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Right to international support
– by Burkhard Margraf
Madagascar has a species-richness that is not comparable to almost any other country. What impact does climate change have on conservation and protection of species?
Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns place enormous stress on the forest ecosystems of Madagascar, which are already under huge pressure due to clearing and expansive farming. As far as species protection is concerned, American researchers recently discovered that especially sensitive reptiles and amphibians are trying to move to higher – and therefore cooler – mountain regions. However, this attempt to escape the gradual increase in temperature by relocating their habitats has so far been in vain.
The change in climatic conditions is already making itself felt in many parts of the world, sometimes in a dramatic way. How is it evident in Madagascar and to what extent is the population affected by it?
Meteorologists are observing an increasing frequency of extreme events, especially tropical cyclones. In 2004 and 2007, for example, cyclones Gafilo and Indlala wreaked havoc on an unprecedented scale. But extended dry periods and flooding after very heavy rain are also becoming more of a problem. This often exposes the rural population to mortal danger – and the risk of poverty also increases considerably as a result.
Conservation and protection of species can also help the local
communities to deal with the changed conditions. How would
In addition to ethical arguments, which hold a certain weight with respect to Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna, protection of species also stabilises natural spaces which are important for the people. Since the German financial cooperation (KfW) has had good experiences with individual parks, it is now supporting the Madagascan national park system by the means of basket funding.
How does conservation of nature help mitigate the effects over and above this; i.e. to what extent does it help to prevent climate change?
Considering the species extinction and the acute poverty and hardship suffered by the population, climate protection tends to play more of a secondary role in Madagascar. But by conserving forested areas, CO2 is bound, which contributes not insignificantly to protecting the global climate. However, of course the forest is not always used with care; rather, the people also clear a lot – to produce charcoal or for agriculture, for example. Eighty percent of the forests have already been destroyed for this purpose. This is despite the fact that the island used to be almost completely forested. German development cooperation is also getting involved here. In the next few years, KfW and German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) will support Madagascan farmers with the reforestation of more than 9,000 hectares of forest for sustainable charcoal production.
How does the government weigh up the interests relating to climate policy and economic policy?
The government is engaged in a desperate battle against poverty in the country, with mixed success. In this context, climate policy tends to mean acquiring financial resources and technical knowledge to deal with the primary political tasks. The Madagascan president´s initiative to triple the protected areas in his country is very well recognised worldwide. This goal to protect nature is firmly anchored in the government’s five-year plan.
What role plays conservation and protection of species in this context?
People in Madagascar are well aware of what population growth, exploitation and poverty have done to the natural wealth of the island within just a few decades – and what the situation in the remaining forested areas would be now if massive intervention efforts had not been made. Living conditions would have deteriorated more and more due to drought and soil erosion. The Madagascan government therefore asked for a small financial cooperation project on erosion protection to be expanded to cover the entire country. This purely self-help oriented project developed into the island’s most successful erosion protection programme. The Madagascans are very aware of how much all these negative effects will influence the development opportunities of the country, with respect to tourism, for example. Therefore, conservation and species protection are definitely not foreign concepts in Madagascar. But one has to be able to afford them – as industrialised countries have been able to for several decades. The island’s mega-biodiversity is considered an international public good, therefore the country has a right to international support.
How is the KfW development bank involved in the whole process?
As far as environmental and resource protection is concerned, the contributions of financial cooperation can be subdivided into three parts. – Firstly, there is conservation and resource protection: approximately €25 million was made available to assist the national park authorities with establishing and maintaining nature reserves in the past few years. €5 million was invested in a share in the Madagascar Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity to ensure these national parks can be supported financially in the long term. A further €2 million is to be used to finance private-sector conservation initiatives, especially in the field of ecotourism. Environmental education was supported with around €3.5 million, which included printing school booklets and environment magazines, thus addressing the local population directly.
– The second sub-area in which financial cooperation contributes to environmental protection is erosion protection, which has been supported with around 9 million Euro to date.
– And finally, reforestation is the third area to receive support. This task is closely linked to the first two issues. Financial cooperation has provided €5 million for this sub-area. Since 2008, there has also been budget support for projects in the environmental sector. As part of the “greening of the budget” €7 million went to the Madagascan government so there is money available for the entire environmental sector.
Who are the most important partners of KfW in these projects?
The Ministry of the Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP). Other institutions have also become important for our work in recent years, including the national park authorities (Madagascar National Parks), the Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity and representatives of the erosion protection project PLAE. We have also had very close links with the environmental organizations WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) and Conservation International for years.
So how does the simple population
of Madagascar feel about this whole
Large parts of the population live in dire poverty and have concerns other than species and climate protection. Awareness of these issues is growing all the same. The millions of booklets containing ecological articles, which the KfW and WWF had printed, make a significant contribution to this. The contents of the “Ny Voary” magazine are an integral part of the curriculum at primary schools in Madagascar. As a rule, the local communities simply do not have any alternative means to ensure an adequate living. You have to keep in mind that the per-capita income was $370 in 2007.
Questions by Eleonore von Bothmer