As part of BirdLife's partnership with Rio Tinto, Asity Madagascar (the BirdLife Affiliate in Madagascar) is implementing a project to conserve Tsitongambarika IBA in Madagascar. This project is employing an innovative approach to conservation—direct payments—which delivers development benefits to local communities in exchange for improved forest protection.
Tsitongambarika IBA includes the most extensive area of lowland humid forest remaining in southern Madagascar. This forest harbours a wealth of biodiversity, including nine globally threatened bird species, and a number of newly discovered plant and animal species known from nowhere else on earth. The forest also provides a number of essential ecosystem services, which underpin both the livelihoods of local communities and wider regional sustainable development. Unfortunately, like many other forests in Madagascar, the forests of Tsitongambarika IBA are gradually being degraded and cleared through timber cutting and clearance for shifting cultivation.
The direct payments project has been developed by Asity Madagascar (the BirdLife Affiliate in Madagascar), as part of the strategic partnership between BirdLife International and the global mining company Rio Tinto. The project aims to strengthen the conservation of Tsitongambarika IBA and maintain ecosystem services essential for regional development. To this end, the project is piloting a community-based conservation approach, originally developed elsewhere in Madagascar. After an initial period of awareness-raising, local villagers are trained to monitor selected biodiversity and threat indicators (such as forest cover, sightings of globally threatened birds, frequency of forest fire, etc.). Each year, villagers monitor these indicators twice, in order to evaluate changes. At the end of the year, they present their findings at a community festival. Villages that demonstrate improvements in forest conservation are awarded prizes in the form of support for development projects, such as new school buildings or clean water supplies. The project is funded by Rio Tinto, with the aim of securing key ecosystem services, including water catchment protection for its nearby ilmenite mining operation, and delivering sustainable development outcomes for local communities.
The project is empowering local communities with the necessary skills, information and incentives to make more sustainable decisions regarding use of forest. As well as providing them with the necessary motivation, incentives and capacity to manage forest and forest resources more sustainably, the project is also providing communities with livelihood alternatives to shifting cultivation, by giving them opportunities to generate sustainable income from forest protection and sustainable use. For instance, some communities involved in the pilot phase of the project requested that their prizes be in the form of fertilizer, so that they were able to boost productivity on their existing agricultural land, and so avoid the need to clear more forest for shifting cultivation. This project has successfully demonstrated how a cross-sector partnership between a conservation NGO and a mining company can address wider objectives of sustainable development, in addition to meeting goals for biodiversity conservation.
BirdLife International (2008) Asity Madagascar is using direct payments to local communities as an incentive for IBA conservation. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/220. Checked: 18/09/2014
|Key message: Biodiversity conservation is essential to the livelihoods of local communities|