Perceived fairness, integrated conservation and development investments, and lemur conservation: A case study from northeastern Madagascar
Problem Statement, Research Questions, and Research Objectives
Habitat disturbance presents a significant threat to the survival of Propithecus candidus, a lemur ranked among the world’s 25 most endangered primates (Mittermeier et al. 2009) that serves as a flagship species for the Marojejy region of northeastern Madagascar and promotes local income generation through tourism and foreign conservation-sector investments. A 2010 Patel et al. population survey for this species simultaneously documented exceptionally high lemur density and significant anthropogenic disturbance along the western boundary of Marojejy National Park, as compared with the Park’s eastern area. These regions support forest-bordering communities of comparable size where traditional livelihoods are characterized by swidden systems of rice cultivation and cash crop production. These communities are perceived to receive variable investments of Park finances for educational, infrastructural and agricultural-sector development. This study proposes to investigate perceptions of fairness in to-date integrated conservation and development investments in forest-bordering communities in the Marojejy region. Specifically, the study will ask the question: “Do community members increase their use of forest resources, protected within critical habitat for Propithecus candidus, based on the perception that other communities are receiving more benefits from conservation investments than they are?” The ultimate objective of this research will be to determine a set of practical recommendations for Park managers and investors that will facilitate more equitable integrated conservation and development programs and/or systems of payment for ecological services that benefit local livelihoods while preserving habitat for remaining lemur populations.
In Madagascar, fire plays an integral role in rural agricultural production systems, (Humbert 1927; Jarosz 1993; Kull 2000; Gezon 2006) and is widely applied by Betsimisaraka and Tsimihety swidden farmers in landscapes surrounding Marojejy National Park to adapt upland regions for subsistence rice production and cash cropping of coffee and vanilla. (Laney 1999) Forest loss and fragmentation has restricted most remaining populations of Propithecus candidus to Marojejy National Park and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve, (Patel et al. 2008) two protected areas managed by Madagascar National Parks that also provide essential ecological services to surrounding communities in an otherwise severely eroded landscape. In recent decades, integrated conservation and development programs have been implemented in Madagascar to promote community-scale conservation of the island’s remaining forested landscapes (USAID 2010), with systems of payment for ecological services emerging as a new investment strategy to support communities that lack alternative livelihoods by preserving carbon and water resources (Wendland et al. 2010). Sommerville et al.’s (2010) case study of a Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust community-based payment for ecological services intervention in Menabe, western Madagascar, has suggested households with the highest opportunity costs to engaging in forest conservation over food crop production perceive the lowest levels of net benefit from conservation incentives, and that perceived fairness in the governance of investment distribution systems plays a significant role in the effectiveness of conservation interventions (Sommerville et al. 2010). My proposed research will evaluate whether these findings apply to Marojejy National Park’s investment strategy for forest-bordering communities, with the aim of identifying perceived inequalities and encouraging community input on options for the improved design of locally- appropriate integrated conservation and development strategies in this remote region of Madagascar.
Field Site Selection and Justification
I plan to build a case-study of two communities located on the periphery of Marojejy National Park: (1) Mandena village, which borders the Park ecotourism zone and is highly ‘visible’ to Park managers, visitors, and international donors and has received notable development- sector investments in recent years, and (2) the geographically-isolated community of Antsahaberoahaka on the western Park border, a four-day walk from the nearest road, which is rumored to receive little compensation in the form of development assistance in exchange for respecting restrictions on natural resource use within Park boundaries. Limited research has been conducted in the field of environmental anthropology in this region of Madagascar, and documentation of local resource use patterns, local attitudes towards Marojejy National Park, and a community-oriented evaluation of equity in conservation investments would be highly valuable for environmental planning.
Local land use mapping, interviews with local leaders, and household surveys are proposed for this study, as a means of giving voice to local perspectives, enhancing understanding of variables affecting anthropogenic pressure on remaining lemur habitat, and advising equitable and effective future conservation planning in Madagascar’s remaining forested regions. A randomly-selected representative sample of households in the villages of Antsahaberoahaka and Mandena (present number of households still to be determined) will be selected for closed-ended household surveys designed after Sommerville et al. (2010), Queslin and Patel (2008) and Holmes (2003) to (1) assess individual attitudes towards the Park and (2) quantify relative resource use patterns, including: (a) area used for rice cultivation, (b) area used for cash crop cultivation, and (c) fuelwood and non-timber forest product consumption. Formal meetings with community leaders and tangalamena (elders) will be conducted at the initiation of the study, with open-ended interviews documenting: (a) perceptions of community benefit from Park investments to-date, (b) broader community conservation attitudes, and (c) ethnographic details on historical occupation and resource reliance in the region. Local land use mapping performed with community leaders and tangalamena will be keyed to surveyed households, to document relative patterns of resource reliance. Structured interviews with National Park management staff will also be performed to quantify park proceeds and donor investments in community development projects to-date. Documentation of open-ended interviews will be done using tape recorders and coded for data analysis in field notebooks. Closed-ended household surveys will be documented on prepared questionnaires featuring simple yes/no and preference ranking questions for univariate statistical analysis. Data will be collected in dialect Malagasy (for Antsahaberoahaka and Mandena) and in French language (Andapa Marojejy National Park office), in collaboration with a local research assistant (Marojejy Guide Association field assistant, cook, and porters are required by the National Park) and Malagasy student from the University of Antananarivo (it is required that all foreign researchers in Madagascar engage a University student for the duration of their research).
Personal Qualifications and Research Collaborations
My personal qualifications for this research include three years experience (2006-2009) working on community-based conservation and ecological monitoring projects in northeastern Madagascar with the Peace Corps, in partnership with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Antanetiambo Nature Reserve. In 2008 I co-authored a report to WCS documenting a new population of Propithecus candidus lemurs in Makira Protected Area, following work with primatologist Erik Patel (Simpona.org) and local research assistants to design and perform interviews similar to those proposed in this more extensive study (see Patel et al. 2008). In a 2008 language examination I scored “advanced-high” proficiency in Betsimisaraka dialect Malagasy, and “advanced- medium” in French. I have local contacts within the Marojejy National Park guide association and with the National Park director and staff, and have been in communication with the Madagascar Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments to plan logistics and survey technique to begin the research permitting process, and to identify a Malagasy research assistant from the University of Antananarivo.
Gezon, L. L. 2006. Global Visions, Local Landscapes: A Political Ecology of Conservation, Conflict, and Control in Northern Madagascar. AltaMira Press: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. New Y ork.
Holmes, C. M. 2003. The influence of protected area outreach on conservation attitudes and resource use patterns: a case study from western Tanzania. Oryx. 37(3): 305-315.
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June 2011 - Assemble and train Madagascar team for data collection: University of Antananarivo student assistant, local research assistants
July 2011 - Data collection (household surveys, community resource mapping, structured and unstructured interviews) in Antsahaberoahaka village
August 2011 - Data collection (household surveys, community resource mapping, structured and unstructured interviews) in Mandena village
- Data collection (archival research, structured interviews with Park staff) at Marojejy National Parks office
Sept-Nov 2011 - Data entry and analysis
Dec-Mar 2011-2012 - Writing
Apr-May 2012 - Yale Masters Symposium (presentation of research)
June 2012 - Poster presentation at Seneca Park Zoo Madagascar Event
July-Sept 2012 - Publication prep (Journal of Madagascar Conservation & Development/Oryx)