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Volume 1

A Dissertation

Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School

of Cornell University

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Jacques Pollini

August 2007
© 2007 Jacques Pollini


Jacques Pollini, Ph. D.

Cornell University 2007

Madagascar is a threatened biodiversity hotspot that has attracted the attention

of conservation biologists and donor agencies for over two decades. The remaining

primary forests are being cleared at a fast pace by farmers pushed toward the forest

frontier and practicing slash-and-burn cultivation. A National Environmental Action

Plan, supported by multilateral and bilateral donors, has been in place for 15 years but

failed to decrease the overall deforestation rate. Results in terms of biodiversity

conservation are local and have been achieved at the cost of negative impacts on local

livelihoods. This dissertation analyzes the causes of this failure.

The central hypothesis is that a gap exists between the realities of Malagasy

farmers and the representation of these realities by actors committed to changing them.

To test this hypothesis, I first analyzed the agrarian system of a community of slash-

and-burn farmers and the strategies of projects supporting the development of

alternative land uses. Second, I deconstructed the environmental and development

discourses that sustain conservation and development practices, using a method

inspired from post-modernism and social constructivism. Special attention was paid to

the alternatives to slash-and-burn paradigm, participatory ideology, and the

demonization of fires. Third, I questioned these realities and discourses in the light of

a conceptual framework aimed at avoiding the traps of positivist and relativist

The conclusion is that the politicization of scientific debates and the hegemony

of technocratic controls led to a wide reality gap that no actor has been able to

surmount. The real interactions between ecosystems and societies, the dynamics of

agricultural intensification and the macroeconomic causes of deforestation are

ignored. As a result, projects and policies target the wrong issues, have impacts

contrary to their objectives and contribute to the marginalization of poor farmers

whose dependence on natural resources persists. Only critical and creative analyses,

inclusive ways to consider challenging representations and pragmatic and flexible

intervention strategies could remedy this situation. I argue that in order to achieve this,

more bridges and synergies must be created between research and decision making.

The dissertation ends with a series of practical recommendations aimed at stopping

deforestation in Madagascar without requiring the poorest farmers to pay the price for

it. Among these propositions, subsidies aimed at compensating the negative impact of

conservation on local livelihoods emerge as an inescapable utopia.

Keywords: Madagascar, Beforona, rain forest, deforestation, land degradation, slash-

and-burn cultivation, agrarian systems, environmental policies, political ecology,

science and technology studies.


Jacques Pollini (jp267@cornell.edu) holds a Master’s degree in biology

(Maîtrise) from the Université des Science et Techniques du Languedoc, a Master of

Sciences in Ecology (DEA) from the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour and a

Professional Master in Tropical Agronomy from the Ecole Supérieure d’Agronomie

Tropicale de Montpellier (ESAT-CNEARC). He specialized in Comparative

Agriculture at the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon. He worked as a

teacher in biology in France and as an agronomist and a forester in Burundi, Vietnam,

Laos and Madagascar, from 1993 to 2006. He spent four years in Madagascar,

between 2001 and 2006, including two years to conduct the fieldwork of this

dissertation and two years as a technical advisor at the Ministry of Environment,

Water and Forests for the Malagasy-French Cooperation.

A mes parents, Joseph et Jacqueline

Aux paysans d’Ambodilaingo


I gratefully thank my committee members: Professor James P. Lassoie, my

Chair Advisor, who has always provided me with the greatest care and encouragement

and was just the right person to work with to address this comprehensive subject; Dr.

Steven Wolf, for the intense discussions we had and for the guidance he provided me

in entering the domain of science and technology studies; Professor Ronald Herring,

who introduced me to political ecology and whose course provided me with a

permanent feedback to my writing; and all of them, for the trust they had in me and

the freedom they granted me for conducting my research. Thanks also to Norman

Uphoff, Peter Marks, Charles Geisler, Davydd Greenwood, Paul Gellert and Louise

Buck, for the great discussions we had and the new domains of knowledge they helped

me to discover.

Thanks to my amazing parents, Joseph and Jacqueline, my wonderful sisters

Frédérique, Marie-Line and Cathy, and my great friends, François, Angèle, Guilhem,

Emmanuelle, Eric, Cathy, Didier, Nicolas, Maria, Hubert, Karine, Pascal,

Emmanuelle, Marième, Dean, John, Lorie, Guillermo, Vohangy, Livarilala, Dina,

Misa, Narindra, Reni, Dada, Pascale, Olivier, Antonie, Virginie, Mickael, Isabelle,

Narivo, Erica, Jutta, Simon, Farasoa, Valery, Myriam, Lovasoa, Minohery, Malala,

Sarah, Federica, Pierre and Frank. They know they are in my heart and that this work

could not exist without them.

Thanks to all the people from Ambodilaingo who welcomed me in their

villages, especially the Vavankaka and the Tangalamena, who are my second family.

Thanks also to the people of Beforona, the staff of the NGOs Zanaky ny Ala, MITA

and FFA and of the projects LDI, PTE and ERI, especially Mparany, Adrien and Faly,

with whom I had great time in Madagascar. Thanks also to all the colleagues with

whom I worked in Madagascar, the staff from the Ministry of Environment, Water and

Forest, and of the many organizations that collaborate with them. Thanks to all of

them for the exchange of ideas and the discussions, sometimes intense, that we had


Thanks, also, to the professors who accompanied me along my intellectual

journey, especially my Professors from Cornell University already mentioned, Francis

Hallé from the University of Montpellier and Marc Dufumier, Marcel Mazoyer and

Hubert Cochet from the Institut National Agronomique Paris Grignon.

I am also grateful to the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture,

and Development, the Mario Einaudi Foundation and the discretionary research funds

of James P. Lassoie, for their financial support.



Biographical sketch iii

Acknowledgments v
List of figures xvi
List of tables xvii
List of illustrations xviii
List of abbreviations xx


1. The Subject 2
2. Plan 3
3. Epistemological background 7
3.1. Complex objects 7
3.2. The limits of conventional science in the face of complexity 8
3.3. System analysis and modeling as a first answer 10
3.4. A second answer: beyond rationalization 11
3.5. How to check the validity of knowledge 15
4. Back to the subject 17
5. Conclusion 20


Introduction 23
Chapter 1. Environmental degradation in Madagascar 24
1. Introduction 24
2. Geographical features 24
3. Environmental and social History 27
3.1. First settlements and first environmental impacts 27
3.2. Chiefdoms and kingdoms 28
3.3. The first Europeans 33
3.4. From colonization to present 34
3.5. Deforestation in the twentieth century 35
4. The social causes of environmental degradation 37
4.1. Deforestation and the first frontier 37
4.2. Erosion and the second frontier 39
5. Conclusion 41

Chapter 2. Environmental conservation policies and programs 43
1. Introduction 43
2. The first forest management and conservation efforts 43
3. The colonial period 45
4. The first republic 50
4.1. Economic context 50
4.2. The new legislation about vegetation clearing and fires 51
4.3. Forest control 53
4.4. The first environmental conferences 54
5. The transition to the second and third republic 55
6. Toward the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) 58
7. The Environmental Program, phase 1 (EP1) 62
7.1. Presentation of EP1 62
7.2. EP1’s impact 65
7.3. Conclusion 71
8. The Environmental Program, phase 2 (EP2) 72
8.1. Presentation of EP2 72
8.2. EP2’s impact 79
8.3. Conclusion 81
9. The Environmental Program, phase 3 (EP3) 82
9.1. Presentation of EP3 82
9.2. EP3’s implementation 90
9.2.1. The Durban Vision 90
10. Conclusion 107


Introduction 110
Chapter 3. Overview of the study area 113
1. Introduction 113
2. Biophysical environment 113
2.1. Location 113
2.2.Topography 113
2.3. Climate 115
2.4. Vegetation and deforestation 119
2.5. Soils 126
3. Population and society 130
3.2. Demography 130
3.1. ethnicity 130
3.3. Education 133
3.4. Healthcare 133
3.5. A brief political and socio-economic history 134
3.6. Social organization 138
3.7. Land tenure 140
3.8. Land-uses 140
3.8.1. Slash-and-burn cultivation (tavy) 141

3.8.2. Paddy fields 151
3.8.3. Home gardens 151
3.8.4. Ginger cultivation 153
3.8.5. Vegetable 157
3.8.6. Improved fallow 157
3.8.7. Livestock husbandry 157
3.8.8. Forest and fallow exploitation 160
3.9. Farming-systems 162
4. Conclusion 167
Chapter 4. Methodology: comparative agriculture 169
1. Introduction 169
2. Key methodological principles 169
2.1. Participant observation 169
2.2. Qualitative methods, narratives and comprehensiveness 170
2.3. From enquiries to experience 171
2.4. Validating knowledge 174
3. A reading grid: comparative agriculture 176
4. Conclusion 182
Chapter 5. Ambodilaingo, a slash-and-burn farmers’ village 184
1. Introduction 184
2. Brief social history of the area 191
2.1. Settlement 191
2.2. Brief economic history 195
2.3. Social and cultural changes 199
2.3.1. Evolution of traditional ceremonies 199
2.3.2. The loss of solidarity 202
3. The present social organization 206
3.1. Traditional and legal authorities 206
3.2. Land tenure 207
4. Land uses 210
4.1. Cropping systems 210
4.1.1. Slash-and-burn systems (tavy) 210
4.1.2. Paddy fields 218
4.1.3. Home-gardens 221
4.1.4. Other cropping systems 222
4.2. Livestock systems 224
4.3. Forest products extraction 226
5. The strategies for intensification 229
6. Relations with Projects 231
7. An emotional portrait of the local economy 232
8. The influenza epidemic 239
9. The Agrarian system 241
10. Conclusion 247
Chapter 6. Rural development projects in Beforona 249
1. Introduction 249
2. The search for alternatives to slash-and-burn 251

2.1. The BEMA/Terre-Tany research about alternatives 251
2.1.1. Agro-biological alternatives 252
2.1.2. Intensification of indigenous alternatives 255
2.1.3. Toward new farming systems 258
2.2. Nambena’s (2004) research on agroforestry alternatives 260
2.3. Styger’s (2004) research about fireless alternatives 261
2.4. Conclusion: future land uses in Beforona 268
3. The LDI and PTE projects 271
3.1. Main objectives 272
3.2. The CDIA 272
3.3. The Kolo Harena 274
3.4. The ban on tavy 275
3.5. Economic support 280
3.6. Technical support 283
3.7. LDI’s perception by beneficiaries 289
3.8. Conclusion 291
4. The Ankeniheny-Mantadia-Zahamena Corridor Restauration project 292
4.1. Context 293
4.2. Presentation of the AMZCR project 294
4.3. The transmission of fashionable alternatives 300
4.4. Overlooking the economy 303
4.5. The consequences 307
4.6. Some solutions? 309
4.7. Conclusion 315
5. Conclusion 317
Chapter 7. Changing realities: a socio-economic experiment in Beforona 325
1. Introduction 325
2. Presentation of the non-governmental organization Zanaky ny Ala 325
3. Implemented activities 328
3.1. Irrigation of bottom land 328
3.1.1. The Marofody dam 331
3.1.2. The Hiaranana dam 335
3.1.3. The Ankorakabe dam 337
3.1.4. The other dams 339
3.1.5. Technical Supports 339
3.1.6. Socio-organization 341
3.1.7. Cost-efficiency 341
3.1.8. Conclusion 343
3.2. The agricultural contest 346
4. Activities planned but not implemented 351
4.1 Micro-credit 351
4.2. Construction of secondary roads 354
4.3. Land entitlement 356
4.4. Community granary 358
4.5. Community based natural resource management 359
4.6. Health and education 361
4.7. Others? 362

5. Activities not planned 363
6. Critical comments 364
7. Conclusion 366
Conclusion 368



Introduction 373
Chapter 8. Overview of Western development and environmental
discourses 375
1. Introduction 375
2. Development discourses 375
2.1. The core meaning of “development” 376
2.2. The constructed meanings of development 381
2.3. High Modernism according to James Scott 383
3. Environmental discourses according to Dryzek (2005) 388
3.1. Dryzek’s analytical framework 389
3.2. Dryzek’s categories 391
3.2.1. Survivalism 391
3.2.2. Promethean 392
3.2.3. Environmental problem solving 394 Administrative Rationalism 394 Democratic Pragmatism 395 Economic Rationalism 397
3.2.4. Sustainability 399 Sustainable Development 399 Ecological Modernization 402
3.2.5. Green Radicalism 403 Green Consciousness 403 Green Politics 405
3.3. Reframing Dryzek’s categories 406
4. Environmental discourses in Madagascar 410
5. Conclusion 416
Chapter 9. Methodology: discourse analysis 417
1. Introduction 417
2. Michel Foucault’s epistemology 417
2.1. The first series of principle 418
2.2. The second series of principle 420
2.3. The third series of principle 422
2.4. The origin of discourses 422
2.5. Deconstructing discourses 423
2.6. Conclusion 424

3. Bruno Latour’s epistemology 425
3.1. Latour’s key principles 425
3.2. Latour’s departure from Foucault 428
4. Synthesis 429
5. Avoiding the trap of relativism 432
6. A new model 434
7. Conclusion 439
Chapter 10: The Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn discourse (ASB) 442
1. Introduction 442
2. The birth of the ASB paradigm 442
3. Agroforestry at ICRAF 444
4. The received wisdoms about slash-and-burn cultivation 454
5. The first phase of the ASB Consortium 457
5.1. Main statements 457
5.2. Biophysical outcomes 458
5.3. Socio-economic outcomes 459
5.4. Outcomes in term of recommendations 461
5.5. Conclusion 464
6. The second phase of the ASB Consortium 464
6.1. A continuation of the first phase? 465
6.2. Toward a political economy of slash-and-burn cultivation? 468
7. Conclusion 476
Chapter 11: Community based natural resource management (CBNRM) 480
1. Introduction 480
2. The Participatory discourses 481
3. A few short case studies 485
3.1. Tsinjoarivo 487
3.2. The Zafimaniry area 489
3.3. Ikongo 491
3.4. Beforona 493
3.5. Two sites in western Madagascar 493
3.6. Conclusion 495
4. The GELOSE approach (Secured Local Management) 496
4.1. Background and origin 497
4.2. The GELOSE legislation and its potential effects 499
4.2.1. The contract 499
4.2.2. The COBA 501
4.2.3. The dina 507
4.2.4. Environmental mediation 508
4.2.5. The relative land tenure security (RLTS) 510
4.3. Conclusion 512
5. Pushing the GELOSE in the Malagasy environmental policies 513
5.1. The PCP evaluation 514
5.1.1. Methodology 514
5.1.2. Results 515 The integration into local, regional… policies 515

xii Environmental impacts 517 Social impacts 520 Observed impacts 520 Potential impacts 522 Economic impacts 524
5.2. The IRD evaluation 525
5.2.1. Methodology 525
5.2.2. Results 526
5.2.3. The institutional driving of the IRD’s recommendations 530
6. Confrontation with other research outcomes 532
7. Conclusion 535
Chapter 12: The antifire discourse 541
1. Introduction 541
2. The antifire received wisdom according to Kull (2004) 542
3. Kull’s thesis about human impact on the environment 544
4. Kull’s conclusion 547
5. Conclusion 548
Conclusion 549


Introduction 553
Chapter 13. Toward a Political Ecology of deforestation and slash-and-
burn cultivation 558
1. Introduction 558
2. A parallel with Land degradation and society 559
3. Brief overview of political ecology work 567
3.1. The foundation of the discipline 567
3.2. The key narratives 570
3.2.1. The marginalization thesis 571
3.2.2. The control thesis 572
3.2.3. The environmental conflict thesis 574
3.2.4. Environmental identity and social movements 579
4. The political ecology of deforestation in the Malagasy highlands 579
5. Toward a deconstruction of political ecology 584
5.1. From equilibrium to non equilibrium ecology? 585
5.1.1. The complementary character of equilibrium and non-
equilibrium ecologies 586
5.1.2. Distinguishing vegetation change and vegetation
development 589
5.1.3. Relativism and revisionism in social environmentalism 591
6. Conclusion 595

Chapter 14. Toward new epistemologies 598
1. Introduction 598
2. Confirming and strengthening an epistemological frame 599
2.1. Bruno Latour’s parliament of things 599
2.2. Actor-Network Theory 607
2.3. From Latour’s to Popper’s epistemology 612
2.4. Karl Popper’s epistemology 614
2.4.1. The falsification principle 614
2.4.2. The problem of induction 616
2.4.3. Dogmatism, critical attitude and uncertainty 618
2.4.4. The growth of knowledge 619
2.4.5. What is truth and can we know it? 621
2.4.6. Summary: three epistemologies 624
2.4.7. Application of Popper’s model to the subject of this
dissertation 625
2.5. Paul Feyerabend: beyond Popper? 629
2.6. Edgard Morin’s science of complexities 634
3. Nature and culture 640
3.1. Introduction 640
3.2. What is nature? 640
3.3. The value of nature 643
3.4. The environment 645
3.5. Nature in political ecology 646
3.6. The dialogy of nature and culture 646
4. Conclusion 647
Chapter 15. Toward new practices 654
1. Introduction 654
2. Metis 656
3. Propositions to solve the issues of deforestation 661
3.1 Are tavy farmers the main cause of deforestation? 661
3.2. The reasons to stop deforestation 662
3.3. Solving the tradeoff between conservation and local livelihoods 665
3.4. Proposition of solutions 666
3.4.1. The role of legislation 666
3.4.2. Mitigation by supporting agriculture intensification 669
3.4.3. Subsidies 670
3.4.4. Conclusion 680
4. Institutional approach 680
4.1. The open society 682
4.2. Piecemeal social engineering 683
4.3. The open project 685
5. Conclusion 688
Conclusion 694

1. Introduction 698
2. Summary of outcomes 698
2.1. The conclusions from Part II 698
2.2. The conclusions from Part III 699
2.3. The conclusions from Part IV 703
2.4. The conclusions from Part V 705
3. Conclusion 712
4. Future research 720

EP3’s logical framework 726



Figure 1: Summarized table of contents 6

Figure 2: Zoning and transect of the Betsimisaraka region 116
Figure 3: Temperature and rainfall in the study area and surroundings 118
Figure 4: Deforestation pace in Beforona from 1957 to 2000 121
Figure 5: Age pyramid in Marovoalavo, Beforona 132
Figure 6: Distribution of work according to activities in Beforona 144
Figure 7: Yield in tavy in relation to the type of fallow vegetation 148
Figure 8: Relation between extension of home gardens distance from Road 154
Figure 9: Main trees used for house construction in the Vohidrazana watershed 164
Figure 10: Typical farming system in Beforona 166
Figure 11: Income structure in Tanambao, Beforona 168
Figure 12: Alternative farming system in Beforona 259
Figure 13: Eco-design of an exemplary agroforestry hillside 262
Figure 14: The chain of actors 323
Figure 15: Match and mismatch between representations and realities 435
Figure 16: The agroforestry pathways to change 445
Figure 17: The evolution of agricultural landscape in Bukeye, Burundi 448
Figure 18: Number of hits for several concepts in CAB Abstracts database 451
Figure 19: Number of hits of several concepts in 3506 references 453
Figure 20: Grid for analysis of farmer’s strategies 460
Figure 21: Development pathways from slash-and-burn systems 462
Figure 22: The ASB research framework 469
Figure 23: Environmental degradation and recovery 473


Table 1: Contributions to EP3 by donors and components, in million USD 87

Table 2: Projects related to biodiversity conservation in Madagascar since 1997 88
Table 3: Categories of protected areas according to IUCN (2002) 97
Table 4: Main differences between IUCN Categories V and VI 97
Table 5: Malagasy protected areas in 2007 104
Table 6: Population in Beforona by ethnic group. 132
Table 7: Cultivated species in Beforona 142
Table 8: Plants cultivated in tavy in Ambinantsavolo, a Fokontany in Beforona 146
Table 9: Dominant species in fallow in the region of Beforona and Moramanga 147
Table 10: Main medicinal plants in the Vohidrazana watershed 163
Table 11: The performance of cropping systems in Beforona 165
Table 12: Comparison of tavy with alternatives 253
Table 13: Effect of limited burning and no burning on rice productivity 253
Table 14: Relative yields of fireless alternatives according to type of land 265
Table 15: Relative monetary return of fireless alternatives in USD 266
Table 16: Example of expenditures and investment in Ambodilaingo, in USD 353
Table 17: How do organisms, societies… change, grow, develop and evolve? 377
Table 18: Classification of environmental discourses 390
Table 19: Comparison of Foucault’s (1970) and Latour’s (1989) concepts 430
Table 20: ASB consortium criteria for comparing land uses 466
Table 21: ASB Consortium criteria for comparing sites 467
Table 22: Comparison of theories in relation with their verisimilitude 650


Map 1: Remaining primary vegetation in Madagascar 26

Map 2: Existing protected areas and areas reserved for conservation sites 93
Map 3: Localization of the study area 111
Map 4: Regional map showing Beforona and Ambodilaingo. 112
Map 5: Localization of sites investigated by BEMA and Terre-Tany 114
Map 6: Forest clearing in the study area, from 1957 to 2000 123
Map 6 (continuation) 124
Map 7: Land use change in comparison with prediction by model 125
Map 8: Protected areas deforestation in the Mantadia-Zahamena corridor 127
Map 9: Vegetation in Beforona surroundings 128
Map 10: Population density in the communes of Beforona and Ranomafana 131
Map 11: Land use in a few fokontany in Beforona 143
Map 12: The 5 villages of the Ambodilaingo fokontany 185
Map 13: Target area of the VMCRCC project 296
Map 14: Location of management transfer sites investigated 486

Photograph 1: The Betsimisaraka escarpment 117

Photograph 2: Bottom lands and hills in Beforona 117
Photograph 3: A tavy in an ordinary fallow land, south from Beforona 145
Photograph 4: Tavy in an eucalyptus woodland in Beforona 145
Photograph 5: A home garden in Sahavolo (Beforona) 152
Photograph 6: Banana transportation 155
Photograph 7: Landscape transformation in Beforona 156
Photograph 8: Indigenous techniques for erosion control 158
Photograph 9: Manual plowing in a ginger field in Beforona 159
Photograph 10: Drainage ditches planted with maize in Beforona 159
Photograph 11: Wood exploitation in Beforona 161
Photograph 12: Wood transportation 161
Photograph 13: Satellite photography showing the 5 villages of Ambodilaingo 186
Photograph 14: Tavy on the forest frontier in Ambodilaingo 187
Photograph 15: Tavy inside the primary forest in Ambodilaingo 187
Photograph 16: People of Ambodilaingo in their village 188
Photograph 17: Children in Ambodilaingo 188
Photograph 18: Ambodilaingo 192
Photograph 19: Young villagers playing with a zebu before its sacrifice 200

Photograph 20: Meat distribution after a zebu sacrifice 200
Photograph 21: The impact of wildfires in Ambodilaingo 205
Photograph 22: The main street of Ambodilaingo 234
Photograph 23: Visitors at the CDIA-LADIA in Beforona 273
Photograph 24: The CDIA-LADIA in Beforona 273
Photograph 25: Vegetation in Ambavaniasy 298
Photograph 26: Land improvement in Ambavaniasy 306
Photograph 27: Villagers from Ambodilaingo digging an irrigation canal 330
Photograph 28: Irrigation canal and Rayamendrany in Ambodilaingo 330
Photograph 29: A “tavy” farmer in Ambodilaingo, with her paddy field 332
Photographs 30, 31 and 32: The Marofody bottom land in Ambodilaingo 333
Photograph 33: Paddy fields irrigated by the Hiaranana dam 336
Photograph 34: Paddy fields suffering from water shortage in Ambatoharanana 336
Photograph 35: The Ankorakabe dam, in Beforona 338
Photograph 36: The Ankorakabe canal, with irrigated paddy fields 338
Photograph 37: Farmers’ improvement in the Andriamanavana site 340
Photograph 38: Failed irrigation canal in Ambodilaingo 340
Photograph 39: New paddy fields in construction in Ambodilaingo 344
Photograph 40: Canal built by villagers to irrigate paddy fields, Ambatoharana 345
Photograph 41: Masonry on a canal section in Ambodilaingo 345
Photograph 42: Vegetable cultivation for the agricultural contest 348
Photograph 43: Participants of the agricultural contest 348

Note: all photographs except when indicated (# 3, 42 and 43) are by myself


ADRA Adventist Development and Relief Agency

AGERAS Appui à la Gestion Régionalisée et à l’Approche Spatiale (Support to
Regional Programming and Spatial Analysis)
AGEXs Agence d’Exécution (Line Agency)
AMZCR Ankeniheny-Mantadia-Zahamena Corridor Restoration Project
ANAE Association Nationale pour les Actions Environnementales (National
Association for Environmental Actions)
ANGAP Association Nationale pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées (National
Association for the Management of Protected Areas)
ANGEF Agence Nationale pour la Gestion des Eaux et Forêts (National Agency
for Water and Forest Management)
ANT Actor-Network Theory
ASB Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn
BEMA Bilan Ecologique à Madagascar (Ecological Assessment in
CAPE Composante Aires Protégées et Ecotourisme (Protected Areas and
Ecotourism Component)
CBNRM Community Based Natural Resource Management
CDIA Centre pour le Développement et l’Intensification Agricole
(Development and Agriculture Intensification Center).
CELCO Cellule de Coordination du PE3 (Coordination Unit of EP3)
CFSIGE Centre de Formation aux Sciences de l’Information Géographique et de
l’Environnement (environment and geographic information training
CGP Coordination Générale des Project (Project Coordination Service)
CI Conservation International
CIIFAD Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development
CIRAD Centre International de Recherche Agronomique pour le
Développement (International Centre for Agronomic and Development
CNCD Commission Nationale pour la Conservation et le Développement
(National Commission for Conservation and Development)
COBA Communauté de Base (grassroot community)
CSB I Centre de Santé de Base Niveau 1 (Level 1 Basic Health Center)
CTFT Centre Technique Forestier Tropical (Tropical Forestry Technical
DCT Development and Conservation Territory
DD Direction des Domaines (Land Titling Directorate)

DEF Direction des Eaux et Forêts (Water and Forest Directorate)
DGE Direction Générale de l’Environnement (Environment General
DGEF Direction Générale de Eaux et Forêts (Water and Forests General
DSRP Document Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté (Poverty Reduction
Strategy Paper)
DVG Durban Vision Group
DWCT Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
EMC Environnement Marin et Côtier (Marine and Coastal Environment)
EP1,2,3 Environment Program Phase 1, 2, 3
ERI Ecoregional Initiative
ESFUM Ecosystèmes Forestiers à Usage Multiple (Multiple-Use Forest
Ecosystems Management)
ESSA Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques (school of agronomical
EU European Union
FAGEC Fond d’Appui à la Gestion Environnementale Communautaire
(Community Environmental Management Support Fund)
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
FFEM Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (French Global
Environment Fund)
FID Fonds d’Intervention pour le Développement (Social Fund Project)
FMg Franc Malgache (Malagasy Franc)
FOFIFA Foibe Fikarohana momba ny Fambolena (Malagasy national research
center for agriculture and rural revelopment)
FORAGE Fonds Régional d’Appui à la Gestion de l’Environnement (Regional
Fund for Environment Management)
FSP-GDRN Projet Gestion Décentralisée des Ressources Naturelles du Fonds de
Solidarité Prioritaire (decentralized natural resources management
project of the priority solidarity fund)
FSP-ADRA Food Security Program of the Adventist Development and Relief
FTM Foibe Taosaritanin’i Madagasikara (Malagasy National Geographic
GCF Gestion Contractualisée des Forêts (Community Forest Management
GDRN Gestion Décentralisée des Ressources Naturelles (Decentralized
Natural Resources Management)
GEF Global Environment Facility
GELOSE Gestion Locale Sécurisée (Secure Local Management)

GNP Gross National Product
GoM Government of Madagascar
GTZ Gessellschaft fyr Technische Zusammenarbeit (German cooperation
Ha Hectare
ICDP Integrated Conservation and Development Project
ICRAF International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (now the World
Agroforestry Centre)
IDA International Development Agency
IEFN Inventaire Ecologique Forestier National (National Forestry Inventory)
IMF International Monetary Fund
IRD Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Development Research
IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature (now the World
Conservation Union)
Km Kilometer
LDI Landscape Development Interventions
MECIE Mise en Compatibilité des Investissements avec l’Environnement
(environmental impact assessment)
MEF Ministère des Eaux et Forêts (Ministry of Water and Forest)
MINENVEF Ministère de l’Environnement, des Eaux et Forêts (Ministry of
Environment, Water and Forest)
MT Management Transfer
NEAP National Environmental Action Plan
NGO Non-governmental organization
NR2 National Road 2
NTFP Non Timber Forest Product
OECD Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
ONE Office National pour l’Environnement (National Office for the
OSIPD Office Statistique et Informatique pour Programmation du
développement (office for data processing and statistic applied to
development programming).
PA Protected Area
PAGE Projet d’Appui à la Gestion de l’Environnement (Environmental
Management Support Project)
PADR Plan d’Action pour le Développement Rural (Rural Development
Action Plan)
PSDR Projet de Soutien au Développement Rural (Rural Development
Support Project)
PTE Programme de Transition Ecoregional (Ecoregional Transition

SAGE Service d’Appui à la Gestion de l’Environnement (Service for Support
to Environmental Management)
SAPM Système des Aires Protégées de Madagascar (Protected Area System of
SRA Système de Riziculture Améliorée (Improved Rice Cultivation System)
SRI Système de Riziculture Intensive (Intensive Rice Cultivation System)
UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
UNDP United Nations Development Program
USA United States of America
USAID United States Agency for International Development
USD United States Dollar
VMCRCC Vohidrazana Mantadia Corridor Restoration and Conservation Carbon
WCED World Commission on Environment and Development
WCS World Conservation Society
WHO World Health Organization
WWF World Wildlife Fund



1. The subject

Slash-and-burn cultivation is a land use that consists of slashing the vegetation

on a piece of land, burning it and growing crops that will benefit from the nutrients

stored in the biomass and made available in the form of ashes (Conklin 1957; Nye and

Greenland 1963; Peters and Neuenschwander 1988; Ramakrishnan 1992). After one or

a few years of cultivation, fertility is depleted and the land is temporarily abandoned to

fallow. Vegetation develops again, which leads to the reconstitution of a nutrient stock

that can be used through a new cycle of clearing, burning and cropping. In traditional

systems still in equilibrium, the fallow period lasts 10 to 30 years. Farmers rotate the

location of their crops across a wide landscape, sometimes moving their village, and

this system is called shifting or swidden cultivation.

Slash-and-burn systems are often located in remote areas with low population

density, where primary forests still exist. As in any agricultural system, these forests

are perceived as reservoir land. They are cleared at the rhythm of population increase,

or when communities are pushed away from their ancestral land by groups that

practice more intensive land use. For this reason, slash-and-burn systems are

frequently involved in deforestation dynamics, whereas they are not necessarily the

cause of deforestation.

This dissertation investigates deforestation and slash-and-burn cultivation

systems in the eastern rain forests of Madagascar. It considers these two issues as

linked but distinct, and will examine how they are addressed by Malagasy and

international organizations. More precisely, it will attempt to answer to the following


• Why do Malagasy slash-and-burn farmers still clear the Malagasy

eastern rain forest, despite the fact that international organizations have

been supporting alternative land uses for several decades?

• Why do the current policies and programs dealing with this issue fail,

including projects that intervene in small areas and have elevated

budget per beneficiary households?

• What needs to be done to stop forest clearing and to decrease the

poverty of slash-and-burn farmers, or to at least significantly slow

deforestation without increasing poverty?

In response to these questions, I hypothesize that there is a mismatch between

the reality of slash-and-burn farmers and deforestation dynamics on one hand, and the

perception of these realities by those who act upon them on the other hand. In other

words, the discourses produced by the organizations which address these issues are

biased, incomplete, and describe realities that do not exist, or are significantly

different from these descriptions. It is not necessarily the complexity of the reality that

is causing this mismatch. It can merely be the subjectivity of those who produce

representations. The result is the failure of what is implemented on the ground on

behalf of discourses and representations.

This hypothesis is tested by analyzing the practices of slash-and-burn farmers

in a commune 1 of eastern Madagascar, the rural development projects that support

these farmers and the development and environmental discourses within which these

projects are embedded. The outcomes are presented according to the following plan.

