Madagascar's $20 Million Debt-for-Nature Deal

Madagascar MapIn an innovative funding strategy, $20 million of Madagascar's national debt has been channeled into conservation, the WWF announced recently. Rather than pay the sum back to the French government, the former colonial power has agreed to re-direct it into conserving the island's remarkable wildlife.

Madagascar is a heavily indebted country, with a large percentage of the population living in poverty. It is also one of the world's major biodiversity hotspots, with a vast number of unique plants and animals. The tensions in allocating funds for wildlife and the environment, and for development and poverty alleviation, are obvious and controversial. The agreement signed last week is a therefore a very practical one - there is little point in money leaving the country one way to service debt, only to re-enter it as foreign aid for conservation. By cutting out the middle step, conservation efforts can be financed much more immediately. As WWF representative for Madagascar, Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana says, "this initiative is an excellent example of innovative financing for sustainable development."

LemurThe deal will allow the Madagascar Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity, a landmark initiative that is considered a model for conservation financing in developing countries, to meet the $50 million target it set. Jointly managed between the WWF, Conservation International, and the Malagasy government, the foundation was set up in 2005 to provide long-term funding for wildlife protection. The $50 million target has been reached through a variety of donations, and a similar debt-for-nature agreement with Germany.

Projects funded will include the maintenance of existing protected areas, and the creation of wildlife corridors and buffer zones, part of a major national project announced in 2003 by President Marc Ravalomanana: "Anyone who says conservation and development cannot work hand-in-hand is wrong," he told the World Parks Congress in South Africa. "It is important to stress the positive impact biodiversity conservation has on economic development and quality of life." The president also announced his aim to triple protected areas in just six years. A million hectares were subsequently designated as conservation areas in 2005, and a further million were designated in May 2007.

Conservation International president Russell Mittermeier (who has a Malagasy mouse lemur named after him, the Microcebus Mittermeieri) has called Madagascar "the highest priority biodiversity hotspot on earth", and hailed its commitment to the environment as "historic and of global significance."

 

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  • Posted on June 28, 2008. Listed in:

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