working on a joint venture
to develop capacities, courage, trust and legal frameworks for local
stakeholders has taught us many lessons. Local stakeholders must assume
their future role as responsible and accountable shareholders. During
this process of co-evolution with other partners from stakeholders towards
shareholders, the Andringitra National Park ICDP has set a pioneering
example. It serves as one of the foundation stones for a second phase
functional systems approach to a Eco-regional Landscape Development
1. Barton T., Borrini-Feyerabend
G., Sherbin A., Warren P. Our People, "Our Resources: Supporting
rural communities in participatory action research on population dynamics
and the local environment." Issues in Social Policy, IUCN,
2. Borrini-Feyerabend G., Kothari A., Pimbert
M. (editors); Participatory management of Natural Resources -An early
draft of a state of the art report, IUCN, Social Policy Group, 1997.
3. Brown M. & Wyckoff-Baird B.; Designing
Integrated Conservation and Development Projects, The Biodiversity
Support Program, 1992.
4. Rabetaliana H.; Analyse et modelisation
de la gestion locale des ressources naturelles: le cas du Parc National
d'Andringitra, thèse de Doctorat en ecology (en preparation),
Université de Besançon, 1999.
5. Schachenmann P.; Final Report Phase
1: 1993-1998, Andringitra ICDP including the bibliography sited herein.