2. Plan

Part II sets the issues of slash-and-burn cultivation and deforestation in

Madagascar. It proposes an overview of the social and environmental dynamics

A commune is an administrative unit. Madagascar is divided into six autonomous provinces (faritany),
22 regions (faritra), about 115 districts (departamenta) and about 1400 communes (kaominina) which
can be rural or urban. Communes are divided into fokontany which are administrated by a fokontany
President nominated by the commune.

associated with slash-and-burn cultivation (Chapter 1) and portrays the environmental

policies that address deforestation in their historical context (Chapter 2).

Part III addresses the same issues at local scale through the collection of

empirical data. It analyzes the realities of slash-and-burn farmer communities in the

commune of Beforona, located on the eastern verge of the Malagasy rain forest, and

examines the rural development activities and environmental policies implemented in

this area. The first chapter (Chapter 3) is an overview of the area using general

information collected in the literature. Chapter 4 presents the methodology employed

to collect original field data. Chapter 5 is a narrative drawn from first hand qualitative

data collected in Ambodilaingo, a village where I resided six months, from July to

December 2001. Chapter 6 analyzes the main projects that operate in the area and their

impact. It includes a review of previous research work about alternatives to slash-and-

burn and an analysis of projects’ activities and their perception by beneficiaries.

Chapter 7 presents the results of a rural development project implemented in

Ambodilaingo and other villages by a small nongovernmental organization “Zanaky

ny Ala” 2 that I created with my research assistant. This project was the translation into

action of the preliminary conclusions of Chapters 5 and 6. It can be viewed as a social

experiment aimed at testing these outcomes. Part III ends with a synthesis and

conclusion that lists the main mismatches between discourses and realities, based on

the outcomes of Chapters 5, 6 and 7. This led to the identification of three discourses

that will be analyzed in Part IV.

Part IV provides an analysis of development and environmental discourses at

global scale and of their translation into policies in Madagascar. It is aimed at

understanding the causes of the mismatches identified in Part III. It starts with an

overview of Western development and environmental discourses, based on the

Children of the Forest in Malagasy language.

literature (Chapter 8) and introduces the methods (Chapter 9) I utilized for analyzing

discourses. These discourses, which have been identified in Part III, are the

alternatives to slash-and-burn discourse (Chapter 10), the participatory discourse,

more precisely its translation into community based natural resources management

policies (Chapter 11), and the antifire discourse (Chapter 12). In these three chapters,

the literature is regarded as material providing me with empirical facts for the analysis

of discourses, in the same way that the practices of farmers and projects provided me

with empirical facts for the analysis of realities in Part III.

Part V is a general synthesis and includes recommendations for future action.

Chapter 13 confronts my results with the narrative developed by political ecology, a

discipline that addresses similar issues to those I address in this dissertation and

developed similar narratives and explanations, whereas some differences also exist.

Chapter 14 proposes a new epistemological framework aimed at reducing the

mismatch between representation and realities. It calls for a paradigmatic shift and

synthesizes the outcomes of Parts II and III in the light of this shift. Chapter 15

proposes pragmatic modes of action aimed at addressing the issues of deforestation

and slash-and-burn cultivation in this new paradigm.

Eventually, the general conclusion (Part V) attempts to extract the main lines

of this dissertation and to articulate its empirical and abstract content in a way that

could be meaningful for field practitioners and policy makers.

This plan is summarized in Figure 1, which visualizes the main articulation

between chapters.

PART I: General introduction
(Research question and epistemological framework)

Part II: Setting the issue

Chapter 1: Environmental degradation in Madagascar

Chapter 2: Environmental conservation in Madagascar

Part III: The realities Part IV: The discourses

Chapter 3: Overview of the Chapter 8: Overview of Western
study area (Beforona) development and environmental
Chapter 4: Methodology
(comparative agriculture) Chapter 9: Methodology
(discourse analysis)
Chapter 5: Ambodilaingo, a
slash-and-burn farmers’ village Chapter 10: The alternatives to
slash-and-burn discourse
Chapter 6: Rural development
projects in Beforona Chapter 11: Community based
natural resources management
Chapter 7: Changing realities: a
socio-economic experiment Chapter 12: The antifire

Part V: Synthesis
Chapter 12: Toward a political ecology of
deforestation and slash-and-burn cultivation
Chapter 13: Toward new epistemologies
Chapter 14: Toward new practices

PART VI: General conclusion

Figure 1: Summarized Table of Content

3. Epistemological background

The tools and methods used to collect empirical data will be presented in detail

in Chapters 4 (for the analysis of realities) and 9 (for the analysis of discourses). In

this section, I merely present the general epistemological framework of the research.

3.1. Complex objects

The object addressed in this dissertation is complex. At a local scale, it is a

network of biophysical and social interactions that links a group of human beings,

their ecosystem and their land uses. At a larger scale, it includes a social, economic,

political, cultural, and “scientific” context which determines ecosystems and land uses

transformations. Biologists, sociologists, economists, policy makers and donors are all

interested in understanding this object because they are committed to act upon it and

determine its future. They each analyze it from their own perspective and draw

detailed pictures of aspects of it. My research hypothesis is that no relevant

comprehensive picture emerges from this, as revealed by the general failure of projects

and policies. In order to avoid this pitfall, I chose to depart from conventional

researches that “look at” aspects of this broad reality. Instead, I tried to understand

why knowledge gaps always remain, committed to fill these gaps and adopted a

comprehensive approach aimed at linking together different realms of knowledge.

In this endeavor, I had to depart from conventional science because it does not

provide appropriate tools to study broad and complex objects. This raised several

questions about science, discourses, theories and knowledge.

For instance, what is conventional science? How to differentiate scientific and

nonscientific facts, ideas, discourses and theories? Where is the frontier between

scientific and nonscientific knowledge? How to decide that some information is

relevant? When we experience a reality, we permanently obtain nonscientific

information that relates to it. Do we have to use this information to build up our

representations? In which manner? With what precautions? Shall we rather set up

additional scientific protocols to collect this same information with more rigor? Is this

always possible, technically and practically? If not, what to do? What is more

scientific: to limit our enquiry to aspects of the reality that can be “scientifically”

addressed or to fill knowledge gaps with imperfect material collected with

“nonscientific” methods? Which of these two constructed representations will be

closer to the reality, the incomplete or the imperfectly completed? In order to tackle

these questions, it is necessary to examine how mainstream science is working, what

are its limits to address complexity and how to go beyond these limits.

3.2. The limits of mainstream science in the face of complexity

Classically, science is the "intellectual and practical activity encompassing the

systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world

through observations and experiment" 3 . More recently, the social world has been

added to the domains investigated by science.

An essential characteristic of science, as it is practiced in Western civilization,

is that it privileges quantitative methods. This leads to produce representations that are

expressed in rational and explicit terms and, in some cases, by mathematical

equations. Consequently, the accumulation of knowledge is regarded as a linear

process of objective learning. It starts from an origin (a new paradigm or a series of

hypothesis), then gathers empirical facts that validate or invalidate these hypotheses,

create theories or representations, and finally conducts to a transcendental outcome

that allows to prove that these representations match with the reality. We call

positivism this conception of science. A more nuanced conception nevertheless

The New Oxford Dictionary of English 1998.

recognizes that truth cannot be known and considers that steps apparently “backward,”

or the refutation of false theories, matter more than steps forward (the verification of

existing theories). This conception, which can be called negativist, defines scientific

knowledge, more modestly, as knowledge that can be refuted (Popper 1963). But still,

an omnipresent “attractor” puts linear order into knowledge, with the risk of

subjectively reshaping representations to make them fit with this linearity.

The positivist conception of science makes sense for a large series of subjects,

as has been shown by the fast technical progress that science enabled. But it also has

some limitations that are revealed by the increasing doubts about the capacity of

science to engage human civilizations in social and spiritual progress, and by the

blurring of the frontier between sciences and humanities, or between physical, natural

and social objects. Few processes are actually linear in the real world. Very simple

ones are or can be regarded as being so, by approximation. But in most cases, social

objects are too complex to be fully represented into a sum of quantifiable processes.

The object addressed in this dissertation is clearly concerned by these difficulties.

Comprehensiveness is bidirectional. It goes outward, but also inward, as has

been shown by the theory of chaos. This theory led to paying more attention to the

hidden domains of complexity that determine the behavior of seemingly simple

objects (Gleick 1987). The system of forces that operates on such objects produces a

complex behavior that can be represented in a geometrical space that is not determined

by linear equations, but rather responds to fractal geometry. It is as if an excess of

stochastic micro-variations of the system's state would spill over in a hidden

nonEuclidean space, in a sort of microcosmic turbulent area where entropy that could

not generate Euclidean order would plummet. Concerning this research, inward

complexity appears quite abstract and I did not expect that addressing it would have

significantly improved the outcomes. I thus rather oriented my investigation in the

direction of “outward” complexity, acknowledging that perfect bidirectional

comprehensiveness is unattainable.

Scientists address complexity by dividing objects into elements that they study

separately (reductionism), but still have some difficulties in explaining the functioning

of the whole system when they reconstitute it in the form of a model. Some parts are

always missing, or remain in the state of black boxes. These missing parts relate to

elements with less biophysical and more social content, resulting in a relative isolation

of the studied object from the society it belongs to. The observer is also missing from

the models, a sign that reflexivity has not made its entry in mainstream sciences yet. In

order to address complex objects, it is thus necessary to go beyond reductionism and

positivism, two paradigms that still largely dominate scientific practices.

3.3. System analysis and modeling as a first answer to complexities

System analysis has been a first answer to complexity proposed over several

decades in a large range of disciplines. Unfortunately, system analyses are often

limited to the survey of objects and phenomenon that can be directly observed in the

state they exist. They give little room to experimentation and have difficulties

predicting what will happen in the future, which limits their role for action. They

provide conclusions that are supposed to guide practitioners engaged in modifying the

real world, but these field actors often fail in valorizing excessively complex sets of

data. They prefer to ask system analysts to provide more precise guidelines for action,

but these demands are rarely satisfied.

System approaches also tend to excessively focus on what cannot be done

when considering the whole. They end in viewing all relations between micro and

macro levels as constraints. They analyze well the global state of a system, its

connectivity with external factors, its general dynamics, but not enough its capacity to

absorb shocks and reorganize itself under perturbation. The comprehensive object that

system analysts describe thus remains "frozen 4 " by the description of multiple

interactions. Flexibility, that might be the counterpart of complexity, is not

satisfactorily addressed. As a result, the outcomes of system analysis discourage field

actors from most pathways they envision for changing realities. These actors then fall

back into the reductionism paradigm that they eventually perceive as more appropriate

for the scale and type of problems they address.

In order to obtain a predictive character, system approaches have developed

models that they call “expert systems.” Unfortunately, the reluctance or difficulties to

go beyond the positivism and reductionism paradigms limits these models to a series

of simple linear processes that can be computed. Key social issues are skipped in the

process or regarded as black boxes. A significant part of what was gained by system

analysts in terms of comprehensiveness is lost. Some dimensions of the system are

discarded because they cannot be translated into clear algorithms, whereas human

skills and intelligence, which go far beyond the capacity of such algorithms, could

have addressed them. These models are certainly useful, if properly used, but are

always strong simplifications. They cannot be regarded as being the last step in the

acquisition of knowledge, whatever is the issue they deal with.

In sum, it still remains to find what sort of knowledge formalization has to be

built beyond systemic descriptions and predictive models.

3.4. A second answer: beyond rationalization

The limits faced by science to investigate complex objects may reflect the

limits of the capacity of humans to express in rational terms the experience of their

Thanks to Patrice Lamballe, a development expert who worked in Vietnam for the GRET (Groupe de
Recherche et d’Echanges Technologiques; Solidarity and International Cooperation Association), a
French NGO, for expressing and discussing this idea.

world. The assertion that “everything is rational,” for instance, is at the corner stone of

many polemics in our time of chronic epistemological questioning and hesitation. I

believe that these polemics result from a misunderstanding about the sense of the word


Does saying that "everything is rational" simply means that all phenomenon in

our world are determined by the mechanistic laws of physics and chemistry and could

theoretically be described using these laws? Or does it also mean, beyond that first

assumption, that humans can in practice describe all phenomenon in rational terms,

through expressions derived from these same mechanistic laws? The positivist

paradigm that appeared in the enlightenment period produced a Western culture where

the implicit answer given to both questions is yes. Kant (1787) criticized this radical

positivism but his work, while influential, did not suffice to impede the mystification

of science. Scientists framed in the positivist myth have the promethean belief that

their rational methods can lead them to know the truth. They attribute to science the

power of a god. I would agree that a perfect rationale spirit connected to all physical

phenomenon and using science could have, through an unbiased perception of its

environment, a complete understanding of all interactions that exist, from the

microcosm to the macrocosm. This perfect spirit would be capable of putting the

global world in a system of equations that would take account for its least

components. He could also delineate the boundaries between the predictable Euclidean

world and the fractal space that absorbs the excess of disorder on its microcosmic

verges. But humans would be of an excessive arrogance if they would pretend to have

such skills and achieve some day such an absolute objective comprehensiveness. The

universe is rational but not rationalizable, or at least not rationalizable using human


Hence the belief on which my methodology is based is that we should answer

“yes” to the first question and “no” to the second one. Science and reason must not be

rejected but we must acknowledge that scientific tools and methods have some limits,

and that we ourselves have limitations in the use we can make of them. Science has

failed to address social and complex objects that may be those that matter the most for

our future. We thus have to go beyond the positivism and reductionism paradigms and

the myth that rational thinking is the only way to produce scientific knowledge.

Nature provided us with intellectual skills other than rationality. Intuition for

example is a key intellectual faculty that helps to make decisions whose logic is not

apparent, but whose sense can nevertheless be confirmed by the successes it helps us

to achieve. Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986) showed that if we consider a five-step scale in

the process of building personal skills and knowledge (1: novice; 2: advanced

beginner; 3: competent performer; 4: proficient performer; 5: expert), intuition is the

key faculty for reaching the most advanced stages (4 and 5). Computed “expert

systems,” because they are incapable of intuition, cannot go over stage 3 and should

not be qualified as experts. Intuition is already recognized as an important quality for

achieving scientific discoveries, as expressed by the symbolic importance, in the

culture of all scientists, of Archimedes’ word “Eureka,” pronounced when he

discovered the buoyant force. But intuition, unfortunately, is reserved to periods of

deep questioning, of doubts about prevailing paradigms. It helps to make scientific

revolutions and to open new realms of knowledge, as shown by Khun (1970), but as

soon as revolutions are done, scientists go back to what Khun (1970) called normal

science. They mostly apply inductive and hypothetical-deductive methods, which

narrow their view and may delay future paradigm shifts.

In short, intuition, if used cautiously and as a complement to rationalization,

could help to bring humanity as far forward as it brings individuals when it is used in

their life’s experiences. It may be a more efficient way to summarize complex

experiences than rational algorithms developed from sets of objective data. It may also

justify taking some liberty with established methods, as Feyerabend (1975) argued.

Intuition is sometimes rejected by scientists for being incompatible with rigor.

It is viewed as a source of subjectivity due to its connectivity with emotion, a skill that

is regarded as much linked to subjectivity as rationality is linked to objectivity.

Emotions are felt, for example, when looking at a painting, having sympathy for a

person or falling in love, events that matter much in our life but cannot be properly

described in rational terms. But how can things that are necessary for peoples’

personal progress not be necessary for the progress of a group of people, i.e., of

societies? If the purpose of science is to provide a comprehensive understanding of

ourselves and our world in order to drive our destiny better, how can a mode of

perception such as emotion be absent of scientific enquiry? Philosophy, ethics and arts

already produced knowledge or created objects using nonpurely rational cognitive

skills. Can the overall progress of human societies be possible with a separation of

science from these other realm of knowledge?

We can also seriously doubt about the absence of emotion in supposed

objective and rational modes of cognition. It is now widely recognized that scientific

work cannot be separated from cultural determinants. The personal background of

researchers contributes to determining the direction they give to their work. Damasio

(1994) showed that people who have been wounded in the area of their brain that

relates to emotion are unable to act rationally. They can determine what they need to

do, but they will not do it. This does not mean that emotion plays a role in the

information treatment process itself, but shows that it is at least an incentive that helps

to translate ideas into decisions and action. We can wonder what would be a scientist

without emotion: what would be his/her capacity to go beyond the thinking dictated by

his/her culture. How could he/she engage in new hypothesis or theories and gather

personal energy for achieving key challenges? Scientists, like any human, have

emotional complexes, or affects, which have been built along their history. These

affects can be either positive incentives or causes of biases and misrepresentations.

Having an emotion is maybe not a scientific act and can go against science, but the

scientific method has to find ways to use emotions positively, managing side effects

that go against objectivity but also using them as incentives for more innovative,

powerful, in depth, holistic and committed thinking. This would lead to establish more

connections between science and philosophy. Even art, eventually, may not be

separated from science (Feyerabend 2003). Scientists would then contribute to the

embellishment of the world we live in, a world for which they already helped to build

the material dimension.

3.5. How to check the validity of knowledge if rationality loses its exclusivity

We saw that the use of intuition and emotion can increase efficiency in the

advancement of knowledge, but may also increase the risks of subjectivity. This issue

has to be taken into account seriously. How to do so?

First, as contended above, emotion and intuition are already present in science

because scientific research is carried out by people. Recognizing these skills as part of

the cognitive processes, with the series of precaution it would imply, would not

necessarily make science more subjective. To the contrary, it could help to delineate

hidden areas of subjectivity and control their biases.

Second, whatever the tools used to acquire knowledge are, there is only one

way to check that a conclusion is sound: to make a prediction according to this

conclusion and to check that this prediction actually occurs. Biophysical sciences

already engaged in this logic and put experiments at the core of their methods. But

social sciences are not yet clearly engaged in it. I advocate for this engagement to

occur, following the arguments of Bent Flyvjberg in his essay “Making social sciences

matter” (2001). Thus, the matter is not whether a given knowledge is scientific or not,

but whether it is useful for making a prediction and is validated or not by the occurring

of this prediction. The frontiers between sciences, philosophy, humanities and arts

could then be definitively blurred. Scientists could dare to go beyond the limits of

their field and of what they supposedly could infer using only “objective,” rationale

and “rigorous” arguments and methods. They could use any method and any of their

skills, but they could also be systematically controlled in return by the results of their

experiments. They would be accountable to the reality, rather than to their discipline

and their peers.

Does this mean that we would transform societies into guinea pigs submitted to

experiments? It may be that societies are guinea pigs already, but that politicians, not

the scientists, are those who conduct the experiments. What I propose hence is to

make scientists (those who “know”) and politicians (those who “decide”) work

together, making them deal with the same objects: our physical and natural world and

the societies built upon them. There will be two ways to assess the results of their

common experiments: through social feedback resulting from democratic control, and

through biophysical feedback resulting from scientific monitoring. This would help to

avoid knowledge traps such as fashions, unique thinking, received wisdoms, myths,

ideologies and dogma. In the end, societies would win.

With this perspective, researchers would have huge responsibilities as they

would be responsible, together with politicians, for their discourse on behalf of the

societies they are studying. Blurring the frontier between science and politics would

lead to redefine not only science, but politics as well. Aristotle, two thousand years

ago, developed the concept of phronesis that was aimed at bringing science into a

similar direction. Phronesis is a "true state, reasoned, and capable of actions with

regard to things that are good or bad for humans" (Aristotle 1976, in Flyvbjerg 2001).

"Phronesis goes beyond both analytical, scientific knowledge (episteme) and technical

knowledge or know-how (techne) and involves judgments and decisions made in the

manner of a virtuoso social and political actor" (Flyvbjerg 2001, 2). Phronesis is thus

the only state of knowledge that implies the responsiveness of the researcher vis-a-vis

society. It is the most mature state of knowledge due to this responsiveness. If science

could evolve to satisfy the phronesis ideal, it could enter a new paradigm where the

overall progress of human societies would be its only goal. It would deal with the real

world, instead of constructing idealized societies that run perfectly in models (the

communist society, the market society, and maybe, soon, the “sustainable” society)

but would be, at best, of little spiritual, ethical or esthetic value, and at worst

enslavement for human beings. In this new model, objective and rational thinking

could be used with and not against our identity, which is that of beings that think but

also feel and desire.

4. Back to the subject

I must now go back to my dissertation topic to see how these quite abstract

considerations determined my research questions, hypothesis and methods.

Because I try not to do conventional science, the question I ask is neither “what

are the effects of slash-and-burn cultivation on the Malagasy environment,” nor “what

are the solutions to stop slash-and-burn cultivation in Madagascar.” Some answers to

these questions have already been given by scientists belonging to the fields of

biology, soil sciences, crop sciences, social sciences, and economics, using

conventional tools such as field experimentation in controlled sites, enquiries through

questionnaires, laboratory analysis, statistics, econometrics, system analysis and

modeling. Their results show that slash-and-burn cultivation leads to deforestation,

soil degradation, and poverty. The solutions they propose to stop it are good

governance, state control over deforestation and burning, community-based natural

resource management, alternatives to slash-and-burn such as lowland rice

intensification and agroforestry, income generating activities, access to market, and

birth control. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that almost half a billion USD was

spent to implement these solutions, the Malagasy forest continues to be slashed and

burned, the soils to degrade, and the Malagasy farmers remain poor, including in the

small areas where most of the technical and financial support provided by this aid has

been concentrated. So, were the wrong questions asked, were the wrong answers

given, or did the implementation of these answers fail?

Consistently with the previous sections, I believe there is a mix of these three

reasons. But more importantly, I am convinced that escaping from this situation of

failure can be achieved by answering to the broader questions: “why is there

deforestation in Madagascar, why do farmers still slash-and-burn the forests, and why

did the Malagasy state and its partners fail in addressing these issues?” These

questions do not look like usual scientific questions but are those that matter. They are

in the mind of everybody involved in preserving the Malagasy environment and in

developing the Malagasy economy: donors, practitioners, development actors, and

environmentalists. But they have never been asked by scientists, who limit their work

to certain aspects of the reality that they select according to their backgrounds, the

disciplines they belong to and the methods they acquired. This dissertation is an

attempt to fill this gap. It concerns a broad object which includes a biophysical

environment; a local society that uses this environment and has its own history and

culture, its own way of interacting with it, it own land use (slash-and-burn

agriculture); and a global society that gets more and more concerned by this

environment and this land use and also has its own identity and culture. These local

and global societies live on the same planet, exploit the same global environment,

exchange things through a common economic system and share ideas through various

communication means. In other words, they depend on each other for the construction

of their destiny. Understanding deforestation dynamics and the land uses associated

with them lead to a questioning of their identity, the discourses they generate, the

activities they implement and the interactions between these two realms. Two cultural

poles are involved, which for simplicity I will call the modern and the traditional. Two

systems of values, two systems of knowledge, two systems of power and two senses of

esthetic are derived from these two poles. We need to be more than “competent

performers” (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1986, see Section 3.3) to understand these two

poles and the systems associated with them, and to merge these elements into a single

representation. We have to experience the reality in depth, not only to measure it. As

observers, we belong to one of these poles only. We must then be aware of our own

culture and identity and question ourselves while doing our observations. We will

need, as far as our methods and capacities will allow us, to deconstruct our

representations and reconstruct more objective and comprehensive ones. How else

than using all the skills that have been granted to us, including intuition, and by

creating positive synergies between reason and emotion, can we get a slight chance to

achieve such comprehensiveness and reflexivity? And how else than by testing

empirically our outcomes can we get objective feedback on our insights?

This objective is quite ambitious. But as the subject encompasses a large

number of narrower issues that have already been addressed, including in the area

where I conducted my field work, I will not hesitate to dedicate large sections to

summarize and critically examine these works and insert them into my comprehensive

picture. The same knowledge does not need to be produced twice, but different realms

of knowledge have to be articulated together, questioned by their confrontation,

improved in the light of new facts, and completed by filling up knowledge gaps. All

these, rather than the addition of new knowledge on a narrow issue, is be the endeavor

of this dissertation.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, I contend that the limits of rational thinking have to be

recognized in order to valorize in science, or with science, other faculties that can also

play a positive role in the advancement of knowledge, for the benefit of human

societies and their environments. The exclusion of knowledge domains, which is the

corollary of reductionism and positivism, leads to the creation of artificial objects that

are incomplete, mutilated and nonfunctional. These artificial objects are not the

reality. They are just human constructions or representations. Uncontrolled emotions,

cultural determinants and personal affects contribute to shape them. Hence they may

not reflect properly the reality and in this sense be irrational. But as they are regarded

as “scientific,” they are considered to be the only grid for understanding ourselves and

our world. They are excessively trusted and are allowed to determine our future. In

order to produce a more comprehensive and relevant knowledge, we have to go

beyond this mode of thinking that denies an essential part of our identity and skills;

that makes us blind to the spiritual, ethical and esthetical dimensions of our lives; that

isolates us from people with different values, but engaged with us in determining the

future of our world. We must not refuse the positive role that intuition and emotion

can play for the advancement of knowledge. To recognize the presence of these skills

will help us to better control the biases introduced in our representations by affects and

other subjective determinants. A permanent dialectics between reason and emotion,

between logic and intuition, between us and the others, between science and politics,

is necessary for not passing over key realities that can reveal the essence, the

functioning and the becoming of complex objects. Slash-and-burn cultivation and

deforestation in Madagascar strongly involve groups of people who do not know, or at

least did not experience each other. They are issues that reveal high tensions between

the local and the global, the social and the natural, and for these reasons crystallize

significant attention from organizations engaged in the search for a better future. They

are hence appropriate issues to produce a new sort of knowledge using

nonconventional modes of scientific enquiry.





This second part will set the issues addressed in this dissertation (deforestation

and slash-and-burn cultivation) in their historical, geographical, social and political

context. Chapter 1 will draw a broad picture of environmental degradation in

Madagascar based on the existing literature on the subject. Chapter 2 will describe the

environmental policies designed to address degradation, with a special emphasis on

the National Environmental Action Plan, started in 1991 and still ongoing. It will be

mostly based on the grey literature produced by actors involved in rural development

and conservation programs in Madagascar, and on my personal experience as a

technical advisor at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forest 5 .

I worked for the FSP-GDRN Project (Projet Gestion Décentralisée des Ressources Naturelles du
Fonds de Solidarité Prioritaire; Decentralized Natural Resources Management Project of the Priority
Aid Fund) of the Malagasy-French Cooperation, from February 2004 to February 2006.



1. Introduction

In this chapter, I will set the issue of environmental degradation in Madagascar

in a historical perspective. Section 2 will present the general geographical features of

the island. Section 3 will describe the historical transformation of Malagasy

ecosystems, from the first human settlement to present. It will show that

environmental degradation has occurred for as long as people have lived on the island,

but may have accelerated in recent times. Section 4 will formulate a preliminary

explanation of the causes of environmental degradation. It will achieve this by linking

social and environmental histories, with a particular emphasis on the social groups

involved in the clearing of eastern rain forests. It will show that Madagascar is still in

a process of conquest by its inhabitants and that unequal competition leads to the

marginalization of the weakest groups, for whom primary ecosystems constitute a

refuge and provide the main resource base.

2. General geographical features of Madagascar

For most people, Madagascar evokes an island with a luxurious environment

where astonishing animals, such as lemurs and chameleons, can be found, but which is

threatened by humans who burn its land and clear its forests. Madagascar is indeed a

land with striking ecological features. Located southeast from continental Africa, it is

the fourth biggest island in the world with an area of 587,000 km2. It occupied a

central position in the Gondwana continent in Cretaceous time but separated early

from other continents (Wells 2003). This ancient isolation explains the presence of

numerous archaic groups of plants and animals, the high rate of endemism and the

complex affinities with other bio-geographical zones.

Now three hundred kilometers away from the African coast, the island is

marked by a mountainous axis extending from north to south, the highest point being

2876 m. This escarpment is bordered by uplands on its west side, with altitude ranging

from 800 to 1500 m. The substratum is principally made of a highly eroded

Precambrian basement (gneiss, granite or quartzites). Sedimentary basins and volcanic

intrusions are also encountered but do not cover vast areas. The climate is sub-

equatorial to sub-tropical. The highest rainfall (3000 mm) is recorded on the east coast

which is subjected to trade winds coming from the Indian Ocean, and the lowest (400

mm) in the semi-arid southwest. The dry season lasts from June to October but is

absent in the east and more marked in the west and the south. It coincides with the

lowest temperatures. Cyclones are frequent. They cause flooding and significant

infrastructure and agriculture destruction in the eastern regions.

These geographical and climatic features result in a large variety of ecosystems

and a very high biodiversity (Humbert 1965; Koechlin et al. 1974; Jenkins 1987; Du

Puy and Moat 1996; Lowry II et al. 1997; Gautier and Goodman 2003). Due to

clearing for agricultural purposes and frequent burnings, most of the land is now

covered by secondary vegetation. Primary vegetation covered 18% of the land in the

1970s (Map 1, from Du Puy and Moat 2003), still less at present. Secondary

vegetation is dominated by grasses and sometimes invasive shrubs and trees. The

primary ecosystems related to this dissertation are the mid altitude and lower montane

evergreen, humid forests. They form a corridor that stretches from the north to the

south of the island but which is fragmented in several locations (Map 1). Throughout

this dissertation, I will employ the term rain forest for more convenience.

Map 1 : Remaining primary vegetation in Madagascar
Source: Du Puy and Moat (2003, 52). Derived from Faramalala (1995) and based
on aerial photographs taken from 1972 to 1979.

3. Environmental and social history

3.1. First settlements and first environmental impacts

Madagascar was settled relatively recently, around 2000 years ago (Mac Phee

et al. 1991). The pattern of settlement is quite complex and not well known, with

groups of humans coming at different times from different continents, mainly

Indonesia and Africa. According to Deschamps (1972), the first settlers shipped from

Africa and were Indonesian navigators. They had partially integrated some elements

of the African culture and could have been accompanied by populations from the East-

African coast.

The first proven record of human presence shows that groups of hunters may

have been present on the Malagasy coast as early as A.D. 100 or A.D. 300 (Wright

and Rakotoarisoa 2003). The first known encampment site is dated around A.D. 450

and “archeological evidence of settlement on the coast increases significantly for the

period after A.D. 800” (Wright and Rakotoarisoa 2003, 113). Traces of human

settlement during the first millennium are nevertheless scarce and evidences of

important settlement in several parts of the island are only attested for the tenth

century A.D. (Wright et al. 1996).

Anthropogenic fires occurred in the second century A.D. on the west coast, and

in the seventh century in the central highland (Wright et al. 1996; Burney 1997b).

They were probably ignited for hunting. At this time, the natural vegetation in the

highlands was a complex mosaic of savannah, grassland and forest (Lowry II et al.

1997, Burney 1987). Fossils of now extinct hunted animals such as giant lemurs, a

pigmy hippopotamus, a local elephant, giant birds (Aepyornis), turtles and other big

animals have been discovered (Wright et al. 1996). It is possible that hunting and

anthropogenic fires caused the extinction of megafauna but this thesis is still disputed

(Dewar 2003).

A broad trade network across the Indian Ocean was later developed by Arabs

(Radimilahy 1998), as attested by “a rapid emergence of diverse and often complex

settlement systems” (Wright and Rakotoarisoa 2003, 114). These ports facilitated a

continuous migratory flow, including several new waves of Indonesian settlements

and the importation and exportation of slaves. The first known major port, Mahilaka,

was established in A.D. 1150 in the Ampasindava bay and flourished until about 1400.

This settlement significantly affected the environment of the surrounding area:

The evidence of pollen and charcoal from dated sediment cores raised from
lakes and bogs throughout the Ampasindava region shows increasing
burning and a marked diminution in arboreal pollen beginning about A.D.
1100. By about 1300, most pollen was from grassy and brushy vegetation
(Burney 1999). There seems to be no explanation for this deforestation
other than human activity. (Wright and Rakotoarisoa 2003, 113)
Around 1400, the city diminished in size, villages were abandoned and

arboreal pollen became frequent again (Burney 1999, in Wright and Rakotoarisoa

2003), confirming the anthropogenic character of vegetation change.

