Madagascar is one of the most diverse lands, with 95% of its reptiles, 92 % of mammals, and 89% of plants (1) unique to the country. There is a catch though – around 70% (2) of the population live in or close to poverty, and those who are hungry, needing medical attention or struggling to find their daily needs, cannot wait – so there are two questions – who and how do we help?
In the last 20 years, Madagascar has gained over $700 million to fund over 500 conservation projects, yet in a recent report and series, Rowan Moore Gerety (3) calls into question quite how effective these projects really are.
There are practical difficulties in assessing how effective conservation is – for instance it can take days to reach destinations and obviously – in a land of so much diversity, which parts do you pick?
One highlight from this report is that whatever is done, Madagascar’s population and environment simply cannot be viewed separately. In a country experiencing rapid population growth, the only way to support the natural environment is to ensure that people can access their requirements, without needing to exploit the land.
Even in areas where investment has been made for sustainability, the local people do not always profit and those who cannot access their land are forced to exploit the nearby habitats. The report makes it clear that these people must be helped too, if long term progress is to be made as people in need cannot wait.
The people are keen to help protect their country. A presidential adviser suggested that ‘“There has been a monumental leap in awareness of conservation’s importance in the population: they are against trafficking protected species, they say it’s important to protect natural resources, and they are acutely aware of climate change,” (3) The people know what needs to be done, they just need help, due to the poverty which many experience.
It is to offer this help that organisations such as Money For Madagascar exist. We can help sustain the people, providing funding for education, sanitation and medical needs, and generally funding a better future. The Malagasy can then build stable lives alongside the natural world.
If you feel you could play a part in this process by making a donation, please click on the link below. Your support will act like a stepping stone, enabling them to do the work ‘on the ground’ – building a livelihood alongside protecting the environment.
By Matthew Ward