UWB Crest

p4ges - Can Paying 4 Global Ecosystem Services reduce poverty?

Sharing p4ges research results with regional stakeholders

Rina Mandimbiniaina writes ...

July has been an exciting month for Madagascar p4ges team as we have run two major events to feedback results to our regional stakeholders, and have hosted the ESPA impact advisor in Africa, Sam Mwangi. After two and a half challenging years of field work and data processing it has been satisfying to start sharing our results with local communities (see Sharing results in northern CAZ, Community Engagement: Vital For Researchers And Research and Community Feedback: returning p4ges project results to communities) that we have been working with but also to potential users of our results in positions of authority in the regions where we worked. 

Two regional events were organised in Moramanga and Toamasina; the two cities which are the focus points of partners and organizations working on conservation and development around the Corridor Ankeniheny Zahamena. The aims were to share and to inform our results to all regional stakeholders such as local representatives of government and relevant ministries, local authorities (mayors), NGOs working on development and conservation, private sector partners (the Ambatovy mine), local associations and others sectors in the region. We were also delighted that three members of our national advisory committee also attended: Jean Noel Ndriamiary, Mamitiana Randriamanjato and Andriamandranto Ravoahangy. There were in total about 70 participants at the Moramanga event and 50 at the one held in Toamasina.

After giving a general presentation of the overall project, the biophysical team emphasised the impact of different land use change on ecosystem services. Their research shows that some ecosystem services are rapidly lost (and not easily rebuilt) when forests are converted (through clearance for agriculture) whereas others are quite well retained in fallows, especially tree fallows. They showed that reforestation can rebuild some ecosystem services and also provide jobs (but data on whether active replanting or just controlling fire and grazing is more efficient is not yet available).

The next session was mainly focused on the effect of forest conservation on the local communities. P4ges has demonstrated that ¬†conservation projects can have negative effects on the local livelihoods as they are heavily dependent on swidden agriculture and few alternatives exist. There have been around 600 micro-development projects implemented in CAZ since 2006, under different forms, which can ideally compensate for these costs by allowing alternative livelihoods. While these are vital for the success of conservation and its local acceptability and are greatly appreciated, some improvements need to be made with implementation in some areas. Microprojects carried out as part of the social safeguards (implemented explicitly to avoid impacts of conservation) need better targeting to ensure the poorest people wouldn’t suffer because of conservation and to make sure that the compensation project would reach the people truly affected by the conservation project (see here for a paper on this subject published in Global Environmental Change).

The session was followed by some recommendations and discussions from the audience. There was a lively discussion about the main issues of implementing safeguard project like the identification of the beneficiaries. There was also a deep discussion about the issue of land tenure which is currently complex and mostly not formalised. Many of the attendees feel tenure needs to be regulated if schemes such as REDD+ or forest conservation more broadly are to be effective.

The participants showed a big interest in our results; they were very engaged in discussions. The Prefect of the Alaotra Mangoro region, Rakotondrasoa Daniel said “the regional event was very useful for practioners to learn new things and improve the way of managing the forest. I encourage more researchers to communicate their finding in this way”.

The Regional Development Director of Alaotra Mangoro, Rabenasolo Zakamalala said ¬†“The results from the project would help the police makers to take the right decisions ensuring a sustainable management of protected areas, local and regional development.”

The Mayor of Ambodimangavalo, representing the voice of the lowest level of administration and remote areas along the protected area, emphasised that it was important that benefits from REDD+ reach remote areas (as they tend to be forgotten but have big needs). The national coordinator of REDD+ in Madagascar Mamitiana Randriamanjato also said that a well-designed project that meets official standards is not enough unless the benefits from conservation reach the right people.

Sam Mwangi from the espa directorate suggested a role play between the State (who are the main deciders) and other stakeholders. The aim of the game was to make people understand that it is not easy to make decisions and to choose the right way by considering the voice of different stakeholders. This helped us all to understand how the state and other all institutions should collaborate to ensure the effectiveness of conservation and development projects in improving local community livelihoods.

Many actors present said they looked forward to the full report of the work (some of the results are still preliminaries). The national project coordinator in Madagascar Bruno Ramamonjisoa mentioned that there will be a national event to present final results in Antananarivo at the end of January 2017.

While Sam Mwangi, the ESPA impact advisor in Africa, was in Madagascar, he has spent time with p4ges team to discuss deeply the impact of the project and advise us on how to improve our impact. He, met all institutions involved in the project at the national level; visiting each partner in turn. He also had the opportunity to come to the field briefly when we returned to one of our pilot sites: Mahatsara, to return research results. He met the president of the fokontany and some local people and saw how we share our research results in the community. He also visited the maternity hospital in Andasibe where some of our equipment has a new lease of life providing light. Sam Mwangi said “P4ges project is the first ESPA project in Africa who is doing feedback to communities.” He also mentioned that “the scientists always want to do research but communities want development. So, research for development is a good thing”. The local and regional feedback has shown that sharing and discussing our results locally is the starting point to turn on research into use which can eventually lead to development impact.