Concerning the highland, many villages were found as early as the thirteenth

century (Dewar and Wright 1993, in Wright and Rakotoarisoa 2003). Settlement was

preceded or accompanied by an increase of fire frequency and the extension of

grasslands, as shown by a new increase of charcoal sediment and grass pollen during

the twelfth century. Castor bean pollen (Ricinus communis L. 6 ), a commensal plant

found in disturbed areas near villages, also appeared during this period (Burney 1987,

in Wright and Rakotoarisoa 2003).

3.2. Chiefdoms and kingdoms

In spite of a relative unity with respect to culture and language, distinct

organized societies developed in several parts of the island during the second


millennium (Wright et al. 1996). The most powerful group was probably the Merina,

who developed a kingdom with a high level of political organization and conquered at

least half of the island in the nineteenth century. It probably originated from new

waves of Malaysian and Indonesian settlers who moved from the east coast to the

highlands (Deschamps 1959). The Merina established around a cluster of lakes and

marshes, close to the present capital Antananarivo (Wright et al. 1996). They

assimilated the local population, which was composed of descendants of ancient

African settlers (Wazimba). They developed irrigated rice cultivation and raised cattle

(Wright et al. 1996). Their land uses allowed the production of a surplus which made

possible the existence of an organized hierarchical society, with a specialized

governmental apparatus typical of states (Wright et al. 1996). This productivity,

together with the raiding of slaves from the surrounding territories, allowed a tripling

of the highland population between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries (Wright et

al. 1996). Due to this prosperity, the whole central highlands have been almost

completely covered by grassland since at least the mid-eighteenth century (Wright et

al. 1996). Warfare may have played a role in this transformation, as denuded land

facilitated the displacement of armies and control over territory. Large fortified

bastions appeared in the eighteenth century and the frontier was repeatedly moved

outward (Wright et al. 1996).

The end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century was the

time of famous Merina Kings such as Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810) and

Radama 1 (1810-1828), who conquered most neighboring polities and created the

Malagasy Kingdom (1815-1895). As the Merina did not efficiently control this vast

territory, the unity was relative. Nevertheless, the political organization allowed the

development of larger irrigation systems and favored trade exchanges with coastal

villages. Guns and powder were imported and New World crops such as manioc were

introduced. Close relationships were established with foreigners, first with British, and

later with French, leading to the establishment of the French protectorate in 1896

(Section 3.3.). As the Merina were the main beneficiaries of education effort during

colonial time, their descendants still dominate the administrative and economic life in

independent Madagascar.

Other important kingdoms were the Betsileo and the Sakalava.

The history of the Betsileo is quite similar to that of the Merina, with whom

they share the appellation of “people of the highlands,” distinguishing them from the

“Coastal people,” a mosaic of groups living on the coast. The Betsileo history started

with the settlement of groups coming from the east and mixing with Wazimba

(Deschamps 1959). They created kingdoms south of the Merina region, where the

conditions for rice cultivation were less favorable due to a hilly topography. The

Betsileo never achieved complete unity and were conquered by the Merina in 1830

(Kottak 1980). However, they benefited from education efforts under colonial times

and still have significant political and economic power.

The Sakalava created the most powerful coastal kingdom. They once had a

territory that covered extensive areas from the west coast to the central highlands in

the seventeenth century, but were also conquered by the Merina, in the eighteenth


Most other groups were village societies whose centers were located on the

coast or closer to it. They benefited from links with Arab trade networks and had a

quite sophisticated cultural life. Their military activities were limited to raids aimed at

supplying slaves. Among these groups are the Betsimisaraka and the Tanala, who are

the two main groups practicing slash-and-burn cultivation in the eastern rain forests.

The Betsimisaraka (“the many who will not be sundered”) constitute most of

the population in Beforona, the commune which will be studied in Part III. They result

from the unification of several tribes of the eastern coast by King Ratsimilaho in the

early eighteen century. But this unification did not last due to internal conflicts and

slaves raids by Sakalava and Sihanaka people. The Betsimisaraka were conquered by

the Merina in 1823. Nevertheless, they have always been quite prosperous, due to the

abundance of rice, tubers and fruits grown in slash-and-burn cultivation systems, and

to trade exchange and piracy along its coast. They transformed the landscape of the

eastern region, which early explorers described as a patchwork of dense forest,

secondary vegetation and cultivated and grazed land (Flacourt 1658, Ellis 1858, in

Agarwal et al. no date).

The impact of colonization on the Betsimisaraka has been described by

Althabe (1969) and Cole (2001). The eastern coast provided favorable conditions for

growing cash crops such as coffee, which interested colonists. On the other hand, the

dominant land use (slash-and-burn cultivation or tavy in Malagasy language) was

stigmatized as a bad practice as we will see later. The Betsimisaraka suffered much

from the imposition of a per capita tax, the obligation of growing cash crops to pay

this tax, and the repression of slash-and-burn cultivation. They resisted by claiming

their right to practice tavy, which was a way to express their culture and maintain their

identity and unity (Althabe 1969). However, lowland rice cultivation was part of their

farming system as well (Le Bourdiec 1974).

The Tanala, or “People of the Forest,” is a group resulting from the

aggregation of individuals fleeing from raids and slavery or removed from the coast

and the central highlands by new settlers. The first Tanala were probably black people

(Wazimba) coming from the coast and the highlands and fleeing other populations to

find refuge in the forest. They practiced hunting, gathering, slash-and-burn agriculture

and had a low level of social organization. In the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, they

have been joined by noble Islamized groups who migrated to these areas. Migrations

of Tanala seem to have increased in the sixteenth century. This was probably due to

the arrival of new settlers on the east coast and in the coastal valleys, to the

development of the Merina kingdom in the highlands, and to the development of

slavery and trade (Deschamps 1972).

In the eighteenth century, the Tanala reached a higher level of social

organization by associating with the Zafirambo chiefs, descendants of coastal Princes

taking refuge in the forest (Beaujard 1983). The Zafirambo constituted the aristocracy,

unified the various tribes, and created the Ikongo kingdom (Deschamps 1972). This

process was a reciprocal assimilation rather than the subjection of one to the other, as

attested by traditional tales (Beaujard 1985). It allowed the Tanala to resist to

dominant groups such as the Merina. The current chiefs of the Tanala tribes (the

Mpajanka) are still descendants of the Zafirambo.

Changes in land use occurred at that time and wet rice cultivation was

developed in the most favorable valleys (Beaujard 1985). The existence of both

lowland and upland rice systems is attested by a traditional Tanala tale which explains

that this combination is a strategy to reduce agricultural risks (Beaujard 1985):

When Kotofamandrika, the bird hunter, and Zanahary, the god princess,
founded the Tanala kingdom, they sowed rice in a cleared forest (tavy). But
birds and wild pigs destroyed the field. Then they sowed rice in a paddy
fields, but another kind of bird destroyed the harvest. Then they decided to
sow both kind of fields, on slopes and in bottom wet lands, so that the
animals will not eat the rice.
The development of paddy fields has been shortened by the extension of the

Merina kingdom in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The Tanala were obliged to

pursue their flee to the forest and to abandon their land, for conserving their freedom

or not becoming slaves (Beaujard 1985). Nevertheless, the need to resist to the Merina

kingdom encouraged them to organize into a stronger chiefdom (Beaujard 1985). The

immigration and assimilation of Betsileo, who had more experience in irrigated rice

cultivation, allowed a second development of paddy fields in the second part of the

nineteenth century (Beaujard 1985). But in the twentieth century, colonization exerted

a new pressure on Tanala people, resulting again in the abandoning of their land and

fleeing to the forest (Deschamps 1959).

This history shows that the Tanala have various ethnic origins and are instead

defined by their marginal social situation, their standard of living in the forest and

their quest for free land. Migration of Betsileo people to the Tanala region is ongoing

today, as attested by the existence of mixed Betsileo-Tanala villages where the social

organization of the Tanala is adopted by both entities. This history also shows that

Tanala people are not simply forest tribes practicing slash-and-burn agriculture. As

most other groups in Madagascar, they have experience in both lowland and upland

rice cultivation. But as they have been repeatedly marginalized and removed to remote

areas, they never had the opportunity to definitively establish permanent settlements.

Land use would thus be more a question of physical environment and economic

resources than a matter of culture and traditions. Establishing sustainable paddy fields

is a long process which can take generations, especially in mountainous areas where

large plains are absent, and when political instability and conflicts impede farmers

from increasing their social and economic capital.

3.3. The first Europeans 7

The first Europeans visiting Madagascar were the Portuguese around the year

1500. They established trade settlements and missions in the sixteenth and seventeenth

centuries but later abandoned the island. The Dutch, the British and the French

followed them. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the missions organized

military expeditions into the central regions of the island but had no clear policy

The main sources used for this section are Brown (1995) and Deschamp (1959; 1972).

concerning the exploitation of resources and colonization. Colonization at that time

was a failure despite the official annexation of Madagascar by France, in 1664.

European settlers were successively massacred or abandoned the island and

Madagascar became a shelter for pirates until the eighteenth century. When piracy

declined, around 1825, the British and French created new establishments on the coast.

The British developed an alliance with the dominant group, the Merina, on whom they

had a large influence. The French colonized the coast but also developed links with the

Merina Kingdom. In 1890, the British abandoned the island to the French in exchange

for Zanzibar. France established a protectorate in 1895 and the colonization followed,

opening a new period of social disturbances.

3.4. From colonization to present

The twentieth century history will be narrated in more detail in Chapter 2 but

needs to be briefly summarized here, in order to understand the dynamics of

environmental degradation.

The colonization by the French led to the development of infrastructure and

organizational systems typical of a modern state, improving education and health

services. But the goal was rather to serve the interests of the mother country. Taxes

and forced labor (corvées) were instituted, land was taken to indigenous people and

granted to colonists and cash-crops were introduced, often in a coercive manner.

Dissatisfaction of the indigenous population increased until a popular strike occurred

which was repressed by the military in 1947. Colonial pressure was loosened after

these events and the country entered into a state of relative prosperity, leading a

demographic boom in the second half of the century. Independence was gained in

1960. The political life of the independent state was dominated by the Merina, who

were the main beneficiaries of educational efforts by the French. A socialist regime

was instituted in 1972 and enforced by a coup in 1975. But Madagascar later

liberalized its economy and opened to foreign investors and international aid agencies,

including conservation organizations and lobbies in the mid 1980s. An ambitious

national environmental program was launched in 1990, with significant support from

the international community.

The current population is estimated to be 18.5 million, with an annual growth

rate of 3% (CIA 2007) and an average density of 26 inhabitants/ km2. Most people live

in rural areas and practice agriculture, which represents 26.9% of the gross domestic

product (CIA 2007).

3.5. Deforestation in the twentieth century

The pressure on ecosystems increased from colonization to the present time,

provoking massive deforestation. Successive measurements of forest cover were done

using different methods and the definition of “forest” varies according to the authors.

For these reasons, comparison is difficult 8 and there is controversy about the exact

rate of deforestation (Agarwal et al. no date). All estimations agree that it was very

significant, Madagascar making no exception to what happened in the rest of the

world, but exaggerated figures are sometimes produced:

it is estimated that Madagascar lost about 12 million hectares of forest
between 1960 and 2000, effectively reducing forest cover by 50% in just
40 years. Following the launch of the National Environment Action Plan in
the late 1980s, deforestation rates have since declined from over 400,000
ha/year in 1975-1985 to around 100,000 - 200,000 ha/year during the
1990s. Based on satellite imagery, it is estimated that the total area of
natural forest in Madagascar declined from 9.4 million hectares in 1993 to

According to Jenkins (1987), forest covered 25 to 30% of the land in Madagascar in 1987. According
to Chauvet (1972), it covered 16.7 million hectares in 1972, including 4.3 million hectares of degraded
forests. According to the World Bank (1988), 12 million hectares of forest remain in Madagascar,
which represents 25% of the initial cover. Jolly (1989) estimated 7.7 to 10 million hectares of natural
forest still remained in 1989, disappearing at a rate of two to 4 % per year. At this rate, the last patches
of primary vegetation may disappear in a few decades.

8.5 million hectares in 2000, reflecting a national average rate of
deforestation of about 0.86% per year. (World Bank 2004, 6)
More precise data are available concerning the eastern rain forests, which are

certainly the richest in terms of biodiversity. Sussman et al. (1994) and Green et al.

(1990) estimated that rain forest probably covered 11.2 million hectares in eastern

Madagascar before colonization by the French, of which 7.6 million remained in 1950

(calculated from the vegetation map of Humbert and Cours Darne 1965) and 3.8

million hectares in 1985 (from analysis of Landsat satellite images). According to

these figures, the pace of rain forest clearing between 1950 and 1985 would have been

111,000 hectares per year. In the most densely populated areas, this pace would have

decreased from 2.5% or 51,000 hectares per year, between 1950 and 1973, to 0.79% or

16,000 hectares per year between 1973 and 1984 9 . For Green and Sussman (1990),

this decrease after 1973 may result “from a diminishing pool of accessible forest

because of the elimination of forests on all but the steepest slopes.”

These figures are, however, disputable. Dufils (2003) reviewed existing data

sets and compared the estimation methods. He concluded that only three data sets can

be compared concerning the eastern rain forests: the estimations by Humbert and

Cours Darne (1965) (10.74 million hectares in 1953), by IEFN 10 (6.25 million

hectares in 1993) and by JRC 11 (5.53 million hectares in 1999). According to these
sources, 102,000 hectares would have been deforested every year between 1953 and

1993, and the same pace would have persisted between 1993 and 1999. The recent

efforts of environmental conservation (Chapter 2) could have had no impact on the

Malagasy rain forests.

In order to answer this question, Hawkins and Horning (2001) compared

deforestation rates between regions targeted or not targeted by environmental

No total coverage is available for the year 1973.
Inventaire Ecologique Forestier National (National Forest Ecological Inventory).
Joint Research Institute of the Space Application Institute, Ispra, Italy.

programs during the 1990s. They measured a 0.3% loss per year in the Zahamena

Mantadia corridor 12 , for the period 1993 to 2000, and a 0.5% loss in the Ranomafana-

Andringitra corridor, located in southeast Madagascar. These two sites are targeted by

USAID 13 funded projects. These authors further measured a 1.1% loss in the Anosibe

An’ala-Ranomafana corridor, which is not targeted by USAID projects and has been

neglected by environmental programs (still for the period 1993-2000). The results of

the comparison are exhibited in the form of posters in the office of many Malagasy

state representatives, such as at the Water and Forest General Directorate. But in

reality, the correlation between intervention and less deforestation does not mean there

is a causal relationship. The situation may differ from one area to the other in terms of

population migration, economic opportunities and ecological constraints. These

factors, rather than the impact of projects, could explain the differences measured by

Hawkins and Horning (2001). Project interventions can further lead to displaced

pressures due to the mobility of Malagasy people. The higher rate in the control site,

as well as the lower rate in the targeted sites, could both be the consequences of

environmental programs.

4. The social causes of environmental degradation

4.1. Deforestation and the first agricultural frontier

The main causes of deforestation during the twentieth century may have been

logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, intensive extraction of forest products, and the

establishment of plantations for export (Jarosz 1993). Construction of roads and

railways induced the colonization of new areas, the burning of forest for producing

charcoal, and the concession of forest land for extraction of precious woods, rubber,

The commune of Beforona, which will be studied in Part III, is located in this area.
United States Agency for International Development, a major donor of NEAP.

raphia and other products (Olson 1984). Despite this diversity of causes, slash-and-

burn cultivation (tavy) was regarded as the main cause of deforestation and the French

administration tried to regulate its practice (Chapter 2). There can indeed be little

doubt that tavy was the most significant proximal cause. But if we adopt a more

comprehensive frame, the role of slash-and-burn may not have been so significant.

Slash-and-burn cultivation implies vegetation regrowth on the cleared land, after one

or two years of cultivation. This secondary vegetation can be cleared again and the

system can sustain itself, at least when the population density is low and stable. This

could have been the case in Madagascar until 1950. According to Jarosz (1993), the

population growth in Madagascar was very close to replacement level between 1900

and 1941, whereas huge areas of forest have been cleared during this period. Censuses

between 1900 and 1950 expressed the anxiety of the French over population

stagnation (Olson 1984), while millions of hectares of forest were cleared. The

dramatic demographic explosion only occurred after 1950 (Olson 1984). Rather than

the demographic increase or the unsustainability of tavy, the real “cause” of massive

clearing could have been up-side dynamics obliging farmers to clear new land in


I already pointed out such up-side causes in the case of the Tanala people, in

Section 3.2. These up-side causes may have been exacerbated and generalized to the

whole country during the colonial period, leading to the disorganization of the local

economy and land tenure systems. The institution of forced labor and taxes, the

establishment of colonial concessions and forest plantations, and the granting of

indigenous land to colonists disorganized farming systems and customary modes of

regulation. They created monetary needs which encouraged migration of indigenous

people in a search for new land and income opportunities (Jarosz 1993; Olson 1984).

As forest is the only land that appeared to be in free access and with no owners,

farmers with few resources and little capital had no other choice than to exploit forest

biomass when pushed away from their previous land by colonists’ settlements or by

the pressure of forced labor and taxes.

One could thus expect deforestation to decrease after independence. But we

saw in Section 3.5 that this was not the case. That it did not decrease could be

explained by poverty and the persistence of inequities in development driven by

market forces. “Real income per capita has fallen by 40% since 1960 to about 240

USD per person in 1999” (Dorosh et al. 2003). During the 1980s, the Malagasy state

was in bankruptcy 14 , forest controls stopped and poverty peaked, leading many

communities to increasingly depend on natural resources, as we will see in the case of

Ambodilaingo in Chapter 5. During the 1990s, market reforms engendered an overall

GNP 15 growth but also created an increasingly risky economic environment, which

affected the most vulnerable farmers and may have led to more deforestation (Barrett

1999). According to Paternostro et al. (2001, no pagination) “populations in rural

areas witnessed persistent increases in poverty despite market reforms.” In response,

small scale agricultural households “have been extending their land use by clearing

and cultivating increasingly fragile lands” (Paternostro et al. 2001, no pagination).

Today (in 2001), 69.6% of Malagasy people live under the poverty line, and 85% of

the poor live in rural areas (Republikan’I Madagasikara 2003).

4.2. Erosion and the second frontier

This massive deforestation does not mean that a large part of the country has

been put under cultivation. According to Jolly (1989), only 5% of Madagascar is under

cultivation and an additional 10% or so is regarded as cultivable. According to

The economical crisis of the 1980s will be analyzed in Chapter 2.
Gross National Product.

Koechlin (1974), grassland covered an estimated 420,000 km2 in 1974, i.e., 72% of

the surface of the island. This number may, however, include savannah, as aerial or

satellite photographs do not clearly distinguish between the two.

Grasslands have, however, some positive functions in the Malagasy

agricultural landscape. They are used as pastures and are frequently burned, to provide

early forage when the first rains arrive and to favor runoff and provide nutrients to

paddy fields located in bottom valleys (Raison 1984; Kull 2000). But most fires are

uncontrolled, cover extensive areas, and extreme erosion often occurs, creating huge

gullies called Lavaka (Wells et al. 1997). The consequence is extensive flooding and

silting, with significant negative impacts on crop production in irrigated plains

downstream (Kramer et al. 1997).

Due to their prevalence, grasslands constitute a second agricultural frontier to

be conquered by farmers who have the capacity to develop more intensive land uses,

to the detriment of those who currently occupy the land and practice extensive systems

(mostly pastoralism). Conquest of the “grassland frontier” also needs more investment

to be achieved than in the case of the forest frontier. Fewer natural resources are in

place and investments have to be made in the form of work to complete improvements

such as terracing, irrigating and reforesting. It is only when they already have some

assets, or when they have no other choice, that farmers in the search for new land

direct themselves to this second frontier. Those who establish more successfully and

found the most prosperous communities are often Merina and Betsileo people, who

have higher economic levels and have already developed intensive land uses and faced

the problem of natural resource shortage for decades or centuries. Raison (1984)

analyzed these dynamics of colonization in detail.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, there is a very acute environmental problem in Madagascar.

Land degradation has been occurring ever since humans settled on the island, and

continued shrinkage of the remaining primary ecosystems will lead to a very

significant loss of biodiversity if it is not stopped in the next few decades.

Madagascar, however, is not a particular case. Agricultural or pastoral activity

cannot be implemented without transforming ecosystems and clearing primary forests.

For this reason, humans have significantly transformed the ecosystems of the earth for

as long as they have existed (Thomas 1956; Turner et al. 1999) and fires and forest

clearing have played a central role in these transformations (Ponting 1991; Redman

1999; Pyne 2001; Mazoyer and Roudart 2001; Williams 2006).

I can further assert that the main proximal cause of deforestation is the seeking

of new land for cultivation, and that forests are mostly cut by farmers who practice

slash-and-burn cultivation (tavy). But these farmers must not be blamed for that.

Deforestation results from the mobility of the whole population, the extension of the

most prosperous groups and the marginalization of the poorest ones. The expansion of

the Merina kingdom and colonization by the French were probably the main forces

that put the Malagasy forests and its resources under pressure. More recently, market

reforms have not reduced, and may even have increased these pressures. Tavy farmers

have been stigmatized as the main agents of forest clearing but they are just one aspect

of a more global and complex dynamic that involves other groups. They are in the first

line of the move to the forest, but they are not the main force that provokes this move.

For this reason, they cannot be regarded as the main cause of deforestation. They are

only the proximal cause, playing an instrumental role for the “benefit” of all actors

that collect the advantages of human expansion. In short, “development,” in a context

of limited regulation, may be the real cause of deforestation. Conservation discourses

need to build their representations inside this broad picture in order to avoid the

construction of fragmented, incomplete and sometimes false “realities.” If we just

focused on the last step in the chain of reactions that leads to deforestation, i.e., on

what happens to the soil, the vegetation and the economy when a tavy farmer clears a

piece of forest land to cultivate it, then we may fail in finding solutions to the problem.




1. Introduction

In this Chapter, I will analyze the genesis of environmental policies and

programs in Madagascar. Sections 2 and 3 will describe the first environmental and

forest policies under the Merina kingdom and during the colonial period. Sections 4, 5

and 6 will continue this story from independence in 1960 (first republic), to the

socialist revolution of 1972-75 (second republic), and the return to a liberal economy

in the 1980s. Sections 7, 8 and 9 will analyze the three phases of the National

Environmental Action Plan, with a special emphasis on its impact and on the socio-

economic and political context of its implementation. Section 10 will conclude and

make the transition to Part III.

2. The first forest management and conservation efforts

Before the arrival of Europeans and the organization of a modern state, the

Malagasy society was feudal. The land was owned by kings or lineage leaders who

allocated it to the population. The forest served as a reservoir of land for the

installation of new households.

The first known measures for environmental protection were promulgated by

King Andrianampoinimerina (1710-1790), who transmitted them orally. These

measures revealed awareness that the forest was the only resource available for the

poor, and that it was not inexhaustible.

Here is the forest,” said the King, “indivisible property where the orphans,
the widows, and all the unfortunates can find their subsistence, because
otherwise, they would not have any resource, nothing to sell. Nobody has

to worry them, because the small activities they will have will allow them
to become, like the others, good subjects of their sovereign… Concerning
my vassals and relatives, they will be free to take in the forest the materials
they will need, for example to build a house, because nice houses are the
beauties and the glory of my kingdom. It is however forbidden to burn the
forest and to burn its wood, except to make charcoal for the forge. This
interdiction is in your interest and is aimed at avoiding the complete and
irremediable disappearance of the forest 16 .
Radama (1861-1863) issued the first known legislation dealing with forest

products extraction, the “Charte Lambert,” signed on June 28, 1855. This regulation

authorized the free exploitation of mines and forests by a company owned by a foreign

investor, Lambert. The Code of 70 articles, promulgated in 1862, included five articles

of the “charte” and added two more for the regulation of mining and forest products

On March 29, 1881, Queen Ranavalona II promulgated a code of 305 articles,

which is regarded as the first significant move from a feudal society to a modern state.

It included six articles (101 to 106) dedicated to forest protection and management

(Lavauden 1934). Article 101 forbids forest burning and punishes it by “ten years in

iron” (in prison). Article 102 forbids charcoal production in or close to forests, while

article 103 forbids the use of big trees to make charcoal. Article 104 forbids settlement

inside forests, a measure probably motivated by the difficulties of administrating

populations living in remote places and fleeing from administrative pressures

(Lavauden 1934). Article 105 forbids clearing and burning of forests for agricultural

From Julien (1909), in Lavauden (1934), translation from French to English by Pollini. Original
citation in Lavauden (1934): “Voici la forêt, patrimoine non susceptible de répartition entre mes sujets.
C’est là que les orphelins, les veuves, et tous les malheureux viendront chercher leur moyen
d’existence, car sans cela, ils n’auraient aucune ressource, ne pouvant rien vendre. Que personne ne les
inquiète, car les petites industries auxquelles ils se livreront leur permettront de devenir, comme les
autres, des sujets utiles à leur souverain …. Quant aux grands, mes vassaux et parents, ils auront, eux
aussi, toute liberté pour faire prendre dans la forêt les matériaux dont ils auront besoin, chaque fois, par
exemple, qu’ils voudront faire bâtir une trano kotona (maison en bois), car les belles constructions sont
l’agrément du pays et la gloire de mon royaume. Il est, néanmoins, interdit d’incendier la forêt et d’en
brûler les bois, si ce n’est pour fabriquer le charbon qui sert aux travaux de forge. Cette interdiction,
prise dans votre intérêt, a pour but d’éviter la disparition complète et irrémédiable de la forêt.”

purposes and limits the practice of slash-and-burn to secondary vegetation. Article

106, eventually, forbids cutting or damage of trees growing on the littoral. This

legislation proposed very severe penalties but was hardly enforced.

3. The colonial period

When Madagascar became a French Protectorate, a Forestry Mission was

immediately sent by the French Ministry of Agriculture in 1896 (Lavauden 1934). Its

objectives were to assess the forest resources, to organize their rational extraction, to

control the permits that had been allocated (mostly to European that exported wood to

Mauritius and La Reunion) and to prepare legislation that would organize forest

product extraction, define repressive rules and create a Forest Service

(Ramanantsoavina no date). According to Ramanantsoavina (no date), the key dates of

the development of Malagasy modern forestry were:

• 1897: Publication of the first legislative order (July 5), launching of the

first reforestation program in the highlands, creation of nurseries in

Antananarivo and introduction of exotic species,

• 1900: publication of the first forest decree (February 19),

• 1903: first “scientific” harvesting of nontimber forest products (rubber


• 1905: establishment of the first forest map,

• 1908: creation of the first forestry research station in Analamazaotra,

• 1910 to 1914: important reforestation program along the railways in order

to provide fire wood to the locomotives’ steam engines,

• 1911: introduction of pine trees,

• 1913: publication of the second forest decree (August 28),

• 1917: creation of the first body of Malagasy forest rangers,

• 1925: development of fisheries in the forestry research stations

• 1926: creation of five forest districts,

• 1923: creation of ten forest Natural Reserves (an eleventh will be added in

1929) covering 400 000 hectares,

• 1930: publication of the third decree (November 17), modified later but

still valid at present,

• 1938: ratification of the International Convention for Fauna and Flora

Protection in Africa, adopted at the London International Conference of

October 8, 1933,

• 1946: creation of the first forestry school in Angavokely, and

• 1958: creation of the two first National Parks, opened to scientists and

tourists only (Montagne d’Ambre and Isalo) and of 20 Special Reserves

with less restrictive rules.

Until 1930, the enforcement of the forest legislation was almost ineffective.

There were only two forestry officers for the whole country until 1927, assisted by no

more than five forestry employees until 1922 (Lavauden 1934). Local administrators

were flexible and continued to tolerate indigenous practices and forest clearing

(Lavauden 1934). Facing the contradiction between conservation objectives and

economic local realities, the legislation hesitated concerning the way to address fires.

According to Kull (2004), Bertrand and Sourdat (1998), Ramanantsoavina (no date)

and Lavauden (1934), pasture fires were forbidden in 1897, authorized in 1904,

limited to indispensable ones in 1907, forbidden again by the second decree in 1913,

and tolerated after 1913 because exceptions to the ban became the rule. The policy and

the legislation about tavy had similar hesitations until the early 1920s.

Madagascar was also visited by many biologists and naturalists during the

nineteenth century, one of the most prominent figures being the French explorer and

naturalist Alfred Grandidier (Andriamialisoa and Langrand 2003). Under their

influence, the French Governor Gallieni founded the Malagasy Academy in 1902. The

first years of scientific surveys were accompanied by polemics concerning the original

extension of forests and the type of ecosystems that existed in the highlands and the

west before the arrival of humans. Perrier de la Bâthie (1921) estimated that 200,000

hectares of forest were cleared every year. He noticed that all species of the highlands

were adapted to fires, with a capacity to reproduce vegetatively by their underground

parts or sexually by producing seeds under a short cycle. Humbert (1927) renewed the

arguments that tavy and pasture fires were the cause of this destruction. He drew the

picture of an island that was completely covered by forest, woodland or bush-land

before the arrivals of humans, except for a few swampy lands with bad drainage

(Humbert 1949).

Lavauden, Chief of the Forest Service appointed in 1928, went farther. He

declared that Madagascar had only two botanical regions, the oriental region covered

by evergreen forests and the occidental region covered by deciduous forests. He later

contended that before the uplands were deforested, the climate was wetter and

evergreen forests extended across the whole island, giving to it a uniform cover

(Bertrand and Sourdat 1998). He created the myth of a lost evergreen forest paradise

that has influenced environmental policies until now, as we will see.

The third forest decree, adopted in November 1930, was strongly influenced by

this myth and by the botanists’ call for more conservation efforts. It put a ban on any

form of vegetation fire. According to article 36, “the fires, the destruction or clearing

of forests and the bush fires for the preparation of crop fields or pastures are forbidden

in the whole domain of the colony 17 .” When individuals were not identified, the

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “les incendies, destructions ou défrichements de forêts
et les feux de brousse pour la préparation des cultures et pour les pâturages sont interdits dans tout le
domaine de la colonie.”

communities were regarded as responsible and fined (article 58). Pasture fires were

nevertheless authorized under certain conditions.

The 1930 decree was followed by a series of strict instructions for its

enforcement. According to Lavauden (1934), it was, however, not strictly enforced

and exceptions supported by more or less legal administrative acts still proliferated.

The forest services were, however, significantly strengthened (six forest officers and

39 employees working in six forests districts in 1931) and the population heard of

these new authorities and of the regulations they enforced. This raised an awareness

that something significant had changed: ancestral land now belonged to the state, an

external and quite abstract entity, and accessing forest land through customary rights

was rendered illegal (Bertrand and Sourdat 1998). This change was confirmed by the

arrival of colonists and other outsiders who were granted land ownership and

authorizations for forest resource extraction, with no respect for the traditional land

tenure system. In consequence, local means of regulation started to erode, while the

colonial administration was not strong enough to enforce the law, except along the

main roads. Competition for access to natural resources increased, especially when

colonists took part in it. Burning became a way to contest the taking of land by

outsiders and to claim indigenous rights. This change, and the demographic explosion

after 1950, are certainly the key explanation for the acceleration of environmental

degradation in Madagascar during the twentieth century, as Jarosz (1993) and Kull

(2004) argued.

Parrot 18 (1924, in Bertrand and Sourdat 1998) 19 gives an example that

illustrates this change. In the Antsirabe region,

Reference not in list of work cited because cited but not readable in the bibliography of my copy of
Bertrand and Sourdat (1998).
Page of document not readable on my copy of Bertrand and Sourdat (1998).

the most exalted indigenous people declared that it was better to destroy
the neighboring woods than to see them fall into the hands of others. They
ignited fires secretly and thousands of hectares of beautiful forests
disappeared in a few weeks. As soon as they belonged to the state, they
were no longer protected.
Parrot was the first to propose to implement community based natural resource

management to address environmental degradation.

The taking of land by the state and by colonists was not the only cause of

tension. Farmers fled to escape forced labor as we saw in Chapter 1. They moved to

remote areas, mostly into forests that they cleared to open new agricultural land. In

some cases, the administration forced them to have a permanent settlement along the

roads, to abandon tavy and to cultivate crops for export. Althabe (1969) showed how

the Betsimisaraka people developed a dual system to resist to these pressures. They

established permanent dwellings and coffee plantations but continued to practice tavy

in the forest, far away from administrative controls.

Submitted to these pressures, the rural population showed a discontentment

that culminated in 1947. As in most colonized countries, the Second World War

provoked an increasing demand for services from the population. Labor and products

were requisitioned to support the war effort. But the war also showed that colonial

power could lose a battle. People from the eastern region, led by strengthening
nationalist movements, rebelled. Forest plantations were a prominent target (Kull

2004). The main forestry research station, in Analamazaotra, was destroyed and

evacuated; the installations of four forest reserves were destroyed; in the eastern

region many forest posts were attacked and the extent of tavy increased significantly

(Ramanantsoavina no date).

After the rebellion was repressed, and until the last years of the colonial period,

repression decreased to a more realistic approach. Collective fines were seldom

applied and the need to support farmers to develop alternatives to tavy, such as

irrigated rice cultivation, was more and more widely recognized. Pasture fires were

again a subject of debate. Some administrators regarded them as necessary to reduce

the accumulation of combustible materials. During the 1950s, economic opportunities

increased, the infrastructure developed, the economy expanded rapidly and the

population started to boom. But not until independence would a new law be issued to

provide a legal framework for a softer approach to fire and tavy control.

4. The first republic

4.1. Economic context

During the first decade after independence the first republic, under the

presidency of Tsiranana, was a period of political stability and relative economic

prosperity. There was a regular increase in industrial production and cash-crop export

(coffee, vanilla and cloves), a self sufficiency in rice and a low inflation rate. The

trade balance was in deficit, but this was never a threat due to membership in the

Franc Zone and the substantial aid received from multilateral and bilateral donors

(Brown 2000). Economic growth benefited the urban elite more, but the countryside

also enjoyed its effects:

In international statistics, Madagascar ranked as one of the twenty poorest
countries, with a per capita income of only 80 USD in 1960, but it did not
appear so. Many of the peasants outside the monetary economy lived
relatively comfortably in well-constructed houses with their own rice-
patch, poultry and cattle. (Brown 2000, 304)
Nearly everyone “had access to the basic requirement of food, shelter and

clothing and there was little sign of real hardship or deprivation.” (Brown 2000, 304).

The road network was more developed than it has ever been since, providing to most

regions an access to market and allowing state services to work more efficiently.

4.2. The new legislation about vegetation clearing and fires

Not only the economy was more favorable to the population at this time. The

repression of fires and tavy was more reasonable than it used to be under the colonial

period. A new law was issued in 1960 to regulate vegetation clearing and fires

(Gouvernement de Madagascar 1960). It is still valid today.

Article 2, modified in 1962 (Gouvernement de Madagascar 1962) defined

clearing as
the series of operations aimed at allowing the cultivation of a piece of land
that was previously covered by ligneous vegetation, and which consists in
the slashing of all or part of this vegetation, followed or not by incineration
and aimed at establishing crops or plantations. 20
The ordinance 60-127 is the reference to which Forest Services still refer.

According to its articles 3 and 4, clearing is forbidden in the national forest domain,

on slopes of more than 50%, on land subject to intensive erosion, on sand dunes of the

littoral and on river banks. The Forest Service can grant clearing authorizations on

other types of land.

Concerning fires, three types are recognized by the ordinance 60-127:

- cleaning and cultivation fires, whose goal is to either incinerate the low
density ligneous vegetation that covers a permanently cultivated piece
of land in order to prepare new crops, or to clean the surroundings of
perennial crops or of land dedicated to settlement for social or
economic purpose,
- pasture fires, aimed at renewing the herbaceous vegetation on pasture
- wild fires, that propagate without control, without limit, across any type
of vegetation and with no economic utility.21

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “on appelle “défrichement” la suite des opérations qui
destinées à permettre la mise en culture d’un terrain préalablement recouvert d’une végétation ligneuse
et qui consiste dans l’abattage de tout ou partie d'une végétation ligneuse suivi ou non d'incinération,
dans le but de procéder à des plantations ou semis d'ordre agricole.”
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: « Les feux “de culture” ou de “nettoiement” ont pour
but “soit d’incinérer la végétation ligneuse peu dense qui recouvre un terrain cultivé de manière
permanente en vue d'y préparer de nouvelles cultures, soit de nettoyer les abords de champs de cultures
pérennes ou d'installation à des buts social et économique”; “Les feux de pâturage qui ont pour but le
renouvellement de la végétation herbacée sur les pâturages”; “Les feux sauvages qui se propagent sans

Tavy practiced on dense ligneous vegetation matches with none of these

categories, probably because the section about clearing indirectly addresses them.

Tavy practiced on low density ligneous vegetation corresponds to the category

“cleaning and cultivation fires.” According to article 8, “cleaning and cultivation fires

can be ignited without authorization if they occur outside the national forest domain

and the artificially reforested land.” 22 Tavy on low density ligneous vegetation is thus

authorized by the law 60-127, without even needing authorization.

The regulation, however, presents some ambiguity due to the difficult

interpretation of the term “low density ligneous vegetation.” Most fallow land in

eastern Madagascar is invaded by exotic weeds such as Rubus mollucana and Lantana

camara, which are ligneous in the sense that their stems produce lignin, but which do

not produce real wood, except on short stumps. These species are not even used as

firewood and the term sub-ligneous may be more appropriate to qualify them. If they

are mixed with herbaceous species, there is no ambiguity about the nondense character

of the ligneous vegetation and tavy can be practiced without authorization. But if

ligneous or sub-ligneous species dominate and form a dense vegetation, it is not clear

whether this vegetation should be regarded as “low density ligneous” or “dense

ligneous,” and whether a tavy practiced in it would imply authorization for “clearing.”

Article 6 raises another ambiguity. It indicates that cleaning and cultivation

fires only concern “permanently cultivated land.” If “permanently cultivated” means

that crops are sown every year on the same land, then tavy fires on low density

ligneous vegetation cannot be regarded as cleaning or cultivation fires. The problem is

that they would not be addressed by the law in this case, because they could not be

controle, sans limite, a travers n’importe quel type de végétation et sans utilité d’ordre économique.”
(article 6).
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: "Les feux de culture et de nettoiement peuvent être
allumés sans autorisation, à condition que ce soit hors du domaine forestier national ou d'une parcelle
artificiellement reboisée." (article 8).

regarded as a clearing in the sense of article 2 either. If we consider, to the contrary,

that the fallow period is part of the cultivation cycle, then a tavy land can be regarded

as a permanently cultivated land. The first interpretation makes more sense for

agronomists, who usually use the term “permanent cultivation” to designate cropping

systems with very short or no fallow periods. But only the second interpretation is

possible if the legislation is to address all situations.

4.3. Forest control

Due to a situation of relative stability and prosperity, the forest may have been

under lower pressure during the first republic. The Forest Service had a level of

efficiency they have not experienced since. Forestry staff remember this period as the

golden age of their career. Rangers were respected and feared by the population. Their

salary and field indemnities provided them a decent living and corruption was not

widespread. They toured villages to grant collective tavy authorization, delineate

cultivation land and control forests clearing and exploitation. They also identified sites

suitable for building dams and creating irrigation schemes. This last responsibility

obliged them to link rural development and conservation objectives. Unfortunately,

they lost it later in favor of civil engineering services attached to the Ministry of

Agriculture. The state efforts to develop communication infrastructure and the lower

vulnerability of households also eased the rangers’ tasks. Certainly, land shortage and

migrations still resulted in significant forest clearing and some communities may have

suffered from repression campaigns. But we will see in the case of Beforona that

farmers initiated a move to reduce their dependence on tavy and forest resources and

remember this period as being most favorable to their livelihood.

4.4. The first environmental conferences

Madagascar, after its independence, signed several international conventions

and treaties and took the following steps for the implementation of environmental


• Membership in the World Conservation Union (IUCN 23 ) in 1961.

• Creation of the Superior Council for Nature Protection24 in 1962 to provide

guidance to environmental policies. This council had a consultative role

concerning fauna and flora management, the creation of protected areas

and the application of international treaties.

• Signature of the African Convention for Nature and Natural Resource

Conservation in Alger (1968), ratified by the law 70-004 of June 23, 1970.

• Participation in the “Biosphere Conference” in Paris in October 1969,

organized by UNESCO 25 .

• Organization of the Antananarivo International Conference on Rational

Utilization and Conservation of Nature and its Resources 26 on October 7-

11, 1970, sponsored by IUCN and UNESCO. This conference was

followed by a costly antifire communication campaign. Antifire brigades

and committees were created and communication and awareness

campaigns were launched (Kull 2004).

• Creation of the Environment and Nature Conservation Commission 27 in

April 1971 to monitor the participation of Madagascar in the Man and the

Biosphere Program and to prepare the United Nations Environment

Conference to be held in Stockholm in 1972.

In French: Union Internationale pour la Conservation de la Nature.
In French : Conseil Supérieur pour la Protection de la Nature.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
In French : Conférence Internationale sur la Conservation de la Nature et ses Ressources.
In French : Commission Conservation de la Nature et Environnement.

The vice president of the Malagasy Republic, in his allocution at the

Stockholm conference, insisted on the need to reconcile the satisfaction of human

needs with the conservation of nature. He asserted that “the only realist attitude was a

rational use of the resources, which includes necessarily the imperatives of

conservation in order to insure the permanence of these resources” 28 (Repoblika

Malagasy 1972, 40). The report addressed issues such as natural resource management

and pollution, but also regional planning and rural and urban development. It

contended that “in a world where economic rules do not allow increased prices and

increased costs,” and where industrialized countries have a technological advantage,

environmental management and conservation can only be achieved through

international solidarity and aid between governments, people and enterprises

(Repoblika Malagasy 1972, 37-38). But it also perpetuated the simplistic explanation

of environmental degradation that developed during the colonial period. The Ministry

of Agriculture and Rural Development, in his allocution, sent a “SOS” to gain support

to fight against bush fires ignited by pastoralists. Several sections of the conference

report put at the forefront the need to educate farmers to change their “mentality,” to

repress their practices, to sensitize them to environmental issues and to propose them

new techniques (Repoblika Malagasy 1972, 37-38). But after this conference,

Madagascar entered into a period of political and economic turmoil and the new

commitments would not be translated into programs and actions until the mid 1980s.

5. The transition to the second and third republic

The relative prosperity of the first republic did not last and political protest

arose in the late 1960s.

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “la seule attitude réaliste [est] celle d’une utilisation
rationnelle des ressources naturelles, celle-ci englobant nécessairement les impératifs essentiels de la
conservation afin d’assurer la permanence des ressources.”

First, there was a “growing perception that little had been changed by

independence and that behind the facade of a Malagasy government, the French were

still running the country” (Brown 2000, 307) – import-export trade was largely

controlled by four French companies: the Lyonnaise, the Marseilleise, the

Rochefortaise, and the Havraise. About 1000 technical assistants filled half the senior

posts in the central administration. About 80% of the teaching staff at the university

and state secondary schools were French. The consequence for the Malagasy youth

and elite was fewer opportunities to get jobs and advance in their careers, and a feeling

that the policies were not their own (Brown 2000).

Second, the terms of trade started to degrade, which widened the economic gap

between the rural mass and the urban elite. Impoverished farmers migrated to cities

but were not completely absorbed by economic growth, which increased the number

of unemployed urban poor and caused further tensions (Brown 2000).

In 1971, student strikes started in Antananarivo and upheaval occurred in the

countryside, mostly in the poorest southern regions. Internal divisions based on

doctrinal differences, personalities, and ethnic or regional origins developed inside the

regime. President Tsiranana contained them as long as he was in full vigor, but when

his health started to decline, criticisms became increasingly open and were sharpened

by the competition to be his successor (Brown 2000).

The political turmoil peaked after President Tsiranana resigned, during the

transition from the first to the second republic, between 1972 and 1975. Large-scale

protests destabilized the economy, security forces killed protesters, a President was

assassinated (Ratsimandrava, in 1975), and French economic interests and political

and cultural influences were opposed. In 1973, Madagascar left the French Franc

Zone. French technical advisors left the country and secondary education was required

to be in Malagasy. Ratsiraka emerged from this turmoil as a new leader expected to

stabilize the political situation. But he launched a Socialist Revolution that led the

whole country to bankruptcy.

The impact of this turmoil on the environment was severe. The pace of

deforestation by tavy picked up in the 1970s because

power struggles in the capital and populist concerns led to a loosened
regulation and enforcement, though the law did not change. In the context
of breaking the links with the French neocolonial power…, the political
message of the time was “do as you please.” (Kull 2004, 169)
Macro-economic indicators were not threatening until the late 1970s. The

balances of public and external finances were in good shape and remained so until

1977-78 (Jolly 2004) 29 . But there was no growth due to nationalizations that caused

most companies to lose their competitiveness. The country started an all-out

investment industrialization policy that created only white elephants and expanded

bureaucracy and corruption (Jolly 2004; Brown 2000). Agricultural production

stagnated due to the inefficiency of state farms and cooperatives that had replaced the

foreign concessions, and to the low buying price of export crops by the state: between

20 and 30% of FOB price (Brown 2000). The worsening of the terms of trade and the

second petrol shock aggravated the situation, leading to a total bankruptcy with a

foreign debt of one billion USD in 1981. In the early 1980s, the debt service was not
met despite a 65% debt relief. Madagascar went to World Bank and IMF and started

its first structural adjustment programs in 1980. It came back, step by step, to a free

market economy, lost its support from Moscow and resumed cooperation with France

and other Western countries (Brown 2000; Jolly 2004).

The social consequences of this economic collapse were huge. Rural bandit

groups (Dahalo) proliferated. Crime, insecurity, and begging developed in the main

cities, especially Antananarivo. The infrastructure was not maintained and degraded

This information is from an interview, reported in Jolly (2004), of Leon Rajaobelina, Director of the
Central Bank at that time.

quickly. Many rural secondary roads disappeared, leading rural communities to revert

to an autarky economy, as in the case of Beforona that will be studied in Part III. The

living standard of the whole middle class declined and corruption proliferated.

Not until the late 1980s did the economic situation start to improve. Growth

was 4.9% of GNP in 1989 but the external debt amounted to 2.6 billion USD in 1986

(Brown 2000). Growth benefited urban people, but for most of the rural poor,

impoverishment and degradation of the environment have continued until the present

time. The crisis eventually forced the state to completely abandon the socialist

ideology and to return to democracy, under tragic circumstances 30 . A new constitution

(the third republic) was adopted in 1993, together with the election of a new President,

Albert Zafy.

6. Toward the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP)

With the launching of the IMF and World Bank programs in 1981, Madagascar

opened again to foreign investments and influences. The 1980s were a period of

increasing international concern about environmental issues, while forest clearing and

land burning still peaked due to the collapse of the economy. Among the first visitors

were biologists who put lemurs and fires under the media lights in order to inform the

public of Madagascar’s high biodiversity and rapid deforestation. The Malagasy

government understood the opportunity it could get from this situation to capture the

foreign aid that was so necessary for solving the debt crisis (Jolly 2004). In 1984, it

created the National Commission of Natural Resource Conservation for Development,

in charge of preparing the Malagasy Strategy of Natural Resource Conservation for

Sustainable Development, called for by IUCN, UNEP and WWF (Kull 2004). The

An estimated 100 persons were killed by security forces during a peaceful protest march to the
President’s palace in Iavoloha, on August 10, 1991.

strategy was adopted in 1984 and a second international environmental conference

was held in 1985 to launch it. The Malagasy state engaged to improve its institutions,

to adopt tools and methods for environmental management and to implement actions

aimed at stopping degradation (World Bank 1988). The conference is also

“remembered by many as the moment when Prince Philip, the international president

of WWF, confronted President Ratisraka with the statement, “your nation is

committing suicide” ” (Kull 2004, 239).

Several programs were initiated after the conference. They were funded by the

World Bank, bilateral donors (especially the U.S. and Switzerland), WWF and

UNESCO. They concerned soil conservation, forest management and biodiversity

conservation and included an environmental education program that reached all school

districts (Kull 1996). They gave the opportunity to Malagasy biologists to be trained

overseas and allowed increasing scientific exchanges and communication about

environmental issues. Top staff of international nongovernmental organizations visited

Madagascar, such as Russel Mittermeier of Conservation International and Tom

Lovejoy of the World Wildlife Fund. In 1986, the De Heaulme Family won the J. Paul

Getty Prize for Conservation for the private reserve they managed in Berenty, south

Madagascar. This prize had been won by conservation figures such as Jane Goodall. It

opened new opportunities to inform the international media of biodiversity and

conservation efforts in Madagascar (Jolly 2004). In May 1987, three Malagasy

decisions makers (the Ministry of Water and Forest, the Ministry of Higher Education

and the Ministry of Applied Research) made their first trip to the United States to

attend a meeting on Saint-Catherine Island, South-Carolina and to visit institutions

working on environmental issues. They met representatives of the WWF, the New

York Zoological Society (World Conservation Society), the Duke University Primate

Center, the San Diego Zoo, the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, the Missouri

Botanical Garden, and Yale University to prepare a collaborative plan (Wright 1996).

The terrain to receive grants for environmental issues was very favorable at that time.

The World Bank itself was in need of greening its activities. A few years before,
crusading environmentalists scaled a building in Washington across the
street from the World Bank. They hung out a huge banner whose dripping
red letters proclaimed: THE BANK MURDERS RAINFOREST! The bank
could not deny it. Bank-funded development in the Brazilian Amazon
shouted its record of forest destruction to satellites in the sky. Madagascar
was just what the World Bank – and all the donors – needed. Here was a
virgin country where they had no project at all, so they had not yet been
able to make any environmental mistake. Go for biodiversity aid to
Madagascar! (Jolly 2004, 211)
Hence, all the conditions were met to establish an ambitious National

Environmental Action Plan (NEAP 31 ).

When this plan was written in 1988, there were two National Parks, 11 Integral

Natural Reserves, and 23 special reserves in Madagascar, representing 1,034,782

hectares or 1.76% of the country. These protected areas were poorly managed, some

terrestrial ecosystems were not yet protected and there were no marine reserves

(World Bank 1988). The main goal of NEAP was to set up a national network of about

50 protected areas that would cover the whole Malagasy biodiversity.

The plan was written under the coordination of the Malagasy government, by a

Permanent Technical Committee 32 working under the authority of a National

Commission for Conservation and Development attached to the Planning General

Directorate 33 . Financial and technical support was provided by the World Bank (leader

of the donors’ group), USAID, the Swiss aid, UNDP, UNESCO and WWF. One

hundred fifty national specialists from a wide range of disciplines were mobilized;

In French: PAE or PNAE (Pland d’Action Environnemental or Plan National d’Actions
In French : Comité Technique Permanent (CTP)
In French : Commission Nationale pour la Conservation et le Développement (CNCD)

eight working groups were set-up and trained and regional workshops were organized

(World Bank 1990).

The philosophy displayed by the plan was to favor dialog and communication

instead of top-down recommendations, to insist on the benefits of the programs rather

than on their constraints, and to set up mechanisms for funding a myriad of small

projects (World Bank 1988). According to the World Bank (1990), the

interdependence of conservation and development was the key tenet that guided the

preparation of the plan, consistently with the recommendations from the United

Nation World Commission for Environment and Development (WCED 1987) and of

the UNESCO program Man and the Biosphere. This same World Bank report (1990)

noted that Madagascar was one of the richest countries in terms of biodiversity, but

one of the poorest with respect to its economy, and that “this contrast provoked,

probably more than elsewhere, a tension between the partisans of conservation and

those of rural development” 34 (World Bank 1990, 1).

The Plan was legally recognized as being the translation into action of the

national environmental policy by the adoption of the National Environment Charter

(Gouvernement de Madagascar 1990). This law confirmed the willingness to link

human development and environmental conservation. According to article 2, “the

environment is constituted of the whole natural and artificial milieu, including human

milieu and social and cultural factors that contribute to the national development 35 ”
(Gouvernement de Madagascar 1990: article 2). According to article 6, its main

objective is to “reconcile the population with its environment in order to achieve a

Translation by Pollini. Original citation in French: “Ce contraste a engendré, probablement plus
qu’ailleurs, une tension entre les partisans de la conservation et ceux du développement.”
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French:“On entend par environnement l’ensemble des milieux
naturels et artificiels y compris les milieux humains et les facteurs sociaux et culturels qui intéressent le
développement national.”

sustainable development” (Gouvernement de Madagascar 1990: article 6). This would

be achieved through the following objectives:

- to develop human resources,
- to promote sustainable development though a better management of
natural resources,
- to restore, conserve and manage the Malagasy biodiversity heritage,
- to improve the livelihood of urban and rural population,
- to maintain an equilibrium between population growth and resource
- to improve environment management tools, and
- to support the resolution of land tenure issues. (Gouvernement de
Madagascar 1990: article 6)
The National Environmental Action Plan was translated into action by a three

phase program funded by the World Bank and other donors. I will now detail these

three phases.

7. The Environmental Program, phase 1 (EP1, 1991-1997)

7.1. Presentation of EP1

When EP1 started, in 1991, the Malagasy government had no specific

institution to address environmental issues (World Bank 1990). The only operational

structures were the National Commission for Conservation and Development (CNCD)

and its Permanent Technical Committee. They only had a consultative role. The Water
and Forest Department of the Ministry of Animal Production, Water and Forest was

technically responsible of forest and biodiversity management, reforestation and soil

conservation. It benefited from World Bank support (Forest Management and

Protection project 36 ) and from help of several nongovernmental organizations,

universities and other international organizations, but this was insufficient (World

Bank 1990). EP1’s main goal was to create an appropriate policy and institutional

framework for environmental management (World Bank 1996). The program started

In French : Gestion et Protection des Forêts (GPF). Crédit N° 1878-MAG.

by creating the National Office for Environment (ONE), a small agency attached to

the Ministry of Economy and Plan that would be in charge of EP1’s coordination.

EP1 had a planned budget of 85.5 million USD for six years (World Bank

1990). Donors included the World Bank, (26 million USD granted by IDA 37 ), UNDP,

UNESCO, USAID, the French, German, Swiss and Norwegian governments, WWF

and CI (42.3 million USD in total) and the Malagasy government (17.2 million USD).

The actual cost of EP1 was eventually 150 million USD (World Bank 1996).

EP1 consisted of seven components (World Bank 1990):

• Component 1: protection and development of unique Malagasy

ecosystems while developing peripheral zones (21.55 million USD). The

creation of 14 new protected areas was planned, as well as the

improvement of the management for the 36 already existing ones. Fifty

operational protected areas should exist at the end of the program. A

specific and independent organization, the ANGAP 38 , would be created to

manage this network and set up Integrated Conservation and Development

Projects (ICDPs) in the buffer zones of protected areas. Support would also

be provided to the Water and Forest Directorate for the management of

classified forests, despite the fact they would not be regarded as Protected

Areas per se.

• Component 2: promotion of soil conservation, agroforestry, reforestation

and other rural development activities in the priority zones, including

several watersheds (9.35 million USD). The target was to provide

agriculture development to 100,000 rural households, through micro-

International Development Agency, a branch of the World Bank specifically dedicated to the poorest
National Association for the Management of Protected Areas (in French : Association Nationale pour
la Gestion des Aires Protégées).

projects for erosion control, agroforestry and watershed management.

Seventy percent of these households would be located in the buffer zones

of protected areas and 30% in areas threatened by erosion (World Bank

1990). A specific organization, the ANAE 39 , would be created to achieve

this objective.

• Component 3: preparation and publication of maps and geographical

information systems for the areas concerned by the program (10.14 million

USD), through support to the Malagasy Institute of Geography (FTM 40 ),

• Component 4: improvement of land security by issuing land titles (6.94

million USD), through support to the Direction of Domains of the Ministry

of Agriculture,

• Component 5: training of environment specialists, communication and

education of the Malagasy population to environmental issues,

• Component 6: research programs about marine, coastal and terrestrial

ecosystems (4.24 million USD), and

• Component 7: support activities including institution strengthening, the

establishment of procedures for environmental impact assessment, the

development of environmental databases and monitoring and evaluation

activities (15.74 million USD).

These objectives reveal a concern about rural development issues, which were

expected to be addressed by ICDPs (9.00 million USD) and by the soil conservation

component (9.35 million USD). Hundreds of millions USD were further expected to

arrive soon from other programs. In spite of this, EP1 was launched in an atmosphere

of controversy about whether it was dealing with the right priorities in a country where

National Association for Environmental Actions (in French : Association Nationale d’Actions
In Malagasy: Foiben-Taosaritanin’i Madagasikara

poverty and misery were at a peak. Philippe Rajaobelina, Deputy Director of the Plan,

“wrote to say that even in the biodiversity sector it was unacceptable to have more

money allotted to the reserves than to peripheral development around the reserves” (in

Jolly 2004, 215), because “there are more important primates in Madagascar than

lemurs” (in Jolly 2004, 215). Newspapers made similar statements:

A cartoon in Madagascar’s morning paper showed a fat fuzzy lemur, its
ringed tail wrapped around hundred-dollars bills. Beside it two skeletal
humans hold out clawlike hands. “Nothing for you!” sneers the lemur.
“You’re not an endangered species.” (in Jolly 2004, 215)
This controversy may reveal a mismatch between the intention of the program

and its actual logic. This tension and the ideological debates associated with it will

persist during the implementation of NEAP, as I will show later.

7.2. EP1’s impact

After four years, the fulfillment of the program’s objectives was regarded as

“generally satisfactory” by its main donor, although it “varied from one component to

another” (World Bank 1996, 6). “Main strengths include[d] the effective development

of institutions and partnerships, high visibility and a substantial demonstration effect,

both domestically and internationally, and effective field results” (World Bank 1996,
8). Weaknesses were “a slow take-off, insufficient program integration, consolidated

monitoring not yet operational, and an insufficient role given to environmental

concerns when formulating policies that require hard choices, whether at the national

or local level” (World Bank 1996, 8).

The Beneficiaries’ Evaluation Reports provide some explanation for this lack

of coordination and integration. According to Miara-Mita (1995), ONE was

operational in 1993 only and its links with the Ministry were not clear.

Communication between agencies was insufficient due to changes in personnel,

especially at the Water and Forest Directorate (DEF 41 ). Staff at the new line agencies

(ONE, ANGAP and ANAE) had better salaries and working conditions and were

better trained than those at the DEF, resulting in low motivation of the later. In its

majority, staff from the DEF seemed to distance themselves from the donors, from the

line agencies and from other partners such as consulting firms. DEF complained that it

was set apart by ONE (lack of information, delay in payment). Similar problems also

occurred at the FTM (in charge of mapping activities) and at the Direction of Domains

(in charge of land entitlement) (MIARA-MITA 1995). In sum, the plan appeared to be

like a graft that had some difficulty being accepted by the institutions in charge of its


In spite of these difficulties, most activities were implemented. According to

the Staff Appraisal Report of the Second phase, most of EP1’s objectives were in the

process of being met in 1996:

Some 42,000 families are benefiting from over 1100 mini projects for soil
conservation by ANAE, twenty one national parks and other protected
areas are being established and managed to the extent that ANGAP’s
current funding allows; with nearly 840,000 hectares surveyed, land titling
has begun to have impact in and around protected areas; FTM has
significantly improved its mapping capacity and produced aerial
photographs and other geographic instruments over 80,000 km2 of
protected and surrounding areas, and ONE has developed activities in
promotion, video production, training, policy formulation and regulatory
framework improvement. New legislation has been established allowing
the creation of foundations and trust funds, and a national environmental
foundation (Tany Meva) has been established. A new forest policy has
been formulated and is being translated into new legislation, providing for
decentralization of forest management and rationalization of management
plans and logging permits, and the reactivation of the existing National
Forestry Fund. New legislation is also providing for the possibility of
giving responsibility for natural resource management to local
communities, under a negotiated contractual arrangement that will spell out
the management system and the distribution of revenues. (World Bank
1996, 5-6)

Water and Forests Directorate. In French : Direction des Eaux et Forêts. It will be later changed into
Water and Forest General Directorate (DGEF).

But the impacts of these activities on the ground are difficult to assess.

According to the World Bank (1996), “inadequate attention has been given to the

evaluation of costs and benefits associated with environmental protection activities”

(World Bank 1996). Overall impact on the ground was regarded as limited “given that

field activities ha[d] so far been limited in scope,” and because “the central objective

was the creation and reinforcement of national institutions.” However, “ad hoc

evaluations of field activities undertaken in soil conservation mini-projects reveal[ed]

encouraging results” (World Bank 1996, Appendix 1 p.12).

The beneficiaries’ evaluation reports were more pessimistic, especially with

regard to the first component. They recognized that the creation of protected areas was

effective but criticized the ICDPs for the excessive priority given to conservation


The Ranomafana National Park ICDP, implemented through a partnership with

ICTE 42 , provides a striking example of tension between conservation and

development components. It is located east from Fianarantsoa, in a region inhabited by

Tanala and Betsileo people (Chapter 1). This park is one of the three most visited in

Madagascar and is sometimes regarded as a symbol of successful conservation

programs (Wright and Andriamihaja 2002). But beyond the image presented by the

promoters of the park (Wright and Andriamihaja 2002), the real situation in

Ranomafana was difficult to assess. The OSIPD evaluators noticed certain constraints

for accessing information. “The chief technical advisor of the ICDP required a

National Park employee to accompany the evaluators and to be present during the

interview” (OSIPD 1995, 67). Harper (2002) reports a similar control on her access to

information when she implemented her research field work in the park. An

anthropologist formerly working in the area would have been submitted to the same

Institute for Conservation of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Stony Brook University.

type of pressures. Nevertheless, the evaluation team managed to collect detailed


Eighty percent of the interviewees were skeptical concerning the efficiency of

conservation actions (OSIPD 1995, 70). Eighty three percent “expressed their

participation in project activities in terms of a burden” (OSIPD 1995, 73). A

traditional chief summarizes the situation in these words: “we are like trapped rats: we

are here like in a jail and we cannot utilize all these things that are in our place 43 ” (in

OSIPD 1995, 75). The fact that resources are “utilized” by foreign people (tourists and

scientists) increases the frustrations still more. A frequent joke in Ranomafana would

be that “Ranomafana is not a national park, but a family park,” 44 (OSIPD 1995, 77)

meaning that only a few privileged people get benefits from it.

Development activities were are also criticized. The evaluators reported that

the project regarded them as an appendix to conservation objectives, or even as a lure

for achieving conservation objectives. Forty-eight percent of the interviewees did not

know who chose the project activities and asserted that they were not involved in the

process. Fifty-seven percent complained that activities did not solve their problems

despite the many promises. Twenty-eight percent considered that development

activities were inefficient and that inequalities and thefts had increased in the area,

because most aid was concentrated in a few villages. Community granaries were

created but resulted in a division inside communities, because literate people had been

put in charge of their management while traditional authorities had been marginalized.

The evaluators concluded that activities were designed according to top-down logic. In

the end, 25% of the interviewees (19 out of 77) considered that the project had

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French (translated from oral citation in Malagasy by OSIPD
1995): “Nous sommes comme des rats pris aux pièges: nous sommes emprisonnés ici, et nous ne
pouvons pas utiliser toutes ces choses qui sont chez nous.”
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French (translated from oral citation in Malagasy by OSIPD
1995): “Le parc de Ranomafana? Ce n’est plus un Parc National, mais un Parc familial!”

positive socio-economic impact, while 75% considered that it had no or no significant

positive impact (OSIPD 1995, 76). Concerning job opportunities, 20 out of the 24

conservation and development agents working for the project were recruited from

other regions (OSIPD 1995). According to an elder of Ranomafana, the population

would be
like a wild oxen that one wants to tame: he is attached to a tree during two
weeks and is not fed; after the two weeks, he is “broken,” and even kids
can pet its nostrils and pull its ears without danger. 45 (OSIPD 1995, 78)
In sum, after having been marginalized by slavery and colonization by the

Merina and the French, the Tanala people are now squeezed in between the pressures

of Betsileo immigration and conservation programs.

The OSIPD evaluation team also investigated the case of Andringitra and

Ivohibe National Parks 46 . Seven percent of the interviewees were forbidden to

cultivate their paddy fields because they were located inside the park. Twenty hectares

of paddy fields would be involved and the situation would be dramatic for the owners

in terms of food security. In Ambatomboay, a village located in an area threatened by

famine, the project proposed alley cropping technologies and beneficiary farmers

complained about the distribution of seeds that were “not edible” and just served to

control erosion (OSIPD 1995). Overall, 48% of the interviewees considered that the

project had no socio-economic impact, 9% that it had a negative impact because of

discrimination, and 21% that it had positive impacts. Most beneficiaries contended

that in compensation for restricting access to land, the project should support the

extension of paddy fields. For a program officer of the WWF, such a contract would

be the wrong strategy because it would put the park in a position of blackmail, and

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French (translated from oral citation in Malagasy by OSIPD
[1995]): “Cette population ressemble a un boeuf sauvage qu’on veut dompter: on l’attache a un arbre
pendant deux semaines sans lui donner a manger; au bout de deux semaines, il est “cassé,” si bien que
même un gosse peut sans danger lui caresser les narines et lui tirer les oreilles.”
Implemented by ANGAP and WWF.

because ICDPs should not be confused with rural development projects (OSIPD

1995). Two thirds of the beneficiaries, however, appreciated the project activities,

despite the fact that conflicts emerged in the northern part of the intervention area

(OSIPD 1995). Overall, the evaluators came to a similar conclusion as for

Ranomafana: the project had limited or no positive impact due to the priority given to

conservation over development activities. On the whole, they concluded that the main

objective of the environmental charter (the reconciliation of humans with their

environment) was not achieved.

The same misleading excessive priority given to conservation over

development objectives is found in the implementation of EP1’s second component

(soil conservation). In Manakara, the nongovernmental organization TMM, which is in

charge of implementing development activities with support from ANAE, complained

about the objectives of this institution: “TMM appears to consider development first

and soil conservation second, while ANAE seems to put soil conservation first and

development second” (OSIPD 1995, 23). The evaluators recommended reversing the

priority at the ANAE level, arguing that development activities could help to “open

the door” to conservation activities (OSIPD 1995, 42).

Other evaluation reports (CAST 1995; CCR 1995) provide less detailed

analyses and are less pessimistic, but identified similar issues in several sites

(activities not adapted to the situation of most farmers, discrimination in favor of the

richer households, priority given to conservation objectives, top down approaches,

protestation about restrictions on access to land and resources).

Research publications provided similar conclusions to those of OSIPD (1995).

Harper (2002), who implemented her research work in Ranomafana between 1993 and

1996, depicted a dramatic situation where residents struggle against malnutrition and

diseases while access to the resources that could help them to survive is closed. She

concluded that conservation and development policies “were implemented in

Madagascar with little or no regard for the rights of human subjects” (Harper 2002,

224). Ferraro (2002a) calculated that the cost for communities living in an area

adjacent to Ranomafana National Park ranged from 19 to 60 USD per household,

which is very substantial given the deep poverty, high vulnerability and low health

status of people living around the park (Kightlinger et al. 1996; Kightlinger et al.

1998; Hardenbergh 1996; Hardenbergh 1997; Harper 2002). Still in Ranomafana

National Park, Peters (1998; 1999) and Hanson (1996; 1997) describe a situation of

conflict or tensions between local communities and park and ICDP’s managers. I

myself visited Ranomafana and a few villages of the buffer zone in 2002 and

witnessed that the park still had deleterious impacts on farmers’ livelihoods, due to

very inadequate supports. A never-ending extraction of socio-economic data was still

ongoing (I myself took part in it) but never translated into action with significant

impact, provoking the anger of local communities.

Concerning other sites, Shyamsundar and Kramer (1997) calculated that the

creation of the Mantadia National Park (located close to the area that will be studied in

Part III) cost 23 to 64 USD per year per household living around it. Moreover, some

households were displaced when the park was created, provoking a deep economic

crisis (McConnell 2002). Ghimire (1994) and Kull (1996) provide more case studies

showing that the negative socio-economic impacts of NEAP and ICDPs were far from

being the exception.

7.3. Conclusion

In conclusion, it seems that the first phase of NEAP failed to satisfy the

environmental charter’s ideal of reconciliation between humans and nature.

Conservation objectives were raised above development activities. Supports to farmers

were envisioned mostly as a way to facilitate the acceptance of conservation policies.

It is questionable whether communities received benefits from development activities,

whereas the negative impacts of restriction on access to land and resources was clear.

In this asymmetrical relationship between conservation and development objectives,

conflicts rather than synergies emerged. In sum, the results of the implementation of

NEAP’s first phase were unfortunately consistent with the early criticisms of the


8. The Environmental Program, phase 2 (EP2, 1997-2003)

8.1. Presentation of EP2

EP2 was launched in 1997. At that time, Madagascar possessed 44 protected

areas (nine national parks, 11 natural reserves and 23 special reserves), covering 1.4

million hectares or 2.3% of the total land area. Over half of the highest priority

research and conservation areas were still located outside parks and reserves (World

Bank 1996). The management of this network encountered significant organizational

and coordination problems. The objective of second phase was thus to extend and

consolidate the results of the first phase. This would be done by creating new

protected areas and by achieving a better integration of the whole of the components,

through the consolidation of the programming, budgeting and monitoring of line

agencies (World Bank 1996, 29).

EP1 lacked legitimacy at community level, as we saw. The second phase

would remedy this by using participatory approaches. As the staff appraisal report puts

The overall development hypothesis of the program is that depletion of
Madagascar’s natural resource base can be reduced by changing the
enabling policies, institutions, incentives, and other conditions so that
resource users have the authority to manage their own resources, and the

responsibility and the incentive to do so in a sustainable manner. (World
Bank 1996, 11)
The lessons learned from EP1 also gave more momentum to the will to

integrate conservation and development objectives. According to the World Bank’s

Staff Appraisal Report,

the vast majority (70%) of Madagascar’s population (growing at over 3%
per year) will continue to depend for its livelihood on low-productivity
extensive subsistence agriculture – the main and most severe source of
environmental degradation.” Hence “the battle to protect Madagascar’s
biodiversity will be won or lost on agricultural land away from the forest,
because the battle in which rural populations are engaged is about
production and land use, not about the environment.” “In the absence of a
land management and agricultural policy, there is no viable resource
conservation policy, because how people manage land and production
options determines what they do in the forest. Therefore, increased
emphasis on rural development is required. (World Bank 1996, 11)
EP2 had a planned budget of 155 million USD for five years, including 31

million provided by the Malagasy government. The main donor was still the World

Bank (38.1 million USD). Other donors were UNDP, USAID, the French, German,

Swiss, Japanese, Norwegian and Dutch governments, and WWF. The components of

the program and their cost (consolidation of all donors) were as follows (World Bank


• Component 1: Field operations (123.1 million USD). It included the

following activities:
o Sustainable Soil and Water Management (GCES 47 , 43.5 million USD).

This component is the continuation of the soil conservation and

watershed management activities implemented under PE1 (Component

2) ANAE is still the main execution agency (30.5 million USD). The

focus “would be on demand-driven, low cost and locally adapted

intervention that can contribute to spontaneous adoption of improved

In French: Gestion Conservatoire des Eaux et des Sols.

practices by other farmers” (World Bank 1996, 17). In addition, bigger

investments on bigger watersheds in specific and more vulnerable pilot

sites would also be done (13.0 million USD).

o Multiple-Use Forest Ecosystem Management (ESFUM 48 , 29.9 million

USD). This component included the National Ecological Forestry

Inventory, the identification of 300,000 hectares of new protected

areas, the preparation of a pilot forest management scheme for 180,000

hectares, the formulation of participatory management plans involving

local communities and decentralized Forest Services for 400,000

hectares, and the implementation of these plans on 150,000 hectares.

These activities would be carried out by the Water and Forest General

Directorate of the Ministry of Water and Forests.

o National Parks and Ecotourism (CAPE 49 , 43.1 million USD). This key

component, mostly carried out by ANGAP as a continuation of the first

component of EP1, included the extension of the protected areas

network; the purchase of equipment, infrastructure and staff for more

effective management; the promotion of ecotourism; the

implementation of conservation research programs and environmental

education. The continuation of some ICDPs were included in this

component, but ANGAP would progressively take over direct

management from ICDP operators.

o Marine and Coastal Environment (EMC 50 , 6.6 million USD). This

component did not exist in EP1.

o Urban environment 51 .

In French : Ecosystèmes Forestiers à Usage Multiple.
In French : Composante Aires Protégées et Ecotourisme.
In French : Environnement Marin et Côtier.

• Component 2: regional planning and local management (14.5 million

USD). It included the following activities:

o Support to local natural resources management and land tenure security

(GELOSE 52 , 6.9 million USD). The objectives of this transversal

component were to transfer management rights to village communities

while clarifying land tenure rights in these villages, to redefine land

management policies and to propose a revised land law for the longer

term. Transfer of management rights would be implemented by ONE,

while land securing would be carried out by the General Direction of

Domain and Land Security of the Ministry of Agriculture (DGDSF).

o Support to Regional Programming and Spatial Analysis (AGERAS 53 ,

4.3 million USD). This transversal component, implemented by ONE,

created six Regional Programming Committees (RPC) aimed at

providing guidance for the implementation of EP2. It illustrated the

will to have a more decentralized, participatory and systemic approach

that could address conservation issues at their root causes. After the

recognized failure of ICDPs, it was expected that a larger scale

decentralized approach would provide more development impact.

o Creation of a Regional Fund for Environmental Management

(FORAGE 54 , 3.3 million USD). This fund, administratively managed

by ANAE, would serve to finance regional development programs

identified by the Regional Programming Committees.

• Component 3: Strategic activities (4.2 million USD). They consist of:

I do not detail these two last components because they are out of the scope of this dissertation’s
Local Secure Management. In French : Gestion Locale Sécurisée.
In French : Appui à la Gestion Régionalisée et à l’Approche Spatiale.
In French : Fonds Régional d’Appui à la Gestion de l’Environnement.

o Upgrading the legal framework and the formulation of environmental

policies (PSI 55 , implemented by ONE).

o Assisting sector ministries in implementing policies and making

environmental impact assessment operational (MECIE 56 , implemented

by ONE).

• Component 4: Support activities. They are:

o Finalized Environmental Research (REF 57 , implemented by ONE, 2.5

million USD). This activity was aimed at improving the coordination of

research programs.

o Environmental Education and Training (EFE 58 , implemented by

CFSIGE 59 , 2.0 million USD). The objective was to improve the general

content in environmental education.

o Geographic Instrument (IG, 1.2 million USD). This activity consisted

of support to the National Geographic Institute (FTM 60 ).

o Environmental Information System (SIE 61 , implemented by ONE, 1.7

million USD). This activity was aimed at consolidating an

environmental “dashboard” that would provide key indicators of the

status of environmental resources and the impact of the program.

o Communication, Monitoring, Evaluation, Program Coordination and

Management (CGP 62 , 5.8 million USD). This component financed

ONE for its coordinating role and supported other coordinating bodies

Policies, Strategies and Instruments. In French : Politique, Stratégies, Instruments.
In French : Mise en Compatibilité des Investissements avec l’Environnement.
In French : Recherche Environnementale Finalisée.
In French : Education et Formation Environnementales.
In French : Centre de Formation aux Sciences de l’Information Géographique et de l’Environnement.
In Malagasy: Foiben-Taosaritanin’i Madagasikara.
In French : Système d’Informations Environnementales.
In French : Coordination Générale du Programme.

such as the National Environment Council, the Interministerial

Committee and the Steering Committee.

EP2’s high level policy guidance was entrusted in an Independent National

Environmental Council (CNE), created by the Decree N° 97 822 of June 12, 1997.

CNE played a consultative role, giving its opinion on new legislation before it was

presented to the Ministries’ Council. CNE’s roles were to advise the government

concerning environmental policies and to verify that the Environmental Program

followed the legal framework of the environmental Charter.

Policy level coordination was the responsibility of an Interministerial

Environment Committee (CIME) attached to the Prime Minister. The roles of CIME

were to provide advice to the Prime Minister for the implementation and monitoring

of the program and to contribute to the integration of activities in the concerned

sectors. CIME also played an arbitration role between line agencies in case of conflict.

Its members were mostly the Secretary Generals of the concerned ministries. The

creation and functions of CNE and CIME were confirmed by the Law N°97 012 of

June 6, 1997.

The operational level was carried out by state services (mostly the Water and

Forest General Directorate of the Ministry of Water and Forest, the Domains

Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture and the FTM 63 ) and by the line agencies

that were set up under EP1, mostly ANGAP and ANAE. General coordination was

still the responsibility of ONE.

Not surprisingly, this structure was quickly criticized for its excessive

complexity and its dramatic inflation of institutions, components and activities.

According to the supervision mission of October 2003,

National Geographic Institute.

EP2 was a highly complex operation to be implemented nation-wide, and
its stated development objective of reversing environmental degradation
was ambitious and unrealistic in the time framework allotted (in retrospect)
as it involved:
- The implementation of a wide range of activities (improved
management, inventories, coordinated planning, production,
introduction of new technologies, input supply, marketing, research,
GIS, management transfer to local communities, and land tenure) on
the local, regional, and national levels at the same time involving seven
implementing agencies (some still new, the others in need of serious
capacity building);
- Extensive and ambitious policy formulation/reform, some politically-
sensitive (Legal and Regulatory framework relating to the environment
and environmental product exports; Mining, Energy, Industry,
Tourism, Roads, Fishing, Aquaculture, Urban, Macro-economy,
Biodiversity and Bioprospecting, Agriculture (e.g. use of agro-chemical
inputs), and Mitigation of Unexpected Disasters); and
- The challenging task of coordinating 10 multilateral and bilateral
donors, four international nongovernmental organizations, and seven
implementing agencies (AGEXs). (World Bank 2003, 7)
Following the recommendations of supervision missions, EP2 has been

simplified in 2001. The AGERAS, GELOSE, EMC and REF components have been

grouped into a new operational component implemented by a new line agency called

SAGE 64 , while the PSI, MECIE, SIE and CGP were grouped into a new component

called PIIGE 65 . The FORAGE component has been stopped and activities relating to

land security have been reduced. The number of line agencies has also been reduced,

FTM, CFSIGE and DGDSF being regarded as consulting firms.

The revised structure of EP2 is as follows:

- Protected Areas management: Institutionalize and sustainably manage a
network of PAs 66 representative of Madagascar’s natural ecosystems;
- Forest eco-systems management: ensure a sustainable management of
forest resources, and increase their economic, ecological, and social
potential. The marine and coastal environment management would fit
under this component…;

Environmental Support Service. In French : Service d’Appui à la Gestion de l’Environnement.
In French : Politique, Instruments et Informations pour la Gestion de l’Environnement.
Protected Areas.

- Sustainable soil and water management in priority zones: to increase
the capacity of the rural population for a sustainable management of the
productive natural resources (mainly soils and water); and
- Environmental policies and institutions: streamline
environmental/biodiversity concerns; create an enabling environment
for the sustainable management of the environment and biodiversity
resources; capacity building of the related institutions; communication;
training; etc. (World Bank 2003, 10)
In sum, EP2 is basically a continuation and consolidation of EP1’s key

objectives: the conservation of Malagasy biodiversity by the creation of protected

areas, and the extension of soil conservation practices. But it adopted a much more

complex structure, at least during its early implementation. It attempted to solve the

malfunction of EP1 by creating a more sophisticated techno-structure, but forgot that

performances depended also on the root-stock upon which the graft was fixed. EP2

also put more emphasis on decentralization and community participation. It developed

a new tool to achieve this: the GELOSE approach, which will be analyzed in detail in

Chapter 10.

8.2. EP2’s impact

The beneficiaries’ evaluation (OSIPD 2000) identified a series of institutional

problems similar to those encountered during the first phase: lack of coordination and

integration with other sector-based policies and inefficient communication between

line agencies. This may be the consequence of the excessively complex structure that

was adopted in the beginning.

The report also revealed tensions between conservation and development

objectives similar to those encountered during EP1. The rural communities targeted by

the project considered that its main objectives were to protect forests and lemurs, and

complained about the lack of support for development. According to the consultants,

“it appears clearly that EP2 does not answer to the needs regarded as a priority by the

population. This is obvious in the regions of Antananarivo, Toamasina and Toliary, a

little bit less in the other provinces” (OSIPD 2000, 50). Rural communities and

regional and local authorities considered that just a few activities had a positive impact

on development, poverty alleviation or food security (OSIPD 2000).

The persistence of these problems put into question the legitimacy of the

program. The analysis of this issue is central in the OSIPD evaluation but is done

using a quite disputable methodology:

the legitimacy is measured by the level of knowledge of the program and
its components, by the level of integration of the logical framework in the
beneficiaries’ environment, by the quality of the perception of the actions
implemented by the program. 67 OSIPD (2000, 126)
This measurement method is quite astonishing! Legitimacy and understanding

are two aspects that do not necessarily mirror each other. A totally illegitimate

program could be perfectly understood, and a perfectly legitimate one could be totally

misunderstood. Assuming that these two aspects are positively correlated is equal to

assuming, before starting the analysis, that the program is judicious, which renders the

evaluation tautological!

The consequence is that no recommendation can be made other than improving

communication and justifying more funding to continue the same program:

the advancement is insufficient because of an obvious lack of information
and communication at all levels (ONE-OSIPD 2000, 126).
It follows that
a fundamental misunderstanding persists between EP2 and the
beneficiaries concerning the meaning of “result,” despite the fact that both
sides are in the pursuit of results (ONE-OSIPD 2000, 126).
Experience has shown, first, that a certain lapse of time is necessary, in any
case more than two years, for an activity to be legitimized, and second, that
the signs, as mysterious as they are, can be understood by the population,

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “La légitimité se mesure par le niveau de connaissance
du programme et de ses composantes, par le niveau d’intégration du cadre logique dans le milieu
bénéficiaire, par la qualité de la perception des actions menées au niveau des composantes.”

so long as they are explained in a well conceived and well implemented act
of communication. 68 (ONE-OSIPD 2000, 48)
Five years before, the conclusions of EP1’s evaluation report (OSIPD 1995)

showed that the program lacked impact in terms of development. They also made it

clear that this failure created a crisis of legitimacy. Hence, when OSIPD conducted

EP2’s evaluation in 2000, the supposed “lack of understanding” had lasted indeed for

seven years already. Moreover, according to EP1’s evaluation (OSIPD 1995), the lack

of success was not caused by a lack of communication but by inappropriate

development supports and by the excessive priority given to conservation objectives.

Research efforts, mostly the work of Peters (1998; 1999) in Ranomafana, confirmed

this and provided guidelines for more appropriate strategies. Because they assumed

that the lack of legitimacy could be just the result of a lack of understanding and

appropriation, the EP2’s evaluators did not verify whether or not the issues identified

by their colleagues under EP1 were still a concern. Without providing rigorous

arguments, they implicitly put their colleagues’ conclusions aside

8.3. Conclusion

EP2 faced similar difficulties as EP1 but its external evaluation concluded that

communication was the key for successful implementation and for achieving impacts.

Interestingly, communication is also a powerful tool to reshape representations of

reality. NEAP, in its second phase, may have entered into a process of self-

construction where instead of putting itself into question, correcting its mistakes and

adapting to realities, it preferred to reshape realities, or at least representations of

realities. The problem then would not only be that there would be a mismatch between

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “La preuve est faite, primo, qu’il faut un certain laps
de temps, en tout cas plus de deux ans, pour qu’une activité puisse être légitimée, et, secundo, que les
sigles, si mystérieux soient-ils, peuvent être compris par la population, pourvu qu’ils soient expliqués
dans le cadre d’une action de communication bien pensée et réalisée.”

representations and realities. It would also be that this mismatch would be encouraged,

leading to knowledge regression. The more sophisticated and abstract methods used in

EP2’s evaluation (OSIPD 2000), where numbers and statistics replaced the narratives

and direct citations of EP1’s evaluation (OSIPD 1995), may have contributed to this

regression. The fact that researchers working in Ranomafana have been submitted to

pressure for not publishing their results (Harper 2002) provides more evidence of this

reluctance to face realities.

9. The Environmental Program, phase 3 (EP3, 2003-2008)

9.1. Presentation of EP3

EP3 started in 2003 and is still under implementation at present. Its overall

objective is to manage eight million hectares of natural forests and 100,000 hectares of

coastal zone and marine resources in a sustainable way. The target is to increase the

area under protection status from 1.7 to six million hectares and to decrease the

degradation rate of forest and wetland resources to less than half the 1993-2000 rate

(World Bank 2004).

The program reflects the Letter of Environmental Policy of the Malagasy

government, adopted in September 2003. This letter asserts that the environmental

policy is part of the poverty reduction strategy, as did the Environmental Charter in

1990. It reaffirms the commitment of the Malagasy government to achieve

“sustainable development for the benefit of the Malagasy population” (World Bank

2004, 133). This is expected to be achieved “by contributing to broad-based economic

growth, sustainable natural resource management and improving governance” (World

Bank 2004, 4). This commitment is not new but it remains to assess if it is actually

translated into fact during this third phase.

The program expressed an awareness of the negative economic impacts of

conservation on local communities. The activities financed by the IDA/GEF grant are

expected to induce a cost of 276 million USD and to generate a total benefit 292.7

million USD, resulting in a balance of +16.7 million USD (World Bank 2004, 82). But

tavy farmers would be the “losers” of the program as the abandonment of this land use

would represent a cost of 94 million USD (Carret and Loyer 2003). Restrictions upon

charcoal production and the collection of nontimber forest products would also result

in significant costs (28.9 and 31.5 million USD, respectively). These costs are

expected to be mitigated by providing alternatives that would consist of:

(i) stabilizing agriculture around natural forests through soil conservation
techniques; (ii) promoting sustainable fuel-wood harvesting and nontimber
forest products collection by promoting community based natural resource
management (continuation of the GELOSE component of EP2); (iii)
introducing more efficient carbonization techniques and diffusing more
efficient wood stoves; and (iv) supporting reforestation programs. (World
Bank 2004, 83)
The main grants, provided by the International Development Agency of the

World Bank (IDA, 40 million USD) and by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF,

nine million USD), was ratified on August 19, 2004 69 , after a preparation period that

started in December 2002 and was supervised by a “Task Force” created for this

purpose. The first disbursement was made on November 7, 2004 (World Bank 2005).

According to the Project Appraisal Document (World Bank 2004), the IDA-GEF

program consisted of three main components:

• Component 1: Forest ecosystems management, implemented by the Water

and Forest General Directorate (DGEF 70 ) of the Ministry of Environment,

Decree 2004-804 of August 19, 2004, ratifying the signature of the grant agreement from the
International Development Agency of the World Bank, and Decree 2004-805 of August 19, 2004,
ratifying the signature of the grant agreement from the Global Environment Facility.
In French : Direction Générale des Eaux et Forêts.

Water and Forests (MINENVEF 71 ) (18 million USD 72 ). This component


o The improvement of governance (6 million USD), by helping DGEF to

carry out forest zoning and forest control, to set up an information

system and to strengthen the concession rights allocation framework,

and by supporting the Forest Sector Observatory (OSF 73 ).

o The creation of Conservation Sites (4 million USD). This activity will

be detailed later in this chapter, in the section dedicated to the Durban

Vision Working Group.

o The implementation of management transfer (4.5 million USD) in order

to pursue the GELOSE component of EP2. This activity will be

analyzed in depth in Chapter 11.

o Reforestation (1 million USD), by supporting the creation of Land

Reserves for Reforestation74.

o Household energy (2.5 million USD), by improving the efficiency of

energy production 75 (efficient stoves and efficient charcoal production).

• Component 2: Protected areas management, implemented by ANGAP 76

(22.5 million USD). When the program started, park entrance fees covered

only 7% of ANGAP’s cost (World Bank 2004). This component supports:

In French: Ministère de l’Environnement, des Eaux et Forêts. Having 835 staff, it resulted from the
fusion of the Ministry of Environment with the Ministry of Water and Forests, in January 2003.
When the program started, the annual budget of DGEF was about 400,000 USD (World Bank 2004a).
In French : Observatoire du Secteur Forestier.
In French : Réserves Foncières pour le Reboisement (RFRs).
It is estimated that 85% of domestic energy needs are covered by charcoal and firewood, which
represents about 10 million tons of wood per year (World Bank 2004a, 6).
National Agency for the Management of Protected Areas. In French: Agence Nationale pour la
Gestion des Aires Protégées. With a staff of 708 persons, it managed 1.7 million hectares of protected
areas when the project started.

o The reduction of pressure around protected areas (1.5 million USD), by

supporting micro-projects, and through capacity building and

awareness raising, at the level of communes and involving the civil


o The enhancement of the representativeness of the protected area system

(1.5 million USD).

o The consolidation of the protected area system (8 million USD),

through support to zoning, control, and ecological monitoring.

o The enhancement of tourism services (4 million USD).

o The creation of a trust fund to insure the sustainable funding of the

protected area system (7.5 million USD). This trust fund will be

completed by other donors, with an objective of gathering 50 million

USD by the end of the project.

• Component 3: Environmental mainstreaming, or the integration of the

environmental dimension into sector policies, implemented by the

Environment General Directorate (DGE) of the Ministry of Environment,

Water and Forests, the Environment National Office (ONE) and the EP3

coordination office (CELCO) (8.5 million USD in total). This component


o Environmental information, education and communication (1.5 million

USD), by supporting ONE to manage national and regional information


o Environmental legislation (2 million USD), by supporting DGE to

carry out strategic environmental assessments aimed at improving the

coherence of sector’s legislation with international environmental

treaties and conventions.

o Environmental compliance (3 million USD), by supporting ONE to

improve the application of the MECIE77 legislation.

o Environmental management and coordination (2 million USD), by

supporting MINENVEF and CELCO to put in place a financial

management system and a monitoring and evaluation system

The detailed objectives and activities of EP3 are summarized in a logical

framework adopted by all the contributors of the program (Appendix).

In addition to the 49 million USD granted by IDA and GEF, funding has been

provided by other donors, mainly the USAID, the French Cooperation, the German

aid, and Conservation International. The total amount granted to EP3 was eventually

171 million USD. About 75% of the MINENVEF budget was provided by donors

(World Bank 2006). Table 1 summarizes the contributions by donor for each activity

of the project. Table 2 lists the main projects related to biodiversity conservation

initiated since 1997 (list established in 2003). The Malagasy State engaged to provide

a contribution equal to 20% of the program’s global cost, i.e. 9.8 million USD, as a

counterpart of the IDA grant, and 1.8 million as a counterpart of the GEF grant.

Coordination is insured by a Project Implementation Support Unit, the

CELCO 78 , established in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forest

(MINENVEF 79 ). The CELCO supports the line agencies for procurement, financial

management, monitoring and evaluation, safeguards compliance, and reporting (World

Bank 2004).

Environmental Impact Assessment for Investments. In French : Mise en compatibilité des
investissements avec l’environnement.
This unit will eventually be named CELCO (Cellule de Coordination du PE3), or EP3 Coordination
Ministère de l’Environnement, des Eaux et Forêts, resulting from the fusion of the Ministry of
Environment and the Ministry of Water and Forest.

Table 1. Contributions to EP3 by donors in million USD
COMPONENTS 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 2.1 2.2 2.3

Forest ecosystems

and conservation
Protected areas


education and



Marine and


The World Bank 2.0 10.2 17 2 8.8 9 49
USAID 7.2 5.6 5.8 3.8 3.3 5.1 31
French cooperation 8.7 2 0.26 5.8 0.56 3.8 0.4 21.5
CI 0.07 4.25 9 1.8 2.5 1.4 0.4 19.4
WWF 0.73 0.15 1.18 0.13 0.67 1 0.86 6.1

German cooperation (GTZ/KFW) 4.2 4.2 4.8 1.2 3 1.2 18.6

UNDP 1.38 0.99 0.38 2.18 1.18 0.019 6.3
WCS 0.33 0.19 1.94 0.15 0.41 0.32 0.25 3.6
Swiss inter-cooperation 0.88 0.8 0.6 0.64 2.9
UNESCO 0.06 0.13 0.04 0.01 0.25
Tany Meva Foundation 1.2 1.4 0.75 0.5 3.85
Japanese cooperation (JICA) 0.12 0.12 0.02 0.01 0.17 0.4
European Union 0.5 0.8 2.9 0.2 4.4
Missouri Botanical Garden 0.08 0.32 0.23 0.6
DWCT 0.05 0.17 0.07 0.3
ICTE-Stony-Brook 0.97 3.46 0.17 4.6
TOTAL 28.4 31.7 48.7 10 14 21.6 17.4 171
% 17 18 28 6 8 13 10

Source: Moynot (2005, 8). Translation and adaption by Pollini.

Table 2: Projects related to biodiversity conservation in Madagascar since 1997
Donor Project Beneficiary Start Finish Cost
GEF Water and forest management MEF 06/97 06/01 0.9 USD
GEF Protected area management ANGAP 06/97 06/01 2.6 USD
GEF Regional capacity building SAGE/ONE 06/97 06/01 4.6 USD
GTZ Efficient charcoal use to protect GreenMad 04/97 03/06 17.5 DEM
natural forest
GTZ Integrated forest development MEF 03/98 02/06 25.5 DEM
KfW Andringitra & Marojejy WWF 06/98 06/03 11.0 DEM
National Park
KfW Ankarafantsika Reserve CI 06/97 06/02 13.0 DEM
KfW Marovoay watershed Erosion 01/98 01/04 6.5 DEM
management Program
NORAD Zombitse Reserve management WWF 01/98 12/02 6.4 NOK
WB Sustainable use of natural EP II 06/97 06/02 30.0 USD
French GEF Plateau Mahafaly ecosystem WWF 10/01 10/05 6.0 FRF
(AFD) conservation
French Natural resource management EP II 09/97 03/02 12.0 FRF
Cooperation transfer and training
French Natural resource management EP II 06/02 06/05 5.5 FRF
Cooperation and land tenure
UNDP Support to biodiversity and EP II 01/98 12/02 9.6 USD
marine components
EU Community forest 01/00 12/03 1.1 EUR
EU Bemaraha National Park ANGAP 12/95 06/00 0.9 EUR
conservation & development
EU Bemaraha phase 2 ANGAP 06/00 12/05 5.0 EUR
USAID Support to ecoregional process, Miray 07/98 06/02 10.0 USD
USAID Support to ecoregional Landscape 07/98 06/03 19.0 USD
planning, community forest Development
management, and compatible Initiative
economic development
USAID MWF MEF 06/90 06/02 5.5 USD
DGIS MWF MEF 06/97 06/04 1.5 USD

Source: World Bank (2004a, 164)

Overall guidance and strategic orientation is insured by a joint committee

presided over by a delegate of the Minister of the Environment, Water and Forest (the

Secretary General) and co-presided by a representative from the donors (the USAID

environment task manager). Other members of the joint committee are the heads of

ANGAP, ONE, DGEF, DGE, CGP, the CELCO coordinator, representatives from

bilateral donors (France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, USA), multilateral institutions

(EU, IDA, UNDP), international and national nongovernmental organizations (SAGE,

ANAE, CI, WCS, DWCT, WWF, Tany Meva, Fanamby), and other relevant

stakeholders. The joint committee verifies that operations are consistent with the

logical framework and informs the Ministry of the advancement of the program.

The main differences between EP3 and the previous phase are the following:

• The abandonment of agricultural intensification activities, which were

implemented by ICDPs under EP1 and by the AGERAS component and

through ANAE’s activities under EP2. These activities are now transferred

to projects that support the Malagasy Rural Development Action Plan,

adopted in 1999. These projects are principally the Rural Development

Support Project (PSDR) 80 of the World Bank (69.2 million USD grant for

the period 2002-2007) and other projects funded by USAID, the French

Cooperation, the Swiss aid, the European Union, etc.

• The post-NEAP period has to be prepared because no fourth phase is

planned. This is done by supporting the Malagasy government to

streamline its environmental policies in all the concerned sectors

(Component 3), and by the creation of the trust fund, which will finance

conservation in the long-term.

In French : Projet de Soutien au Développement Rural.

• The creation of a National Agency for Water and Forest Management

(ANGEF 81 ), a new institution proposed but not created. ANGEF would

have been in charge of all operational aspects concerning the management

of forest resources outside the protected areas system. Its creation has been

replaced by a support to the MINENVEF’s reform.

• The creation of a Community Environmental Management Support Fund

(FAGEC 82 ), a fund dedicated to supporting decentralized and community

based environmental actions (reforestation, sustainable management of

resources, etc.). The communes were expected to be the main beneficiaries

of this fund. They would carry out activities formerly implemented by

ANAE and SAGE, in partnership with these institutions and with other

service providers.

9.2. EP3’s implementation

EP3’s implementation is facilitated by a series of commissions and working

groups, whose members are staff from the MINENVEF and its partners (donors,

consultants, projects, private sector, civil society, nongovernmental organizations). I

will present here the work of the Durban Vision Group (DVG), which coordinated the

creation of Conservation Sites. This commission confronted with the key challenges of

EP3 and its work is a good illustration of the overall logic of the program.

9.2.1. The Durban Vision

During the World Congress of Protected Areas held in Durban, South-Africa,

in September 2003, the President of Madagascar engaged his country to increase

In French : Agence National pour la Gestion des Eaux et Forêts.
In French: Fond d’Appui a la Gestion Environnementale Communautaire.

protected area coverage from 1.7 million to six million hectares, in order to put 10% of

the country under conservation and meet IUCN recommendations. The MINENVEF

created the Durban Vision Group (DVG) to guide the achievement of this objective.

The DVG’s Executive Steering Committee is composed of the Water and

Forest General Director (DGEF), the Environment General Director (DGE), the

Director of the Minister’s Cabinet, and the ANGAP General Director. A Technical

Secretariat, which included representatives of CI, WCS and WWF, coordinates the

work of five technical groups: management and categorization, biodiversity

prioritization, communication, funding and legislation.

At the beginning, the objective of the DVG was to facilitate the creation of

Conservation Sites (Component 1). This new category of protected area was expected

to be less costly than the existing ones managed by ANGAP. Conservation Sites

would not be managed by this organization but would be under the MINENVEF’s

authority. Conservation concessions could be established with conservations NGOs or

other organizations for their management.

Conservation Sites were also intended to provide more room for human

activities and to be managed in a more decentralized way, with the strong involvement

of communities and other local partners. Seventy five percent of the area would be

allocated to the sustainable uses of natural resources by local communities, in order to

contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development.

The main tasks of the DVG commissions were to identify priority conservation

areas (marine and terrestrial), to define the minimal management rules for

Conservation Sites, to set-up new legislation for giving them legal status, to support

communications between actors and between regional and central authorities and to

raise funds.

The categorization commission identified areas to be reserved for the creation

of Conservation Sites (Map 2). The management commission worked on the definition

of minimum management rules to be applied to Conservation Sites. Its first

propositions, in 2004, were quite restrictive and at odds with what could be expected

according to the initial intentions. According to the working document of DVG

(Groupe Vision Durban 2004), ”no mining activity is accepted in Conservation Sites,”

and “no commercial extraction of ligneous products, of any kind, is accepted in

Conservation Sites.” Commercial harvest of nontimber forest products (NTFP) could

be authorized, but would have to be localized inside Natural Resource Extraction

Zones defined in the Management Plan. Harvesters would further be submitted to an

Environmental Impact Assessment, following MECIE procedures, that would have to

show that the population of the concerned species would not be threatened. A

Sustainable Management Plan would have to be developed and extraction

authorizations would be issued by the Water and Forest administration authorities.

In sum, a ban would be put on the extraction of the most valuable products on

six million hectares of forest, among the 7.5 million hectares remaining. Moreover,

Map 2 shows that almost all forest patches of significant size were planned to be put

under protection status. The remaining patches (the green area or dots on the map) are

mostly fragmented forests submitted to intense pressure and it is unclear whether they

still contain significant resources. Concerning nontimber forest products, local

communities would be given priority for obtaining extraction permits. But due to the

lack of knowledge about “modern” rules and regulations and the low literacy rates in

remote villages, it is doubtful that these communities could master the procedure and

be the actual beneficiaries of NTFP extraction. Instead, a local elite or a few outsiders

could use the legislation to appropriate the resources. I will come back to this issue in

Provincial capital
Existing protected areas
Areas reserved for conservation sites
Sensible areas (not reserved for
conservation sites)

Map 2: Existing protected areas and areas reserved for conservation sites.
Source: Durban Vision Group, September 24, 2004. Legend translated by Pollini.

the chapter dedicated to community based natural resource management approaches

(Chapter 11).

These restrictions led to intense discussions between the GVD members.

Restrictions on mining activities were the subject of negotiation between the Ministry

of Energy and Mines and the MINENVEF, through the mine-forest commission.

Concerning the ban on ligneous products extraction, some organizations, such as the

German cooperation (GTZ 83 ), the French cooperation, the SAGE, UNESCO and to a

lesser extent UNDP and the WWF, advocated for a softer position where this

extraction would not be excluded a priori from the whole protected area system, unless

it would take an industrial form. The CIRAD 84 , with funding from the French GEF

(FFEM 85 ), implemented a community based natural resource management project

where communities were authorized to commercially extract ligneous resources. This

project was implemented in the Ambohilero forest (Map 6, page 123), which is

expected to be included in the future Mantadia Zahamena Corridor Conservation Site.

It demonstrated that a sustainable extraction could be achieved by cutting 0.8 m3 of

wood per hectare and per year, which was compatible with the creation of a protected

area while providing significant income to local communities. On the other side it was

argued, based on a similar experience implemented earlier by the MIRAY project in

the Lakato region, that such management schemes would never be respected by

communities and that the ban on extraction was the only realistic option.

Concerning the Malagasy government, it expressed a preference for the second

option in unofficial discussions, due to the influence of a “Malaysian” model of

development where the exploitation of natural resources would allow a primary capital

In German: Gessellschaft fyr Technische Zusammenarbeit.
French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development. In French: Centre International
de Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement.
In French : Fond Français pour l’Environnement Mondial.

accumulation that would later serve to develop other sectors. However, the more

restrictive conservation approach was officially adopted because it was the one

favored by major donors. The lobby of conservation nongovernmental organizations

has been particularly efficient maintaining this strategy. The discovery of illegal wood

cutting in the Ambohilero forest, planned to be transformed into a Conservation Site,

contributed to the justification of the conservation approach. This exploitation

involved a joint venture between a Malaysian and a Malagasy firm. A road was

opened across the forest and 17 kilometers had already been built when the operation

was discovered. A sawmill was under construction on the site and heavy machines

(bulldozers, trucks) were being used. This may have been one of the first industrial

forest wood exploitations in Madagascar 86 . The Ministry stopped the extraction and

issued a series of legal regulations to restrict forest product extraction. The

Interministerial order 19560/2004, signed on October 18, 2004, suspended the

granting of new mining and forest resources extraction authorizations in all areas

reserved as Conservation Sites (the areas in red on Map 2, page 93) for a period of two

years 87 . This ban was renewed in 2006 for an additional two years. The Ministerial

order 21694/2004, signed on November 11, 2004, canceled all existing wood

extraction authorizations, without compensation, and prohibited the extraction of

ligneous resources in these same areas 88 . In spite of this, illicit wood extraction

continued, as we will see in Chapters 3 and 5 in the case of Beforona. Containers of

In Madagascar, trees are usually cut up manually inside the forest and transported by people or oxen
to the closest road (see the case of Beforona in Part II).
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “l’octroi de tout permis minier et de tout permis
forestier est suspendu dans les zones réservées comme site de conservation, dont les limites sont
annexées au présent arrêté” (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2004a, article 1).
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “Toute activité d’extraction de ressources ligneuses
est prohibée dans les zones réservées comme sites de conservation tels qu’ils sont définis a l’article 2 de
l’arrêté interministériel No 19560/2004 ” (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2004b, article 1). “ Les permis
d’exploitation ou d’extraction de produits ligneux en cours dans ces zones réservées doivent être
suspendus ” (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2004, article 2).

precious wood, including rosewood harvested in Masoala National Park, were

regularly shipped for export in 2005 and 2006.

In sum, it can be agreed that sustainable wood exploitation is not feasible in

the context of Madagascar. But as the ban on exploitation is not enforceable,

unsustainable wood exploitation will continue to occur. Moreover, the ban may create

a situation of monopoly, by putting the forest sector into the hands of a few exploiters

rendered untouchable by their strong political networks. The ban will also provide

these exploiters with the “guarantee” that they will not pay taxes. Having these issues

in mind, carefully monitored community wood harvesting by local communities may

be worth trying again. Protected areas, which can afford to pay forest rangers and

which may increasingly lack legitimacy in the future, may be appropriate locations to

test this approach.

In this context, the French aid had developed a new concept to challenge the

conservation perspective: the Development and Conservation Territory (DCT). A

DCT would consist of one or several core sites protected for their high biodiversity,

and their surroundings, inhabited and already modified by human activities. A

regional planning approach would be implemented to satisfy both conservation and

rural development objectives. The approach is similar to that of the French Regional

Natural Parks 89 and the DCT would match with the IUCN fifth category of protected

areas (Table 3).

At present, only IUCN categories Ia, Ib, II and IV are represented in the

Protected Areas Network managed by ANGAP. The new protected areas are expected

to fill the gap and to belong to categories V and VI. The Conservation Sites could

match with the sixth category while the DCT would correspond to the fifth.

In French: Parcs Naturels Régionaux.

Table 3: Categories of protected areas according to IUCN (2002)

Categories Main management objective

Ia Strict Nature Reserve Protected area managed mainly for
Ib Wilderness Area Protected area managed mainly for
wilderness protection
II National Park Protected area managed mainly for
ecosystem protection and recreation
III Natural Monument Protected area managed mainly for
conservation of specific natural features
IV Habitat/Species Management Area Protected area managed mainly for
conservation through management
V Protected Landscape/Seascape Protected area managed mainly for
landscape/ seascape conservation and
VI Managed Resource Protected Area Protected area managed mainly for the
sustainable use of natural ecosystems

Source: IUCN (2002).

Table 4: Main differences between IUCN Categories V and VI

Category V Protected Category VI Protected
Area Area
Core management Maintain harmonious Maintain predominantly
philosophy interaction of nature and natural conditions as
people basis for sustainable
Degree of modification of Considerable: mainly a Predominantly natural
environment lived-in, working (or near natural)
landscape condition
Typical dominant land Agriculture, forestry, Hunting and gathering,
uses tourism grazing, management of
natural resources

Source: IUCN (2002).

Category V “is unique among the six categories by making the core idea the

maintenance of environmental and cultural values where there is a direct interaction

between people and nature” (Phillips 2002, 10). It is defined as follows (IUCN 1994,

in Phillips 2002, 10):

Area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of
people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with
significant aesthetic, ecological and/or cultural value, and often with high
biological diversity. Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional
interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evolution of such an
The DCT could thus be a way to solve the asymmetry between conservation

and development objectives that characterized NEAP.

The DCT concept has been widely accepted by the Malagasy government and

its partners as a tool for regional planning. But the idea that it would correspond to a

protected area has been rejected. The main objection was that the focus of Category V

“is not on nature conservation per se, but about guiding human processes so that the

area and its resources are protected, managed and capable of evolving in a sustainable

way” (Phillips 2002, 10). Emphasis is put on the cultural dimension of the landscape

rather than on its natural dimension. Cultural landscapes exist in Madagascar, but their

conservation is not regarded as a priority in comparison to less disturbed primary

ecosystems that shelter a much higher biodiversity. As biodiversity conservation has

to be the main objective of any protected areas system, even if other aspects are

considered, the sixth category, which also authorizes multiple use of resources but

concerns predominantly unmodified natural landscapes, was preferred to category V.

Table 4 (page 97) summarizes the main differences between these two categories.

In sum, the DCT concept may have been inappropriate in the context of

Madagascar, if regarded as a protected area category, but relevant as a regional

planning tool. It can be compared to the AGERAS approach of EP2, which was based

on the same statement that conservation programs failed due to a lack of integration

with regional development schemes. In spite of this, advocacy for considering the

DCT as a protected area category persisted 90 , which could be explained by the

excessively political character of the discussions. The consequence was a lack of

legibility of discourses elaborated by the Ministry’s technical advisors, creating

confusion if not schizophrenia. At the political level, strict conservation policies were

adopted due to the efficient lobby of conservation organizations. At the technical

level, there was a clear willingness to open the system, though it was not clear whether

the DCT was the appropriate way to do so.

Eventually, IUCN experts were hired in March and July 2005 to calm the

debate and provide more objective guidelines. The experts belonged to the World

Commission on Protected Areas and the Commission on Environment, Economic and

Social Policy of IUCN. They insisted on the new orientations of global conservation

strategies that the conservation congresses in Durban 91 (2003), Kuala Lumpur 92

(2004) and Bangkok 93 (2004) defined. According to IUCN (2005a), some key

recommendations from these congresses were the need to respect human rights; the

minimization of negative impacts on the livelihoods of local communities, especially

the poorest groups; the implementation of participatory approaches involving all

stakeholders and answering to the aspirations of the whole society; the co-

management of protected areas involving local communities and the recognition of

community protected areas. The consultants also pointed out that for the IUCN,
the extraction of wood, of nonligneous forest products and even of mining
products is not forbidden a priori in a protected area, in particular in the
categories V and VI, but that this does not mean that these activities must

I took part in the advocacy effort.
Protected Areas World Congress, September 2003, Durban, South-Africa.
Seventh Conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity, February 2004, Kuala Lumpur.
Third Conservation World Congress, November 2004, Bangkok.

be appropriated, and can be accepted. 94 (Borrini-Feyerabend and Dudley
2005a, 31)
The consultant further reminded that management objectives have to be chosen

with regard to biodiversity conservation objectives, which must remain the main goal

of all protected areas 95 . The central question is to know if this extraction would result

in biodiversity loss. The experts also contended that zones where biodiversity is not

significant should not be included inside protected areas, but could constitute a

peripheral zone where development activities could be implemented. In sum, they

advocated for an open approach that would not be limited to protected areas with very

limited use rights, but confirmed the arguments that led to rejection of DCT as a

protected area category.

In the end, the IUCN team proposed adopting an open, logical framework

where all management objectives and governance modes could be combined (Borrini-

Feyerabend and Dudley 2005a). Their second mission, in July 2005, was aimed at

supporting the creation of this new framework, through a participatory process that

would start at the local level. The new framework would be formalized by a new

legislation, constituting a Protected Area System (SAPM 96 ) that would render obsolete

the notions of DCT and Conservation Sites. The proposition was accepted and from

that moment, the SAPM became the new conceptual and legal framework within

which conservation programs had to work.

A ministerial order (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2005a) was issued in 2005

to give a preliminary status to the newly created protected areas. According to this

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “ Du point de vue de l’UICN, l’exploitation du bois ou
des produits forestiers non ligneux et même des produits miniers n’est pas interdite a priori dans une
aire protégée, en particulier dans les aires protégées de catégorie V et VI, mais cela ne veut pas dire
pour autant que ces activités peuvent se révéler appropriées, et donc être acceptées.” (IUCN 2004a, 31)
The IUCN definition of a protected area is “An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the
protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and
managed through legal or other effective means.” (IUCN 2002, 8)
Malagasy Protected Areas System. In French: “Système des Aires Protégées de Madagascar.”

order, the sites would be submitted to the “special regime,” a modality created by

article 49 of the forest law (Gouvernement de Madagascar 1997). According to article

52 of this same law, “these perimeters cannot be object of any extraction, under any

form. Clear cutting, clearing, burning and grazing are forbidden in them.” 97 These

strict restrictions are, however, contradicted by the order, which authorizes nontimber

forest product extraction under certain conditions.

This order was followed by the Decree 2005/848, issued on December 13,

2005, which defined the new categories of protected areas to be created

(Gouvernement de Madagascar 2005b). This decree addresses most of the issues that

had been debated. For example, article 1 asserts that management objectives can

include the conservation of cultural heritage. Article 2 creates four new categories

which are the natural park, the natural monument, the protected landscape, and the

natural resource reserve 98 . The commercial extraction of natural resources is forbidden

from the first two categories, but not necessarily in the last two (protected landscape

and the natural resource reserve), showing that the debate had eventually been fruitful.

Articles 6 and 7 further insist on the necessity to consult local populations and

decentralized territorial collectivities during the preparation of management plans, in

order to consider local interests.

However, the decree does not propose clear rules nor guarantees concerning

the way to address the potential negative socio-economic impacts. First, the

acceptance of protected areas by rural communes, districts and regions has to be

formalized by official documents, but at the community level, the consultation is not

followed by any formal acceptance. Second, communities “can” be compensated if

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “ces périmètres ne peuvent faire l'objet d'exploitation,
sous quelque forme que ce soit. Les coupes rases, les défrichements et les mises à feu, ainsi que le
pâturage y sont interdits.”
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “Parc naturel,” “monument naturel,” “paysage
harmonieux protégé,” and “réserve des ressources naturelles.”

their access to resources is limited (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2005b), meaning

that this compensation is just an option. Third, no socio-economic impact assessment

is required, while conducting an environmental impact assessment is mandatory. This

situation is quite astonishing as there can be little doubt about the environmental

benefits of gazetting a protected area, while negative socio-economic impacts for local

communities seem to be the rule, as shown in the evaluations of EP1 and EP2 (OSIPD

1995; 2000), by other consultant reports (Carret and Loyer 2003; Hockley and

Razafindralambo 2006), and by research publications (Larson 1994; Ghimire 1994;

Shyamsundar 1997; Peters 1998; Peters 1999; Harper 2002; McConnell 2002; Ferraro


In sum, the decree reveals the same asymmetry and incapacity to address

socio-economic aspects that led ICDPs to failure. Paradoxically, the only negative

environmental impacts of protected areas that can be reasonably envisioned are

indirect and will never be addressed by experts in charge of implementing the MECIE

legislation. They are the leakages provoked by the volunteer displacement of farmers

whose access to resources would be restricted, and only socio-economic impact

assessments could anticipate these leakages!

In spite of these concerns, the issue of this regulation allowed the creation of

919,000 hectares of protected areas in 2005 (four sites 99 ), followed by 1,102,566

hectares in 2006 (16 sites 100 ). In January 2007, the new protected areas were still

Sahamalaza (130,000 hectares), Ankeniheny-Zahamena (425,000 hectares), Makira (371,217
hectares), Anjozorobe-Angavo (52,200 hectares), and Loky-Manambato (70,837 hectares).
According to a presentation made at the EP3 Joint committee on December 31, 2006, the sites are
the following: Nord-Ifotaky (22,256 hectares); Kodida (10,744 hectares); Ambatotsirongaronga (834
hectares); Mandena (230 hectares); Ambato Atsinanana (747 hectares); Central Menabe (125,000
hectares); Tampolo (675 hectares);Forest Corridor Bongolava (60,589 hectares); Montagne des Français
(6,092 hectares); Multiple Use Forest Station Antrema (12,270 hectares); Forest Corridor Fandriana-
Vondrozo (499,598 hectares); Analalava Forest Foulpointe (204 hectares) ; Andreba (31.7 hectares);
Mahavavy-Kinkony (268,236 hectares); Amoron’I Onilahy (52,582 hectares); Alaotra Lake(42,478

under temporary protection status 101 . More protected areas are expected to be created

during 2007 and 2008, leading to a total of 4,539,000 hectares under protection by the

end of 2008 102 . The objective to achieve 6,000,000 hectares has been postponed to

2012. Table 5 summarizes the state of advancement of protected areas gazetting in


In this context of frantic gazetting, the debate about the potential negative

impacts of protected areas on local communities emerged again at the end of 2006.

The third EP3 supervision mission, implemented in September-October 2006, asserted

that no sufficient funding was available to implement development activities around

protected areas. The Bank explained these difficulties by the fact that,
when the EP3 was conceived, it was envisioned to establish six new
protected areas (three terrestrial and three marine) for a total area of
324,000 hectares, [while] complementary rural development projects such
as the FID 103 and the PSDR 104 would finance support activities. However,
none of the rural development projects had legal conditions that obliged
them to finance the support activities of EP3 (although the PSDR and EP3
had established the protocols of the partnership agreement). 105 (World
Bank 2006b)
The PSDR (World Bank 2001) eventually did not contribute significantly to

the financing of development activities around protected areas. The consequence was

a financial gap that increased significantly when the Durban Vision planned the

creation of 3,953,000 hectares (World Bank 2006b).

Special Regime status, defined by Gouvernement de Madagascar (2005a).
According to a World Bank note (World Bank 2007), based on data from ANGAP and other
Development Intervention Fund. In French: “Fond d’Intervention pour le Développement.”
Rural Development Support Project. In French: “Projet de Soutien au Développement Rural.”
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “Quand le PE3 a été conçu, il était envisage d’établir
six nouvelles aires protégées (trois terrestres et trois marines) pour une superficie totale de 324,000
hectares. Les projets de développement rural complémentaires comme le FID et PSDR financeraient
des mesures d’accompagnement. Néanmoins, aucun des projets de développement rural avait des
conditionnalités légales qui les obligeait à financer les mesures d’accompagnement du PE3 (bien que le
PSDR et PE3 ont établi des protocoles d’ accord).”

Table 5: Malagasy protected areas in 2007
Category Number Total area in Date of
hectares creation
Existing ANGAP protected areas 39 1,612,000 Before EP3
Extension of ANGAP protected 11 359,000 During EP3
Creation of ANGAP protected 5 272,000 During EP3
New protected areas, non-ANGAP 4 919,000 2005
New protected areas, non-ANGAP 15 1,080,000 2006
New protected areas, non- 47 1,619,000 2007-2008
ANGAP, with identified promoter
New protected areas, non- 38 595,000 2007-2008
ANGAP, without identified
New marine protected areas 4 325,000 2007-2008
Total expected 2008 163 6,456,000

Source: World-Bank (2007). Translation by Pollini.

The supervision mission further pointed out that the Malagasy government

adopted, on October 3, 2003, a procedural framework for mitigating impacts provoked

by the creation of protected areas, Conservation Sites and land reserves 106

(Association Nationale pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées and MINEVEF 2003, 4).

According to this procedural framework,

It is obvious that the protected area management component [of NEAP]
can cause restrictions on access to the natural resources in the protected
areas to be created. In the same way, the forest ecosystem management
component can cause, to a certain extent, restrictions on access to natural
resources. 107
The procedural framework recommends the implementation of participatory

diagnosis to identify the more vulnerable groups, and the identification of

compensation measures such as productive micro-projects (e.g., swine husbandry,

chicken farming, fish farming, handicrafts and agricultural intensification), training,

the implementation of the GELOSE approach, improved stoves, improved charcoal

production and the construction of basic infrastructure.

A technical note of the World Bank (2007) estimated that the financial gap to

finance these mitigation was about 2.58 million USD for the 12 newly created

protected areas, which cover a total of 1.8 million hectares. This gap extends to 12

million USD if we consider all of the protected areas newly created by EP3 or to be
created through 2008. If this gap was not filled, the safeguard policy of the World

Bank would be at risk of not being implemented, which would slow the creation of

protected areas and put the Bank at risk of being criticized by human right lobbies.

“Cadre de procédure pour la mitigation des impacts de la création des aires protégées, des sites de
conservation, et des réserves foncières.” Prepared by experts of the World Bank and adopted by the
Malagasy government on October 3, 2003.
Translation by Pollini. Original text in French:“Il est évident que la composante gestion des aires
protégées (AP) peut causer des restrictions d'accès aux ressources naturelles dans les AP à créer. De
même, la composante gestion des écosystèmes forestiers peut causer, dans une certaine mesure, des
restrictions d'accès aux ressources naturelles.”

This problem was intensively debated during the EP3 joint committee of June

12, 2006 108 . Two issues were raised. First, the term “compensation” created a certain

fear on the side of partners involved in the creation of protected areas on the ground. It

suggested the idea of financial compensation that they could not afford to provide,

whose amount would be difficult to calculate and which could provide disadvantages

to the communities that had already engaged in new activities with no negative impact

on the environment. The term “mitigation” was preferred because it did not imply an

exact match between the negative impacts and the alternatives, and because

mitigations can be ordinary development activities such as those already implemented

on the ground. Second, the partners rejected the idea of being subjected to a

procedural framework defined by the World Bank. The Malagasy government had

adopted this procedural framework, but it was not clear whether it applied to all new

protected areas or only to those financed by the World Bank. Eventually, this last

option was accepted, but the partners would engage in mitigating the negative impacts.

Third, the partners pointed out that EP3 departed from the previous phase of NEAP 109

by focusing on environmental issues and that rural development aspects had to be

addressed by the Rural Development Action Plan. They agreed, however, that the

concerns were justified and accepted the idea that the government issued a regulation

that would define the mitigation measures associated with the creation of protected

areas. At the end of 2006, the target date for achieving the Durban Vision (i.e., six

million hectares under protection status) was postponed to 2012, which would help to

achieve the Durban Vision objectives at a more reasonable pace.

This paragraph synthesizes the information provided by 5 informants interviewed in February 2007.
During EP1, rural development aspects were addressed, although unsuccessfully, by the ICDP.
During the second phases, the AGERAS component enlarged this approach at a larger scale.

10. Conclusion

In conclusion, a tension between poverty alleviation and conservation

objectives persisted during the three phases of NEAP, despite the fact that the

environmental charter (Gouvernement de Madagascar 1990) put at the forefront the

necessity to reconcile people and their environment. The failure of development

activities led to a rejection of EP1’s ICDP approach and to replacing it with regional

planning (AGERAS component of EP2) and community based natural resource

management (GELOSE component). Despite these new orientations, negative socio-

economic impacts persisted during the second phase of NEAP. The case study in Part

III and Chapter 10 in Part IV will provide more insights for understanding the reasons

and assessing the consequences of the failure of mitigation measures. The case study

in Part III and Chapter 10 in Part IV will also confirm that communities of farmers

that practice tavy are first in line to pay the price of conservation.

NEAP was not able to adjust its strategy to face these difficulties. Instead of

addressing realities, the project’s techno-structure favored representations that did not

question its own strategy, as shown by the tautological arguments of EP2’s evaluation

report (OSIPD 1995). Parts IV and V will explore more in depth the reasons for this

process and its consequences.

In its third phase, NEAP eventually chose to concentrate on conservation

aspects. The PADR (World Bank 2001) was expected to achieve development

objectives, but did not do so, probably because it adopted the same ill-designed

approach to rural development, and because it preferred to target areas with more

productive potential and to work with rural entrepreneurs rather than ordinary farmers,

as we will see in Chapter 6. Due to the significant increase of areas under protection

status (Durban vision), the tensions between protected area managers and local

communities may increase significantly in the future. During a period that might last

one or two decades, these tensions may be limited because forest clearing will be

“possible” in areas not under protection status. After these unprotected forests are

cleared, the protected areas will be at peril if no solution is found to support viable

alternatives and compensate for the restrictions on access to resources and land.




This third part is dedicated to the analysis of realities in a rural commune

located on the eastern edge of the Malagasy rain forest corridor: Beforona, 160

kilometers east from Antananarivo (Maps 3 and 4). Beforona has already been

investigated in depth due to its easy access: it is crossed by National Road 2 which is

well maintained and links the capital Antananarivo to Toamasina, the first port in the

country. More than 10 PhD dissertations and about 20 Masters theses addressing this

region have been completed during the two last decades, mostly with support of the

Swiss funded BEMA and Terre-Tany projects, during the 1990s, and of the USAID

funded LDI and PTE projects, from 1999 to 2004. For this reason, I did not deem it

necessary to engage in an in-depth analysis of the region. Instead, I have synthesized

the existing knowledge (Chapter 3) and attempted to fill the most significant gaps. The

main gap concerns the situation in villages having limited access to market, which

justified conducting a fast agrarian system diagnosis (Chapter 4 describes the

methodology) in a remote village, Ambodilaingo, located 16 kilometers south from the

road (Chapter 5). A second gap concerns the reflexive analysis of development

practices, which justified analyzing the work of rural development projects working in

the area (Chapter 6). Chapter 7 eventually, will present a social experiment

implemented in Ambodilaingo in order to put into practice the conclusions of Chapters

5 and 6.

Map 3: Localization of the study area
Source: FTM (National Geographic Institute) and BEMA project, in Rakotoarijaona
(2005, 3)

Note: the left map indicates the six provinces of Madagascar. The right map shows the
limits of the 13 Fokontany of Beforona.



Map 4: Regional map showing Beforona and Ambodilaingo.

Source: FTM (Malagasy National Geographic Institute).

• National Road 2 is indicated in red.
• The distance from Moramanga (Department capital) to Beforona is 49 kilometers.
• The roads indicated in black and some roads indicated in white (including the
road to from Vatomandry to Ambalabe) are impractical by car.
• The forest cover (dark green) is based on aerial photographs taken in the 1950s or
• The light yellow lines indicate the locations I visited.
• The blue square delineates the area visualized on map 6 and 7 (page 123 to



1. Introduction

In this chapter, I provide an overview of the study area using material available

in the literature. I will successively present the biophysical environment (Section 2)

and the human and social environment (Section 3). Most information, including the

majority of figures, was extracted from research conducted by the Terre-Tany and

BEMA projects from 1989 to 1998, in the sites indicated on Map 5.

2. Biophysical environment

2.1. Location

Beforona is located in the Moramanga District, Mangoro-Alaotra Region,

Toamasina Province (Map 3 page 111). It is 160 kilometers away from Antananarivo,

on National Road 2 which links Antananarivo to Toamasina, the main port of the

country (Map 4 page 112). A railway also links these two cities and crosses the

commune. It was mostly abandoned during the past decades but has been rehabilitated


2.2. Topography

The topography shows a regular pattern of small valleys, at an altitude of about

500 meters, dominated by small hills with steep slopes, 150 meters higher in elevation.

The western edge is closed by a north-south escarpment that culminates at 1300

meters. This mountain chain, called the Betsimisaraka escarpment, separates Beforona

from the Mangoro depression where the city of Moramanga is located. It is still

forested (Vohidrazana forest), whereas the rest of the land is covered by secondary

Studied villages
Primary forest National Road 2
Agricultural and fallow land River
Grassland Watersheds investigated in details

Map 5: Localization of sites investigated by the BEMA and Terre-

Tany projects.
Source: Brand (1997b, 3).

Notes: the Salampinga site has not been studied in this dissertation.

vegetation. This topography is summarized in Figure 2 (from Le Bourdiec 1974), and

illustrated by Photographs 1 and 2. The forest cover in Figure 2 is overestimated.

Forests did not cover the commune of Beforona in 1970.

2.3. Climate

The area experiences a tropical wet climate (Figure 3). The average annual

rainfall is 2757 mm at the Marolafo research station (Nambena 2004). It increases on

the eastern slope of the escarpment and decreases on its western slope (Analamazaotra


The strongest rains last from late December to March. Cyclones are quite

frequent during this period, with winds of more than 100 kilometers per hour.

Cyclones Hutelle, Daisy and Geralda in 1993 and 1994 were particularly destructive.

Their impact has been described in detail and mapped by Brand et al. (1997). Home

gardens and lowland crops were destroyed by inundations and landslides. Houses and

banana trees were also destroyed by strong wind.

Precipitation is lower during the rest of the year but takes the form of drizzle,

which falls almost every day in the winter, from early July to late August. September,

October and November are the driest months but rain can still occur. As some people

say, we can only distinguish a rain season (with big rains) and a rainy season (with

drizzle). Nevertheless, dry periods of about 10 days can occur with significant

probability from September to November. At the Marolafa station, the probability of

having 18 consecutive dry days is 0.1, meaning that such dryness occurs only 10% of

the time during this period (Brand 1997a). In sum, the climate is quite favorable to

agriculture overall, but risky due to rainfall irregularities during the “dry” period and

to the destructive effects of cyclones.


Dense forest
Mixed fallow

Iaroka river
Ranomainty line
Iaroka river
Vohidrazana swamp


Forested Mixed fallow with Grassland Swamp area

escarpment Ravenala

Figure 2: Zoning and transect of the Betsimisaraka region.

Source: Le Bourdiec (1974, 258). Adapted and translated by Pollini.

Photograph 1: The Betsimisaraka escarpment. Altitude ranges from 550 meters
(where the picture has been taken, 10 km south from Beforona) to 1220 meters (peak
in the background). The vegetation on the escarpment is a primary forest (Vohidrazana
forest) whose valuable wood has been exploited. The rest of the land is covered with
fallow, a tavy, and a temporary dwelling visible in the middle ground (left).

Photograph 2: Bottom lands and hills in Beforona. This photograph is taken from
the same location as photograph 1, but on the opposite side (looking west). This
bottom land belongs to the Fokontany Ambatoharanana, where the NGO Zanaky ny
Ala built a dam (see chapter 7). Altitude ranges from 500 to 650 meters.



Rain (mm) Tº (Cº)

J. A. S. O. N. D. J. F. M. A. M. J.
Rain (mm) Tº (Cº)


J. A. S. O. N. D. J. F. M. A. M. J.

Rain (mm) Tº (Cº) Rain (mm) Tº (Cº)

J. A. S. O. N. D. J. F. M. A. M. J. J. A. S. O. N. D. J. F. M. A. M. J.

Figure 3 : Temperature and rainfall in the study area and surroundings.

Source: Nambena (2007, 14). Data from the National Meteorology and BEMA project
Note: The study area corresponds to the Marolafa station. The Analamazaotra and
Moramanga stations show the lower rainfall on the western side of the Betsimisaraka
escarpment. Translation and adaptations by Pollini.

Air is wet all the year round, with a maximum of 100% humidity in the night

and a minimum of about 70% at noon. The average humidity ranges from about 75%

in November to 87% in July.

This rainfall pattern results in a dense hydrographic network with water

running all year round in all rivers and most streams. Flooding is frequent on the

alluvial plains that border the rivers, making the cultivation of these fertile soils quite

risky. When big rains occur, it becomes dangerous to cross the rivers, which

constrains commercial exchanges and school attendance by children.

The average temperature ranges from about 16C° in July to 26C° in January

(Figure 3). The minimal temperature can reach 6C° at night in the winter and maximal

38C° in the summer (Brand 1997a).

2.4. Vegetation and deforestation

The original vegetation is an evergreen rain forest of middle altitude dominated

by trees from the genera Tambourissa 110 and Weinmania 111 (Fara Lala 1999).

Palisander (Dalbergia sp. 112 ), a tree with a high market value, is abundant but has

been widely exploited. The flora is similar to what is encountered in Andasibe, where

it has been studied by Razakanirina (1986). Several species of lemur live in the

Vohidrazana forest, including the Babakoto (Indri indri) and the Varika (Propithecus

diadema diadema).

The wet climate prevents frequent natural fires and rain forests may have

covered the whole region, including the coast, initially. The costal area was probably

inhabited from the tenth century and may have been covered by a mosaic of Savannah,

Fabaceae. The genus Dalbergia, in Madagascar, includes a few species of rosewood, which are
harvested for export, and many species of Palisander, which are less valuable and are sold on the
domestic market and are utilized for making furniture. Rosewood is not found in Beforona.

primary forest, secondary vegetation, and agricultural land at that time (Chapter 1).

Brand and Zurbuchen (1997), based on bibliographical review, studied the dynamic of

deforestation during the last century. When Europeans first arrived on the east coast of

Madagascar, they noticed that grassland and savannah dominated the slopes and the

top of the hills, whereas forests were mostly located on bottom land and along streams

(Hastie 1817, in Brand and Zurbuchen 1997). Further west, a contiguous forest existed

that had no or almost no inhabitants. During the first part of the nineteenth century, the

savannah area progressed further west and in the second part, the forest between

Ampasibe and Beforona was partially cleared, resulting in a mosaic pattern of forest

and fallow land. This clearing may have been quite complete by the end of the

nineteenth century (Ellis 1856, in Brand and Zurbuchen 1997; Julien 1909, in Brand

and Zurbuchen 1997). It is believed that settlement in Beforona started in the

eighteenth century. But population density was still low in the nineteenth century, with

forests covering most land west of Beforona.

Brand and Zurbuchen (1997) used aerial photographs from the years 1957,

1967, 1987 and 1994 to study deforestation dynamics during the last decades (Figure

4). The most intense clearing occurred after 1967, with a rate of 21.2 ha/year from

1957 to 1967, 39.3 from 1967 to 1987 and 46.5 from 1987 to 1994 (measurements

were taken from a sample that did not cover the whole commune). This increase can

be explained by the demographic explosion that started in the 1950s, by the low

control that resulted from the political change in the 1970s and by the economic crisis

in the 1980s. In the 1990s, most of the remaining forests were localized on the

Betsimisaraka escarpment, at an altitude above 800 meters which is not very suitable

for rice cultivation due to high rainfall. This factor, and/or a stronger enforcement of

the ban on forest clearing, led to a decrease of the deforestation rate. Nambena (2007)

studied the deforestation in the area between 1994 and 2000 and complemented Brand

100% 60






Défrichement Ha/an
% de surface

50% 30



14,2 10


0% 0
1957 1967 1987 1994 1997 2000
Non forested de non
land (%)Forêt (%)
Forested landde Forêt (%)
(%) Années
Vites s e de défores
Deforestation tation
(Hectare perha/an

Figure 4: Deforestation pace in Beforona from 1957 to 2000.

Source: Nambena (2007, 24). Data from: Brand and Zurbuchen (1997) and
Nambena (2007). Translation by Pollini.

Note: Based on aerial photographs of the area mapped page 143.

and Zurbuchen’s (1997) measurement (Figure 4 page 121). He showed that the edge

of the forest main corridor did not greatly move, but that all the remaining forest

patches east from the corridor were cleared during this period.

McConnell et al. (2004) also studied deforestation in the area for the period

1957-2000 (Map 6). They created a model to predict the conversion of forest to

agriculture using five variables: elevation, slope, distance from forest edge, distance

from village, and an estimation of population density. They ran their model to predict

land use change between 1957 and 2000 and compared the outcome with the actual

deforestation. They showed that distance from a village, distance from forest edge and

elevation have the highest explanatory value of observed forest clearing. Slope has the

lower effect, which contradicts the outcomes of Green and Sussman (1990). For Mc

Connell et al., farmers prefer to clear land with less slope but in the end, steep slopes

are cleared as well when no more land is available. In a second step, McConnell et al.

(2004) mapped the difference between the prediction of the model and the actual land

use change (Map 7). They showed that the surroundings of the protected areas and the

eastern side of the escarpment were less cleared than predicted by the model. The

western side, on the other hand, was more cleared than predicted. This could be

explained by an aspect effect that has not been integrated into the model: on the

eastern side, the available land for agriculture is located at the altitudinal limit for rice

cultivation, which seems to be at about 800-900 meters. Above this elevation, rice

cultivation is more risky due to an excess of rain, as said earlier and as we will see in

Chapter 5. On the western side, rainfall is lower and rice can be cultivated at higher

altitude. McConnell et al. assert that facing this natural frontier, farmers “clean-up”

the forest remnants (2004, 183), which is consistent with Nambena’s (2007)

conclusion. On the western side, to the contrary, the pattern is that of recent agrarian

colonization, with land being cleared inside large forest blocks. McConnell et al.

Beforona Beforona

1957 1976

Ambodilaingo Ambodilaingo

Map 6. Forest clearing in the study area, from 1957 to 2000.

Sources: Maps from McConnel et al. (2004,173), using sources from “(a)
IGN/FTM topographic maps S-47N and S-47S (PERINET and LAKATO), based
on aerial photographs from 1957, scale: 1:50,000, projection: Conformal Laborde,
publisher: L’Institut Geographique National (France)/Foiben-Taosarintanin’I
Madagasikara (Madagascar); (b) Landsat MSS, 5 June 1976, Scene ID:
LM2169073007615790; (c) Landsat TM, 21 November 1994, Scene ID:
LT5158073009432510; (d) Landsat ETM+, 19 April 2000, Scene ID:
LE7158073000011050.” (McConnel et al. 2004, 173)

Names and arrows added by Pollini.

Beforona Beforona

1994 2000

Ambodilaingo Ambodilaingo

Map 6 (continued).

National Ambavaniasy

Analamazaotra forest
Special NR2



The lower values (blue) are forests predicted to be cleared, but

Legend: eventually not cleared.
The higher values (red) are forests predicted not to be cleared,
but eventually cleared.

Comments: Lower values are concentrated around the protected areas (the
Vohimana forest is a concession managed by the NGO MATE). Higher values are
concentrated to the west, which could be explained by an aspect effect not
considered by the model (rice can be grown at higher altitude on the western side
of the escarpment) or by a displacement of pressures.

Map 7: Land use change compared to prediction by model.

Source: McConnel et al. (2004, 178). Names, arrows and comments added by

(2004, 171) conclude that “while overall land change patterns in the region are largely

explained by elevation and village proximity, more specific, sub-regional, trajectories

reflect the signatures of institutions governing access to land.” In other words, the

creation of protected areas (Mantadia National Park) may have provoked a

displacement of the pressures at regional scale. This conclusion, however, could have

been biased by unforeseen aspect effects not integrated into the model.

Map 8, elaborated by Conservation International Madagascar, shows the

regional deforestation in the period 1993-2000. Today, most land is covered by

secondary vegetation (Map 9). Deforested land is either cultivated or is dominated by

different types of secondary vegetation that will be described in the section about land


2.5. Soils

The soils are ferralitic with strong desaturation, except on forest land and

recently cleared land where they still have an elevated organic matter content, and in

the bottom lands and lower parts of the slopes where they benefit from transfer of

particles by erosion. The level of degradation is correlated with the number and

frequency of clearings and burnings that have occurred and to the vulnerability of the

soils, itself determined by the slope and organic content. These aspects will be

addressed in more detail in the section about land uses. The main constraints for

cultivation are a low phosphorus availability and aluminum toxicity.

Concerning erosion, it does not lead to catastrophic events except landslides

during cyclones (Brand and Rakotovao 1997; Brand et al. 1997). It is more intense on

soils plowed for ginger cultivation than on slash-and-burn systems (Brand and

Rakotovao 1997).



forest Mangerivola

Analamazaotra National
Special Park

Protected areas
Beforona Classified forests
Ambodilaingo Cleared forest (1993-2000)
Non forest
Cloud on forest

Map 8: Protected areas and regional deforestation in Mantadia-Zahamena

Source: Conservation International Madagascar, July 2003.

Legend translated by myself. Blue square added by myself for showing area on map 7
and 8, page 134 to 136.

Map 9: vegetation in Beforona and in the surrounding.
Source: Nambena (2007, 55). Translation by Pollini.

Based on Landsat image
from September 1993

Area on
maps 7
and 8
page 134
to 136

Railway Provincial capital

National Road 2 District capital
River Commune of Beforona
Lake Protected area

Low altitude savannah (0-100 m; rain > 2500mm)

Higher altitude savannah (750-1000 m; rain < 1750mm)
Low altitude fallow land (0-350 m; rain > 2500mm)
Medium altitude fallow land (350-750 m; rain > 2000 mm)
Medium altitude rain forest (750-1000 m; rain > 1750mm)
Mountain rain forest (altitude > 1000 m; rain > 1750 mm)

3. Population and society

3.1. Demography

As in the rest of Madagascar, a population explosion occurred in the second

half of the twentieth century. Annual population growth is now 2.7%, which is close to

the national average. Map 10 shows the demographic density in 1997 in Beforona and

in Ranomafana, a commune located farther east. We can notice that the fokontany

with lowest population densities are not necessarily those located close to the forest.

This can be explained by a higher land degradation, which encourages emigration

from these areas that have been inhabited for a longer period. Figure 5 shows the age

pyramid in Marolafa, a fokonany 113 of Beforona. It shows that the population is very

young, which is typical of most rural areas of Madagascar.

3.2. Ethnicity

The population (Table 6) is mostly composed of Betsimisaraka people, who

have a Bezanozano origin for part of them, as I will show in Chapter 5. The second

most important group is the Sihanaka, who also practice agriculture. The other groups

are the Antesaka, the Merina and the Betsileo, who established mostly to develop

trading activities or take jobs, and a very small minority of Antandroy charcoal makers

and traders of Chinese origin. The Merina and Chinese people dominate the economic,

administrative and political life. Chinese and Merina traders use their earnings to buy

land and are now the biggest landowners. They usually buy the most suitable land for

intensive agriculture, especially the bottom land that can easily be irrigated. They also

appropriate land by matrimonial alliance and by practicing usury: the debtors use their

land asset as a guaranty to purchase necessity products on credit, frequently failing to

Beforona is composed of 13 fokontany (see note 1 page 3).

Map 10: Population density per Fokontany in the communes of Beforona and
Ranomafana, in 1991.
Source: Zurbuchen (no date), in Moor and Bark (1998, 12).


Women Men

Number Number
of persons of persons

Figure 5: Age pyramid in Marovoalavo, Beforona.

Source: Zurbuchen (no date), in Barck and Moor (1998, 15). Translation by Pollini.

Table 6: Population in Beforona by ethnic group.

Source: Barck and Moor (1998). Translation by Pollini.

Ethnic group Population % of total Main occupation

Betsimisaraka 9331 80.3 Agriculture
Merina 981 8.4 Trade, administration, agriculture
Sihananaka 928 8.0 Agriculture
Antesaka 316 2.7 Trade and agriculture
Betsileo 58 0.5 Trade and labor force
Antandroy 5 Charcoal production
Chinese origin 2 Trade
Total 11621 100

pay back these loans and eventually losing their land. Land appropriated in this way is

mostly located along National Road 2.

3.3. Education

According to Nambena (2004), the first schools in Beforona were built in the

1930s. All fokontany had an elementary school in 1975 and the junior high school

opened in 1979. Children have to move to the district town of Moramanga when they

want to attend high school.

The education level decreased during the last decades. People educated in the

1950s are more literate than the new generation. In remote villages, state teachers

often refuse to take their positions and parents replace them with nonprofessional

teachers whose skills are not always sufficient. Parents recruit them locally and pay

them themselves. Many schools destroyed by the cyclones have not been rebuilt.

During the rainy season, the danger of crossing rivers can impede school attendance.

Some parents are discouraged by the cost of school necessities or need their children

to support them in domestic and agricultural activities, such as pest control.

3.4. Healthcare

A local health center was built in 1983 (CSB I 114 ) and provided with more

equipment and means in 1996 (CSB II 115 ). It is supposed to have a doctor and a nurse,
but the appointed staff often refuses its assignment or manages to be moved to a

bigger city after a short time. Staff with no or little medical training, but fortunately a

long experience in the region, often have to provide healthcare. A private doctor also

works in the commune. Consultation is cheap (a few USD for the most common

Basic Health Center Level 1. In French : Centre de Sante de Base de Niveau 1.
Basic Health Center Level 2. In French : Centre de Sante de Base de Niveau 2.

illnesses, including the cost of pills) but still represents a sacrifice for poor households.

The main constraint to health care is the distance to the health center. Often, only

people living close to the road (less than five kilometers) consult a doctor. Others

“wait,” use traditional medicine or practice auto-medication, because traveling to

Beforona implies some costs they cannot bear (the time of the persons that accompany

them, the need to find a place to stay and to buy food if the health care lasts several

days). The influenza epidemic of 2002, presented in Chapter 5, will provide an

illustration of these issues.

3.5. Brief political and socio-economic history 116

At the time of the first settlements, village life was controlled by the

agricultural calendar and traditional ceremonies. As we saw in Chapter 1,

Betsimisaraka people were organized into small kingdoms or chiefdoms and were

peaceful. But those from the hinterlands suffered from raids for slavery from those

living on the coast, which may explain their move westward and the population

distribution in space.

The economy has always been based on agriculture. There are a few mining

activities in the commune (gold, corindon), but these do not provide significant

income. Slash-and-burn cultivation has always been the main land use and forest

clearing started to be repressed by the Merina administration in the nineteenth century.

Merina people also introduced forced labor for the construction of the first road that

linked the coast to the highland (Nambena 2004).

Perturbation of the local economy increased during the colonial period.

According to Nambena (2004), the first French colonists arrived at the end of the

The information is this section is mostly from Nambena (2004) and Styger (2004).

nineteenth century. They introduced the SMOTIG 117 (forced labor) for the

improvement of the road, the construction of the railway and the planting of

eucalyptus to feed the trains’ steam engines. The construction of these infrastructures

attracted labor force and traders from other regions, resulting in a demographic

increase that accelerated deforestation. A per capita tax also was introduced. A

regulation issued on October 30, 1904, stated that those not able to pay this tax owed

labor days to the administration. Farmers were asked to move to the Andasibe camp,

located 25 kilometers west from Beforona, to plant eucalyptus or do other jobs, for the

benefit of administrators or colonists. Farmers developed cash crops (mostly coffee

and bananas) as a way to pay these taxes and to avoid forced labor. Cash crops also

were aimed at propelling indigenous people into a market economy, leading to some

changes in the traditional modes of consumption. Traders from other ethnic groups

moved to the area to open small shops and collect agricultural products (Nambena


During the colonial period, an agricultural service supported the development

of irrigation schemes and the diffusion of new rice varieties and cultivation techniques

(Nambena 2004). The first veterinaries also toured the region. Forest clearing was

forbidden and the practice of tavy was submitted to increasing restrictions. Agents

from the colonial administration were regularly visiting the area for the purpose of

control. Wood extraction also started during this period, but rather in the neighboring

commune of Ambatovolo. In Ambavaniasy (located on National Road 2, 10

kilometers west from Beforona), two colonial companies, the “Compagnie coloniale”

and “grande Ile” initiated wood extraction in the 1930s, attracting immigrants that

worked as loggers (Styger 2004).

Labor service for General Interest Work. In French: Service de Main d’Oeuvre pour les Travaux
d’Intérêt élevé Général.

The colonial pressures provoked strong cultural and social resistances that

have been analyzed in detail by Althabe (1969). The resistance peaked with the revolt

of 1947, which resulted from an increase in the number of forced labor days in the

early 1940s, due to the war effort required by the French government. After these

events, economic and political pressure on the population decreased and a more

prosperous era started. Forced labor was abolished by the end of colonization but the

per capita tax lasted until the second republic.

The period of the first republic, after independence, was relatively prosperous,

as in the rest of the country (Chapter 2). The government provided support to develop

irrigated rice cultivation. The road network provided more opportunities to sell

agricultural products and veterinaries still visited the area. Education was more

efficient than at present and cash crops, mostly coffee, were sold at a satisfying price.

It seems that there was a relative regional specialization, Beforona producing coffee

and buying rice grown in Ambatondrazaka. Staff from Forest Services were still

patrolling the area to control forest clearing. They forbade tavy on the upper parts of

the hills but authorized it on lower parts. They also provided support for creating

irrigation schemes because the forest and hydraulic services depended on the same

direction of the Ministry of Water and Forest at this time, as we saw in Chapter 2.

Paddy fields were more extensive than at present, despite the fact that population

density was significantly lower.

Unfortunately, the situation started to degrade in the early 1970s. The price of

coffee and all agricultural products plummeted. Hydraulic infrastructure started to

degrade, due to the end of state supports and to the farmers’ lack of resources. The

state entered into bankruptcy and state representatives stopped visiting the area. The

new regime, after 1975, started a “do as you please” policy that encouraged forest

clearing. The ban on clearing of hill tops was not respected anymore (Styger 2004)

and the population went back to an economy almost entirely based on tavy.

The trend has been reversed in the late 1980s by the renovation of the road,

which created new market opportunities, mostly to sell ginger and bananas, and by a

return to a ban on forest clearing, which, however, had little effect due to the absence

of Forest Services (Styger 2004). But the low price of agricultural products and the

high cost of transportation limited these opportunities to villages located close to the

road. Due to the permanent degradation of soil fertility, livelihoods have continued to

decline to the present, at least in remote villages, as we will see in Chapter 5.

A new economic shock occurred in 2002. In August 2002, the Malagasy

government started a strong campaign against bush fires. The new president had just

been elected and the donors supporting the National Environmental Action Plan

needed a strong signal of his commitment to protecting the environment. On August 7,

2002, a decree (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2002) was issued that defined measures

to encourage the prevention and eradication of bush fires. This decree required the

creation of a bush fire committee in each Department. These committees, presided by

the district chief, were to include representatives of decentralized territorial

collectivities; of the environment, forestry, agriculture, and veterinary state services;

of the meteorological services; of the army and of local environmental

nongovernmental organizations (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2002, article 1). They

were in charge of classifying the communes according to the following criterion:

• deserving communes, who made significant efforts to fight against

fires, as shown by the fact that they have not been invaded by fires,

• encouraged communes, who actively contributed to the extinguishing

of wild fires in their territory and within which a diminution of burned

land has been recorded,

• failing communes, who did not make efforts and still need to become

more responsible. (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2002, article 2).

Premiums and certificates were delivered to the deserving and encouraged

communes, and these certificates were the condition for obtaining funding to

implement the communal development plan (Article 3).

This decree does not forbid tavy. It merely defines incentives and penalties for

the communes that control or do not control fires. It is thus consistent with the spirit of

the ordonnance 60-127 (Gouvernement de Madagascar 1960), still valid, which

distinguishes different types of fires and does not forbid tavy per se (Chapter 2). But

on September 28, 2002 the President of Madagascar made a speech on Malagasy

radio. As in the decree, the word tavy was not mentioned in this discourse. But the

speech was followed by a series of arrests of farmers who practiced tavy in

Ambatovolo, the commune located west from Beforona. The information spread very

quickly in the region. Most farmers were afraid of doing tavy, including on degraded

secondary vegetation. The antifire campaign became an anti-tavy campaign. In 2003,

the Toamasina Province confirmed this move by issuing a decree that forbids tavy.

The repression was, however, less strong than in 2002 and the situation returned to

normal in 2004. Chapter 5 will show the impact of the anti-tavy campaign in the

fokontany of Ambodilaingo, while Chapter 6 will explain the relationships between

these measures and the presence of rural development projects in the area.

3.6. Social organization

The current social organization involves a state administration, whose mode of

organization frequently changed along time, and traditional authorities, which always

existed but are weakening.

The state is currently represented in each fokontany by a “Chef de quartier”

(fokontany chief) appointed by the mayor and supported by a village chief in each

hamlet inside the fokontany. These representatives are not paid but receive a small

indemnity (about five USD/month). The fokontany chiefs sign administrative acts

such as birth and death acts or residence permits. Their tasks are not burdensome.

They have no office and usually live in the same way as other villagers.

The traditional leader, at the scale of a community (fokonolona), is the

Tangalamena. He is in charge of celebrating ceremonies, principally burials and land

allocation for doing tavy. He serves as an intermediary between the population and the

ancestors. He is supported by a spokesman, the Vavanjaka, who in certain case can

have more influence than him on the population. Usually, all the inhabitants of a

village constitute a fokonolona 118 and are represented by the same Tangalamena and

Vavanjaka, but there can be exceptions. Important decisions are taken by a village

elder council, which includes representatives of each lineage, plus sometimes

representatives of the young, the women, and a few influential or more educated

people such as the teacher or people who had the opportunity to travel far away

outside the village.

The village council, in collaboration with administrative representatives, can

create community laws called dinas. The dinas are usually not written but are the basis

on which the community life is ruled. The most important ones can nevertheless be

written and registered at the commune, which gives them some legal power. Dinas

define behavior rules, offences and punishment, concerning for example the ignition

of uncontrolled fires, theft of agricultural products or violation of traditional taboos.

The fokonolona in the traditional sense thus does not correspond to the modern definition, where the
fokonolona is the population of the fokontany.

Dinas can also be created at a lower level, by a group of farmers who want to organize

collective activities such as maintaining an irrigation scheme.

Ceremonies have an important role to play in every day life. They consist

mostly in sacrificing oxen as a cult to the ancestors. The main reasons for these

celebrations are funerals, the birth of a tenth child, circumcision, the obtaining of

rights to cultivate certain land and the violation of taboos. I will describe these

ceremonies in more detail in the Chapter 5 and will show that they changed over time.

Reciprocal aid between households is used for certain agricultural works but

tends to be replaced by paid labor.

3.7. Land Tenure

The traditional authorities are in charge of allocating land to households, which

allows a quite equitable repartition of resources. Most land is not legally owned and

belongs to the state. Only traders and a few farmers with more education, more

financial resources and more connection with state domain services manage to obtain

land ownership. These privately owned lands are mostly irrigated rice fields located

along the road. Migrant traders manage to appropriate the best lands by buying them,

by matrimonial alliance or by usury. In this case, the land is used as a guarantee and

taken from the borrower when he fails to pay. The land market concerns both domain

land (not entitled but whose use rights are recognized by traditional authorities) and

land privately owned (entitled). In the later case, the land can be sold at a higher price.

3.8. Land uses

I will describe in more detail the farming, cropping and animal husbandry systems in

Chapter 5, which focuses on the village of Ambodilaingo, and in Chapter 6, which

reviews the alternatives to slash-and-burn cultivation. As an introduction and for a

better understanding of the sections that follow, I will provide a few elements her.

Table 7 lists the main cultivated crops and Map 11 shows the repartition of

land uses in the surroundings of Beforona. Fallow land clearly dominates the

landscape. Figure 6 represents the allocation of work according to activities, showing

that slash-and-burn cultivation employs most of the labor force.

3.8.1. Slash-and-burn cultivation

Tavy (Photograph 3 and 4 page 145 and Photographs 14 and 15 in Chapter 5,

page 187) consists in clearing and burning a piece of land in order to grow rice

associated with a variety of other annuals crops the first year (see list and frequency in

Table 8). Cassava, sometimes sweet potato, and rarely beans are planted the second

year, on part of the plot only. Cassava can also be planted the first year after burning,

if the land is too degraded to support rice cultivation. But in this case, the field is not

called a tavy.

Tavy gives better harvest if it is practiced on forest fertile soils but forest

clearing is forbidden by the state, as we saw. Moreover, the remaining forests are

located on the Betsimisaraka escarpment, which is not very suitable for rice cultivation

due to excessive rainfall. For these reasons, tavy is mostly practiced on secondary

vegetation. It is also sometimes practiced in eucalyptus woodlands (Photograph 4),

which reveals the lack of space and the integrative approach to land management by


Table 9 lists the main species encountered in fallow land. On the most fertile

soils, which are mainly found in recently cleared areas, secondary vegetation is

Table 7: Cultivated species in Beforona

Common name Scientific name Malagasy name French name

Aspargus bean Vigna unguiculata ssp sesquipedalis Voanemba Ambirique

Pineapple Ananas comosus Mananasy Ananas
Egg plant Solanum melongena Angivy Aubergine amère
Sugar cane Saccharum officinarum Fary Canne à sucre
Carrot Daucus carotta Karôty Carotte
Chayote Sechium edule Saosety Chayotte
Chinese cabbage Brassica chinensis Petsay Choux de chine
Cabbage Brassica oleracea Laisoa Choux pommes
Cucumber Cucumus sativus Konkombra Concombre
Squashes Cucurbita pepo Korozety Courgette
Watercress Nasturtium officinale Anandrano Cresson
Ginger Zingiber officinale Sakamalao Gingembre
Common bean Phaseolus vulgaris Tsaramaso Haricot
Yam Dioscorea sp Oviala Igname
Maize Zea mays Katsaka Maïs
Cassava Manihot altissima Mangahazo Manioc
Watermelon Citrulus lunatus Voatango Melon d’eau
Black nightshade Solanum nigum Anamamy Morelle noire
Cowpea Vigna unguiculata ssp unguiculata Voantsoroka Niébé
Onion Allium cepa Tongolo be Oignon
Sweet potato Ipomea batatas Vomanga Patate douce
Pea Pisum sativum Petipoa Petits pois
Chilli pepper Capsicum frutescens Sakay Piment
Bambara groundnut Vigna substerranea Voanjobory Pois bambara
Lima beans Phaseolus lunatus Kabaro Pois du cap
Taro Colocasia antiquorum Saonjo Taro
Tomato Lycopersicon esculentum Voatabia Tomate
Bambara groundnut Voandzeia subterranea Voanjobory Voandzou

Source: Ravelomandeha (2003). Translation by Pollini (legend).

National Road 2
Rivers and streams
Home gardens
Slash-and-burn rice (tavy)
Irrigated rice fields
Irrigated rice fields in fallow
Natural forest
Fallow land

Map 11: Land use in a few Fokontany in Beforona.

Source: Brand and Randriamboavonjy (1997, 92). Translation by Pollini. Note: Ambodilaingo is not mapped.
Mining (gold)


Mutual aid



Other crops


Home garden

Paddy fields

Jul. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June.

Figure 6: Distribution of work according to activities in Beforona.

Source: Moor (1997, 38). Translation by Pollini.

Photograph 3: Tavy in ordinary fallow land, about 7 km south from Beforona.
This tavy is typical of the region. The vegetation that was cleared is a mix of ligneous
(Psiadia altissima), subligneous (Rubus moluccanus), and herbaceous species
(Aframamum angustifolium, visible in the foreground). It is not clear whether these
tavy are forbidden or not by the 60-127 law of 1960 (see chapter 2).

Photograph 4: Tavy in a eucalyptus woodland in Beforona. This picture shows that

farmers manage space in an integrative way, and that space is insufficient despite the
fact that fallow land covers vast areas. A few trees are not cut in order to provide
construction wood in the future. Farmers contend that denser eucalyptus woodland
grows after the rice is harvested.

Table 8: Plants cultivated in tavy in Ambinantsavolo, a fokontany in Beforona
Malagasy name English name Scientific name Frequency
(38 households)
Tsaramaso Beans Phaseolus vulgaris 92 %
Katsaka Corn Zea mays 83 %
Kokombra Cucumber Cucumis sativus 58 %
Kabaro or Tsidimy Lima bean Phaseolus lunatus 46 %
Tsiasisa or maley Asparagus bean Vigna unguiculata 38 %
ssp sesquipedalis
Vonemba Black eyed pea Vigna unguiculata 33 %
Voatavo or pongy Squash Cucurbita pepo 29 %
Anamamy Black nightshade Solanum nigrum, S. 25 %

Anamalao Paracress Spilanthes oleracea

Petsay, ramirebaka Chinese cabbage Brassica pekinensis, 25 %
B. chinensis
Voatango Watermelon Cucumis sp. 8%
Voanjo Groundnut Arachis hypogaea 8%
Apemba Sorghum Sorghum bicolor

Source: Nambena (2004). Translation by Pollini.

Table 9: Dominant species in fallow in the region of Beforona and Moramanga.

Source: Styger (2004, 61).

Figure 7: Yield in tavy in relation to the type of fallow vegetation.
Source: Styger (2004, 86).

dominated by woody species 119 which can form a closed canopy of about three to five

meters. Trema orientalis and Solanum Mauritianum indicate the most fertile soils,

usually on land that has been cultivated just one time after forest clearing. On the rest

of the land, the vegetation is dominated by herbaceous perennials 120 or semi ligneous

shrublets 121 when the soils are still in acceptable condition, or by a mix of shrubs and

ferns 122 or grasses 123 when the soil has been degraded by more frequent or numerous

fires. Aluminum toxicity and phosphorus depletion seem to be the main factors

determining soil fertility (Pfund 2000). It is, however, still controversial whether soil

fertility or weed invasion is the main cause of abandonment of degraded land (Pfund


Styger (2003) studied the retrogressive succession of fallow species along

successive slash-and-burn cultivation cycles and measured the rice yields obtained on

each of these vegetation types. Her results are summarized in Figure 7 (page 148). The

correlation between fertility and the number of previous cultivation cycles is, however,

not as clear as it appears in this diagram. Topography is also an important factor as

degradation is faster on steep slopes and slower on the lower part of the slopes, due to

accumulation of nutrients and deeper soils (Pfund 2000). As Beforona has been

inhabited for over a century (Section 2.4), most land has been cultivated more than six

times, meaning that overall land degradation may be slower than what is shown in

Figure 7 (page 148). We will see in Chapter 5 that uncontrolled fires, rather than tavy,

may explain the later stages (ferns and grasses) of this retrogressive succession.

Psiadia altissima (DC.) Drake (Asteraceae), Harungana madagascariensis Lam. ex Poir.
(Clusiaceae), Solanum mauritianum Scop.(Solanaceae) and Trema orientalis L. Blume (Ulmaceae).
Aframomum angustifolium [Sonn.] K. Schum (Zingiberaceae).
Lantana camara L (Verbenaceae), Rubus moluccanus L (Rosaceae) and Clidemia hirta [L.] D. Don
Pteridium acquilinum [L.] Kuhn and Sticherus flagellaris [Bory ex Willd.] Ching.
Imperata cylindrica [L.] Raeusch (Poaceae).

In Beforona, tavy is often practiced on land more or less densely covered by

Rubus, Lantana and Aframomum, meaning that rice yield ranges from 0.5 to 1 ton per

hectare. Whether the legislation about vegetation clearing and burning (Gouvernement

de Madagascar 1960) applies to this type of tavy is unclear, as we saw in Chapter 2

(Aframomum is not ligneous and while Rubus and Lantana stems are ligneous, they

can hardly be regarded as woody). Farmers living close to the forest have access to

less degraded land and enjoy higher yields (1 to 2 tons per hectare). But in this case,

tavy implies the clearing of dense ligneous vegetation (Trema, Harungana and

Psiadia, small trees or shrubs used as firewood) and is clearly forbidden by the law

(although the law has seldom been enforced).

Vegetation degradation follows an east to west gradient, the less degraded land

being encountered in the west, where clearing has been more recent. One could

conclude that the region has been populated by successive waves of migrants coming

from the east and presents a pattern typical of most agricultural frontiers. I will show

in Chapter 5 that despite the fact that this tendency is real, things are actually not that


Vegetation type indicates how much yield can be expected on average from a

tavy, but the variation around this average is very elevated, due to climatic risks and

frequent pest attacks, mostly rats, a small bird called Fody (Foudia madagascariensis)

and Behatoka, a small black coleopterea (Heteronychus plebejus Klug, 1832) that
appeared in the area around 1965.

The practice of tavy just requires a machete, an axe if it is done in the forest

and a stick for sowing. It is accessible for all households. Tavy also resists cyclones

better than most other crops.

According to Moor (1998b), tavy would be the less profitable system, with a

labor productivity ranging from 2000 to 3000 FMg/ day of labor (about 0.25 to 0.35

USD). The average production per household would vary from about 600 to 1200

kilograms of rice. We will see in Chapter 5 that the risk factor, the limited investment

capacity of farmers and the higher opportunity cost of labor during certain periods of

the year can explain why this land use is still practiced, in spite of its low profitability.

Normally, firebreaks are created around tavy to avoid wildfires. These efforts

vary according to the presence of state control. They were systematically made during

the anti-tavy campaign. Overall, wildfires are encountered but less frequently than in

the highland or western Madagascar. They result from the absence of firebreaks, or

from conflicts between villages or families, usually over land tenure issues.

3.8.2. Paddy fields

Beside tavy, irrigated rice cultivation is the second most important cropping

system if we consider the labor force allocated to it (Figure 6 page 144). It is however

not practiced on large areas, due to the narrowness of bottom lands, to the limited

investment capacity of farmers and to the damage caused by cyclones to irrigation

schemes. Rice can be harvested twice a year on the same land (in January and in June)

if the plot is irrigated. The government provided some support for the development of

irrigation schemes in the past, mostly during the first republic, but most dams have

been destroyed by cyclones and never rebuilt. Irrigated rice cultivation, and its

profitability in comparison with tavy, will be studied in more detail in Chapter 5 and 6.

3.8.3. Home gardens

Home gardens (Photograph 5) are important in the local economy. Finding an

appropriate spot to create a home garden is a concern for most new households. This

system is usually located in the lower part of the slopes or along small streams, due to

more fertile soils and wetter conditions. Home gardens are dominated by a mix

Photograph 5: A home garden in Sahavolo (Beforona). Photograph by Nambena
(2004, 202). The big tree on the left is an Albizzia. Banana trees are visible in the
foreground and coffee trees grow behind the farmer.

bananas and coffee trees, both introduced around 1940 (Nambena 2004). Banana

became an important cash crop in the area after the renovation of the road in 1987. It

has the advantage of requiring little care once established and of providing a low but

constant income which helps to buy first necessity products.

The size of home gardens and the number of banana trees decreases when

distance from the road increases (Figure 8), because the cost of transportation renders

banana cultivation unprofitable (Photograph 6). Coffee used to provide significant

income after its introduction during the colonial period, but its price declined in the

late 1990s. Sugarcane, which provides sugar for local consumption and serves for the

fabrication of local rum 124 , plus a few fruit trees, mainly avocado, oranges, grapefruits

and jackfruits, are associated with banana and coffee trees. Their commercialization is

rendered difficult by the lack of market opportunities and by transportation issues

(Photograph 6). Fruits are often left rotting on the ground.

3.8.4. Ginger cultivation

After the decline of coffee cultivation, ginger became the main cash crop. But

as with banana, its cultivation is profitable only along the road (less than ten

kilometers) due to transportation costs. Its price also tends to decline. Ginger can

cover significant areas close to the road. It leads to the appearance of new land uses

because it implies plowing the land, which allows exploiting better soil fertility. Rice

and sometimes other crops are planted on the same plot after ginger is harvested,

which opens the way to an evolution toward new cropping systems where crop

rotation is applied while the fallow period is shortened (Photograph 7). The problem is

that plowing can cause considerable erosion if it is practiced on steep slopes (Brand

and Rakotovao 1997). Farmers attempt to reduce soil loss by creating drainage ditches

In Malagasy language: tokagasy.

Number of trees
Nom bre de pieds plantés

Fruit trees
60 CSugar
annecaneà sucre



5 10 15 20
Distance from the road in Km
Distance (km) à la RN2

Figure 8: Relation between the extension of home gardens and the

distance from National Road 2.
Source: Nambena (2007, 27) with data from Randrianarisoa (1998).

Photograph 6: Banana transportation. These young men are in good health and live
close to the road (5 kilometers). They carry about 50 kilograms of bananas, which they
will sell for about 300 FMg/Kg (15000 FMg or 1.5 USD in total). By doing this
several times a week, they can buy rice and first necessity products for their family
during the rice shortage period and can invest in intensification (see chapter 7). The
photograph was taken 5 kilometers south from Beforona.

Photograph 7: Landscape transformation in Beforona. This hillside announces a
transition from Boserup’s stages 3 (short fallow) to 4 (annual cropping), as we will see
in Chapters 5 and 6. Plowing is the operation which makes this transition technically
possible. Markets (for ginger) provide the opportunities and incentives that render it
profitable to invest significant labor in the new system. Crop rotations are not yet fixed
but farmers collectively learn by a series of trials and errors.

around the plot (Photographs 8, 9 and 10). In spite of these problems, the future land

uses of Beforona may be derived from this system (Photograph 7 page 156), as we

will see in Chapter 6. Displacing ginger fields to the bottom part of the slopes or inside

home gardens could be a way to conciliate farmer strategies with better soil

management practices. Chapter 6 will explore this possibility.

3.8.5. Vegetables

Vegetable cultivation is not much developed. A few vegetables are mixed with

rice on tavy (Table 8 page 146) and some families create small vegetable gardens

close to their house. Chinese cabbage (Brassica chinensis) is the most frequently

encountered vegetable. Only a few families specialize in market oriented vegetables,

usually with support from projects (Chapter 7). Market opportunities are presently too

limited for a generalization of their experience. Vegetable cultivation is also rendered

difficult by climatic uncertainties and by the limited investment capacity of most


3.8.6. Improved fallow

Fallow land and forests also contribute to the household’s economy. Farmers

improve fallow land by planting pineapples that can grow well with almost no care.

This system is highly profitable despite the fact that pineapples are sold at a quite low


3.8.7. Livestock husbandry

Livestock husbandry is very little developed but was much more important in

the past. According to Messerli (2002, in Nambena 2004), the decline started in 1947,

when the colonial power killed many animals to repress the nationalist insurrection. In

Photograph 8: Indigenous techniques for erosion control. Confronted by elevated
soil losses on plowed hillsides, farmers create vertical and oblique drains to evacuate
excessive water. These drains are sometimes consolidated with rocks or planted with
maize or cassava. Techniques proposed by projects (contour lines), to the contrary,
provoke water infiltration, which can favor landslides according to (Brand and
Rakotovao 1997).

Photograph 9: Manual plowing in a ginger field in Beforona. This plot is on a
steep slope. It is narrow in order to facilitate the evacuation of water by the vertical
drains. The weeds are thrown out of the plot because otherwise, they would regrow
after the first rain. This still increases soil losses.

Photograph 10: Drainage ditches planted with maize in a ginger field in

Beforona. These improvements are certainly insufficient but their effect would
deserve to be measured.

the late 1950s, the invasion of unpalatable perennial plants (Lantana camara and

Rubus mollucanus) resulted in a reduction of available forage, favoring the

development of diseases. The end of veterinary services in 1975, the economic crisis

of the 1980s, and the conflicts between herders and agriculturalists would have led to

the current situation where less than 10% of households raise cattle (Messerli 2002;

Nambena 2004).

Pigs are not often raised because of traditional taboos that put a ban on

husbandry and consumption. These taboos tend to disappear and more and more

households raise pigs (Nambena 2004), which they feed mostly with banana stems and

cassava. Sheep and goats are absent. Chicken are raised by almost every household in

an extensive way. They usually eat what they can find around the dwellings. A very

few families, usually those that have a rice surplus, raise fowls in a more intensive

manner. Rabbits recently started to be raised but are stricken by diseases. Manure is

usually not used, but starts to be so in villages with higher population density such as

Ambinanisahavolo (Nambena 2004).

3.8.8. Forest product extraction and land exploitation

Forest extraction in Beforona is practiced in a way similar to what occurs in

Madagascar in general. Operators hire the service of intermediaries that live along the

road and collect boards and beams transported by hand up to the road (Photograph 11).

This provides jobs to farmers living close to the forest (Photograph 12). Wood is cut-

up directly in the forest, by loggers hired by the operators or by farmers who

specialize in this activity. Extraction occurs at a distance that varies from 20 to 50

kilometers off the road, in total disregard of permit boundaries. Beyond this distance,

extraction is not profitable due to transportation costs. Palisander (Dalbergia sp.), a

first category tree, has been widely extracted from the primary forest over the last ten

Photograph 11: Wood exploitation in Beforona. Wood is harvested mostly south
from the commune of Beforona, in an area that has been reserved as a potential
conservation site and which includes the Vohidrazana forest and the remaining
primary forests of Ambodilaingo. (Ankeniheny site, see map 2). Exploitation permits
in potential conservation sites were suspended in 2004 (see chapter 2), as well as the
delivery of new permits. This exploitation is claimed to be legal because forest
services provide authorization for stock evacuation, but the trees collected now were
actually cut after the 2004 suspension.

Photograph 12: Wood transportation. Salary for this work is about 15000 FMg (1.5
USD) for transporting a board weighing 30 kilograms a distance of about 20-25 Km..
The income is higher than for Banana transportation for a given weight transported.
Farmers from remote villages, such as Ambodilaingo, were much involved in this
activity over the ten last years.

years. Its stock is almost depleted but other types of wood started to be harvested

recently. I will describe this extraction in more detail in Chapter 5.

Wild vegetables, material for the construction of houses, medicinal plants and

firewood are collected in fallows and in the forest (see list of medicinal plants in Table

10 and useful woods in Figure 9). Wild plants collected in fallows represent an

important part, probably the main part, of the vegetables that are consumed. Hunting is

also important and contributes significantly to the diet, at least for the households that

live close to the forest. Fishing is practiced in most rivers and stream. All these

activities contribute to the economy of most households, but no quantification is


3.9. Farming systems

Table 11 summarizes the performances of cropping systems in Beforona. It

shows that the most profitable system, in terms of labor productivity, is the home

garden, which can be explained by its perennial character and by the low labor

required for its maintenance, once established. Tavy seems to be the less profitable

system, certainly due to land degradation. But secondary crops associated with rice,

which represent a significant value, should be considered for a more accurate

measurement. Concerning irrigated rice fields, Moor (1998b) does not provide data in

Beforona, but calculated that in Salampinga, located 15 kilometers east from Beforona

(Map 5 page 114), 118 days of labor are necessary to produce 666 kilograms of paddy

rice, resulting in a productivity of 4231 FMg (about 0.65 USD) per day of labor.

The combination of these cropping and livestock systems at the household

scale constitutes a farming system. Figure 10 represents a typical farming system in

Beforona and Figure 6 (page 144) shows the distribution of work among the different

activities. These two figures show that farmers in Beforona are far from being

Table 10: Main medicinal plants in the Vohidrazana watershed (See Map 5 page 114
for localization)
# Local name Scientific name Part used Treated disease
1 Ahipody Panicum brevifolium Entire Wound
2 Akondro Musa spp Leaves Stomach ache
3 Andriambavifohy Cabucala spp Leaves Stomach ache
4 Angadoha Elephantopus scaber Leaves Stomach ache
5 Antafanala (F) Terminalia sp Bark Stomach ache,
transmitted disease
6 Befelatanana (F) Vitex hirsutissima Leaves Protection
7 Dingadingana Psiadia altissima Leaves Stomach ache
8 Dipaty (F) Bosqueia obovata Leaves Tiredness
9 Fatraina Erythroxylum corymbosum Bark Measles
and/or Evodia spp
10 Goavintsinahy Psidium catleanum Leaves Stomach ache
11 Goavy Syzygium spp Leaves Stomach ache
12 Harongana (F) Harungana madagascariensis Leaves Wound
13 Malaomanitra Leaves Protection
14 Mandresy Phyllanthus ninuroïdes Leaves Stomach ache
15 Menahihy(F) Erythroxyllum corymbosum Bark Cold, Measles
16 Nonoka (F) Ficus pyrifolia Leaves Vertigo, Tiredness
17 Ramitsiry Ethulia conyzoïdes Leaves Wound
18 Rarà (F) Brochoneura vourii Leaves Fever
19 Ravinala Ravenala madagascariensis Leaves Bleeding
20 Ravintsompatra Clidemia hirta Leaves Stomach ache,
21 Rotra (F) Eugenia spp Leaves Stomach ache
22 Sompatra Clidemia hirta Leaves Stomach ache,
23 Takoaka Rubus mollucanus Leaves Stomach ache
24 Tanamasoandro Tithonia diversifolia Leaves Stomach ache
25 Taolampotsy Ravenala madagascariensis Powder Wound
26 Tsiandrova (F) Pauridiantha lialyi Leaves Tiredness, Nausea
27 Tsilavondrivotra Phyllantus sp Leaves Stomach ache
28 Tsitrotroka (F) Dichaetanthera spp Leaves Wound
29 Vahimainty (F) Agelaea pentagyna Stem Tiredness
30 Voatrotroka Tristema verusanum Leaves Wound
31 Volo (bambou) Dendrocalamus spp Leaves Tiredness

Source: Razafy (1999). Translation by Pollini.

13,28 11,72 10,16

24,22 73,44 % use


46,88 50,00

Harungana madagascariensis Weinmannia spp

Oliganthes spp Eucalyptus spp
Dichaetanthera spp Bosqueis spp
Faucherea spp Tambourissa spp
Albizzia spp Eugenia spp

Figure 9: Main trees used for house construction in the Vohidrazana watershed,
with frequency of utilization.
Source: Razafy (1999, 124). Sample of 128 households.

Table 11: Performance of cropping systems in Beforona, on less degraded land
Cropping Number of labor Production Production Labor
system days per year per value productivity
household (kg) (FMg/day of labor)
Tavy (rice only) 280 1140 855,000 3050
Home-garden 63 480,925 7685
Ginger 76 424 373,286 4890
Other crops 53 223,082 4222
Source: Moor (1998b). One USD = about 6000 Fmg

Note: In 2006, 1 USD = 10000 FMg. This rate probably doubled from the time these inquiries were
done. As a gross estimate, we can consider 1 USD = 6000 FMg. But the price of most crops increased
less that the USD exchange rate.

Ecological cycles Economic cycles

Figure 10: Typical farming system in Beforona (in fokontany located close to the
Source: Messerli (2003, 279). Translation by Pollini.

specialized in the practice of tavy, despite the fact that this land use dominates and

shapes the landscape. Figure 11 shows the level and distribution of income provided

by this farming system in Tanambao, a village investigated by BEMA and Terre-Tany

(see Map 5 for village location). This diagram applies to most villages located close to

the road (less than five kilometers) but the income provided by coffee, and maybe

ginger, seem to have significantly decreased after these data were collected. Moreover,

the situation is significantly different farther from the road because the main cash-

crops (ginger and bananas) are no longer profitable, due to the cost of transportation.

This issue will be investigated in Chapter 5.

4. Conclusion

Beforona presents a diversity of cropping systems that seems to evolve in

response to increasing pressure on land. Tavy is the main land use but its future is put

into question by land degradation and by the limited access to forest land. Farmers

living close to the road have several strategies to reduce their dependence upon tavy.

They improve bottom land by creating irrigation schemes, extend paddy fields and

home gardens (mostly by planting banana trees), or specialize in cash crops such as

ginger. These alternatives necessitate some investment, at least in the form of labor,

and the most profitable ones (ginger and banana cultivation) are dependant on access

to market. Given these constraints, it remains questionable whether these

intensification strategies can be applied in villages located far away from National

Road 2. Chapter 5 will show that they may not be applied, meaning that the outcomes

of the farming system research conducted in Beforona may not be representative of the

situation of ordinary tavy farmers.

Total annual income: 1,138,832 FMg (about 175 USD)

Figure 11: Income structure in Tanambao, Beforona (See map 5 page 114 for
location of village)
Source: Moor and Rasolofomanana (1998, 45). Translation by Pollini.



1. Introduction

In this chapter, I present the methodology I used to collect data in the

intervention area. This methodology has mostly been applied to the village of

Ambodilaingo, presented in Chapter 5, during the six months I spent in this village. It

was also used to collect the field data of Chapters 6 and 7, in a less formal manner,

during short visits I made in the commune from 2002 to 2007.

Section 2 will present the key methodological principles that sustain the

method for data collection. Section 3 will present the key concepts of comparative

agriculture, a discipline which provided me with a grid for reading realities. I will

conclude (Section 4) with a brief statement about the difficulties of satisfying both the

need of efficiency and the nondisciplinary ideal which this dissertation adopted.

2. Key methodological principles

2.1. Participant observation

Initially, I planned to spend two years in Ambodilaingo, from July 2001 to July

2003, and to engage a participant observation approach. Local language would be

learnt and everyday activities would be shared with villagers. As the initial subject

was centered on the analysis of vegetation dynamics in fallow, technicians would be

hired to conduct quantitative ecological measurements.

Eventually, staying two years in the village was not possible due to budget and

schedule constraints and the subject changed to the analysis of environmental policies.

I only spent six months in Ambodilaingo, which I dedicated to data collection using

the services of a translator. The first months were dedicated to ecological

measurements to satisfy the initial subject. In order to compensate for this limited

time, it was proposed to five Malagasy students to conduct their Masters research in

Ambodilaingo. They all spent several months in the village and four of them

completed their degree. Their theses provided relevant information that will be used in

this chapter. As I eventually stayed four years in Madagascar 125 , I continued to make

short but frequent visits to the village, from 2001 to 2007. The creation of the

nongovernmental organization Zanaky ny Ala (Children of the Forest), whose

President was my translator, also allowed for complementary data collection as I will

explain later.

2.2. Qualitative methods, narratives and comprehensiveness

Qualitative methods have been privileged over quantitative ones because they

were regarded as more efficient ways to achieve comprehensiveness. Quantitative

methods imply making replicate measurements of the same variable in order to apply

statistical procedures and obtain a satisfying level of accuracy. There is a price to pay

for replication, in terms of time and budget, which leads to elimination of certain

variables deemed secondary. Quantitative methods are further associated with

disciplines that determine which variable to collect and which method to use.

Qualitative methods, conversely, are less time consuming and can more easily let the

reality drive the investigation. The “qualitative researcher” can make observations

about all that is presented to his senses. He will open all black boxes because he

prefers uncertainty to ignorance. He will produce a narrative that will attempt to tell

This includes six months in Ambodilaingo from July to December 2001; 13 months based in
Antananarivo, but doing frequent visits to Ambodilaingo, from June 2002 to July 2003; two years
working as a technical advisor at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forest, and supporting the
work of the NGO Zanaky ny Ala, from February 2004 to February 2006; five months based in
Antananarivo and making frequent visits to Beforona and Ambodilaingo, from March to July 2006; and
one month interviewing people and doing field work in Beforona and Andasibe in February 2007.

true stories about what is actually going on in the real world. He will extent his

research object without limit, along a chain of actors and processes that goes from the

local (a farmer who slashes and burns a piece of forest) to the global (international

organizations concerned about the behavior of this farmer).

Researchers often avoid comprehensiveness because they are afraid to lack

time to address large objects. But for any research work, there is a point of departure

which is the studied object, and a point of arrival which is the level of detail the

researcher wants to address. The time spent to implement the research depends on the

distance between these two points. Whatever is the point of departure, the point of

arrival can be at an infinite distance (the structure of molecules, atoms, quarks, etc.) or

can be very close (a simple look at the elements that constitute a large object). This

dissertation chose to take a large object as a point of departure (a community of slash-

and-burn farmers in a global political, social, economic and ecological environment)

and to stop at the level of detail that can be addressed given the time and resources

available. This choice resulted from the statement that most previous research work

dealing with deforestation and tavy in Madagascar looked at some aspects of the issue,

not to the whole issue, as I explained in the introduction.

2.3. From enquiries to experience

Only a few formalized enquiries have been implemented during this field

work. One reason is that a large number of enquiries have already been conducted in

the area. Their results provided the knowledge basis that was presented in Chapter 3

and will feed the discussion about alternative land uses that will be presented in

Chapter 6. These investigations mostly concern villages located close to the road,

where the situation is quite different from Ambodilaingo, but they provide references

from which the situation in Ambodilaingo can be derived.

The second reason for few formalized enquiries is that farmers living in remote

villages are reluctant to respond to enquirers who “do not bring anything good in

return.” 126 They are hostile to projects and see foreigners, as well as urban educated

Malagasy people, as intruders who come to “take their land” and disturb their

livelihood. This fear of land-taking by foreigners is a frequent assertion. It is explained

by the vicinity of the Mantadia National Park, where land had actually been taken

from people as a consequence of the creation of the park (McConnell 2002).

Development project staff are not welcomed because projects are perceived as

associated with anti-tavy policies, which they actually are, as we will see in Chapter 6.

Students who do enquiries are regarded as the first signs of future intrusion and

livelihood disturbance. In this context, making quick visits to fill questionnaires would

not have been a reliable way to access information.

Concerning inquiries conducted in less remote places 127 , another type of

problem arises. Most students that did their field work in the area collected data in a

few fokontany located close to the road (less than ten kilometers). Farmers developed

a discourse which they expect would fit the expectation of these enquirers. They

minimize the environmental impact of their land use because they know projects are

associated with antifire and anti-slash-and-burn policies; they exaggerate their poverty

and hide certain resources because they expect projects will target the poorest

communities first; they hesitate to criticize government policies and project activities.

These biases can be mitigated, mainly by developing a closer relationship with

This expression has been formulated in a similar way by many farmers during enquiries. In this
chapter, expressions between quotation marks are citations of farmers’ words, as I recorded them during
my enquiries. These citations result from a double translation, from Malagasy to French by my
translator, and from French to English by myself. I did not use a tape recorder and translation may
sometimes have been imperfect. Only expressions that relate to clear and explicit facts have been
quoted in this chapter, in order to minimize the risks of mistranslation. When long citations are
presented, they associate answers to several questions, separated by comas.
Despite the fact that I centered my analysis on Ambodilaingo, I also conducted interviews in other
villages, mostly to understand how rural development projects are perceived in the region.

villagers and gaining their confidence. But they cannot be completely avoided and are

particularly important when dealing with politically sensitive subjects such as

deforestation and tavy. The consequence is that drinking a cup of coffee with farmers

was a more efficient data collection methodology than filling out questionnaires.

This coffee drinking metaphor illustrates a methodological approach which I

call “experiencing the reality.” It consists of a long immersion in the village’s life, in

order to participate in villagers’ activities, instead of asking them to participate in ours

(our enquiries, our focus groups, our MARP). In contrast to ethnologists’ participant

observation, “experiencing the reality” implies to go beyond observation and to be

more actively involved. This involvement does not mean to go hunting, to plow the

land with farmers or to participate in their ceremonies. These things can be done if

they happen naturally; if they are done selfishly for “us” and not artificially to please

“them.” Experiencing reality simply means to play our own role, which in my case

was that of an external person that wants, as a student, to understand the way

communities live and, as a development professional, to support rural development. In

other words, it means to be genuinely curious of who the people are, what they do and

what they want, while still doing our own job, remaining aware of who we are and of

what society we belong to. Experiencing realities optimizes, if not maximizes,

authenticity, transparency and confidence, which may improve information reliability

and relevance.

The type of data I collected partly depended on the events that occurred

everyday. When a series of people visited me to ask support to buy rice seedlings for

their tavy, I paid attention to investment and credit issues. When an eight year old

child walked far away to purchase firewood while eucalyptus grew close to the

village, labor force availability and land tenure became my concern. When another

person left the village with a gun and returned after only a few days, I had a starting

point to investigate lemur hunting. Some facts remained hidden, but at least what was

apparent had more chance to be significant, whereas things which people would lie

about remained unapparent. But the events of each day were not the only determinants

of my enquiries. I also employed a reading grid inherited from my education in

comparative agriculture, which I will present in the next section.

My position with regard to questionnaires is, however, not radical. I did pass a

closed questionnaire to about 400 households in Beforona and Ambodilaingo. The

objective was to compare the information obtained in this way with the information

obtained by “experiencing the reality,” to assess the biases of each approach and to

measure a few quantitative variables such as income level and investment capacity in

remote villages. The results of these inquiries have not been processed yet, due to

schedule constraints, and will not be presented in this dissertation.

2.4. Validating knowledge

Due to the informal methods employed for data collection and to the ideal of

comprehensiveness, it was impossible to test every single data. It was, however,

possible to test the overall validity of knowledge by confronting data together and

verifying their consistency. Contradictions between informants occurred but the

accumulation of knowledge progressively allowed me to point out mismatches

between information. When such mismatches were encountered, information was

exposed to more scrutiny. A consistent representation progressively built up, until a

point was reached where answers to most questions could be anticipated from the

informants. The attainment of this point was a first validation of the representation. It

was however not sufficient.

Observing and experiencing realities have an emotional dimension which can

result in subjectivity and be source of significant bias, as we saw in the general

introduction. Quantitative methods can help to solve this problem, but the choice of

what variable to measure, how to do the measurements and what statistical procedure

to use can be subjective as well. The psychology of the surveyors and of the

“surveyed” can introduce strong biases, especially when dealing with sensitive issues

such as tavy and deforestation. Emotions are always present when two people interact

in order to share knowledge and transmit information and no method can pretend to be

a guarantee against subjectivity. At least qualitative methods claim less to be

objective, which helps to anticipate and correct their biases.

Considering these issues, and in order to provide better validation of my

analysis, I decided to confront my outcomes with the reality by conducting a social

experiment. I thus applied the experimental method to social sciences, as

recommended by Flyvjberg (2001) and Greenwood (1998). In other words, I

attempted to change social realities in the village of Ambodilaingo, based on the

outcomes of my analysis. If change occurred according to my predictions, my analysis

and the representation derived from it would be corroborated. They would not be

proved but they would become less uncertain, which already represents progress. The

nongovernmental organization Zanaky ny Ala conducted this social experiment.

There is nothing new in this approach in the sense that data collection is

always connected with the implementation of activities, more or less directly. In

Beforona, there have always been research programs and rural development projects

working hand in hand. But I contend that a procedure that consists in successively

collecting data, processing them and implementing activities derived from the

conclusions, each step being implemented by different persons and organizations, does

not result in appropriate action. Some knowledge is transmitted at each step but not the

experience of the researchers. Action is severed from observation and conversely. In

contrast, the method I employed had the advantage of employing the same persons at

all steps of the process. In case of failure, researchers cannot be excused by a

misunderstanding of their work, and development actors cannot complain about the

irrelevance of research work. The responsibilities of both, who are the same person,

are strongly engaged, by doing what Aristotle (1976) called phronesis (Part I).

3. A reading grid: comparative agriculture

The concepts and methods that most significantly influenced my data

collection have been developed by the School of Comparative Agriculture of the

National Institute of Agronomy, Paris-Grignon, elaborated by Mazoyer and Roudart

(2001), Dufumier (1996) and Cochet (2005). Based on this method, I used the

following hypotheses to carry out my work:

a. Farmers act rationally from an economic standpoint. They make the

choices that answer better to their interests, given the resources that are available to

them. Their interest can be the maximization of yield, the maximization of labor

productivity, or the minimization of risks. If land is the limiting resource, the

maximization of yield will be the main objective. If labor force is limiting, then the

main objective will be the maximization of labor productivity. Risk reduction is a

strategy that prevails in situations of vulnerability.

b. In the case of strategies based on risk minimization, neither high yield nor

high labor productivity may be the main goal. Farmers prefer to diversify their

system to decrease their vulnerability, instead of specializing in the most profitable

crops. They choose the systems that are less subject to market instabilities and less

vulnerable to climatic catastrophes or fluctuation. The “best” farming system would

be the one that produces more in the worst years, not necessarily the one that

produces more in the best years or on average.

c. The asset that is perceived as a sign of wealth (as capital) differs

according to societies. In modern societies, it is money, and production is

dependent on the capacity to mobilize financial resources. In traditional societies,

capital can take the form of herds (pastoral societies), fertile land (societies where

access to this resource is unequal and competitive), water (if irrigation is vital and

needs investments) or valuable trees. The “rich” households are those with the

largest herd, the most fertile land, the largest irrigated fields or the largest tree


d. The capacity of households to accumulate capital is usually linked to the

capacity to reproduce fertility over years and generations. An unsustainable system

is a system whose mode of fertility reconstitution is inefficient, or in crisis. The

most frequent modes are:

• Vertical transfer of nutrients from subsoil to surface, by perennial

plants in fallow. This mode characterizes slash-and-burn systems. The

nutrients are pumped from the subsoil by the ligneous vegetation and

returned to the topsoil in the form of ashes. The longer the fallow, the

more biomass there is and the more available nutrients there are after

burning. The succession can, however, be arrested at an early stage,

which sets a limit to the amount of nutrients that can be stored (as in the

case of Imperata grassland).

• Horizontal transfer by animals. Cattle can graze in pasture land and be

brought onto cultivated land or into cowsheds during the night. Manure

is the medium through which nutrients are transferred from pastures to

cultivated land. If the cattle graze on the same cultivated land where

manure is deposited, there is no net transfer. However, this can still

have a positive impact by improving biomass and nutrient


• Horizontal transfer by flooding. A famous case is the fertilization of

cultivated land in Egypt by the flooding of the Nile River, but all

irrigated systems benefit from this transfer to a certain extent.

• Application of chemical fertilizer. This is the dominant mode of

fertility reproduction in Western agriculture.

e. Agrarian systems are developed by the transformation of ecosystems, and

similar biophysical conditions determine similar agrarian systems. This is why we

can find slash-and-burn cultivation systems in most regions of the world that are

characterized by a wet climate, hilly topography, unfertile soils, low population

density and abundant biomass, even if no contact or historical link exists among

these systems.

f. Agrarian systems are dependent on population density. Population growth

provokes increasing pressure on resources. In the end, population increase leads to

reaching the limits of the system, which forces the development of a new system

with higher carrying capacity. This change is dependent on the adoption of new

technologies and on the capacity of farmers to take risks and invest labor or

financial resources to acquire these technologies. If these conditions are not filled,

the system enters into a Malthusian crisis: the resources are excessively tapped to

satisfy short-term needs, and the land degrades. The asset that represents capital is

tapped to fill the productive gap: fallows are not allowed sufficient time to produce

significant biomass, animals that produce manure are sold, or hydraulic

infrastructures are not maintained. The society enters into a phase of

decapitalization, until food shortage, diseases and famine occur. If investment in

new technology is possible, then intensification occurs and a new asset replaces the

one that has been lost. Soils can be rebuilt, for example using animal manure after

they have been degraded by shortened fallows. Some authors call this process

environmental recovery (Tiffen and Mortimore 1994).

g. The successive stages of intensification are quite similar in many places

around the world. Different pathways of change are encountered according to the

type of environment (great flooding plains, mountain areas, hilly landscapes), but

similar ecological and economic environments determine similar pathways. For

example, hunting and gathering is usually followed by shifting cultivation, followed

by manual polyculture associated with livestock husbandry, followed by

polyculture using draft animal traction, and then by specialized agriculture based on

the use of chemical inputs, machines and fossil energy. The two first stages are

referred to as extensive systems because much land is necessary to sustain a limited

population (the carrying capacity is low). Extensive systems are characterized by

high labor productivity and low land productivity. Less work is necessary to feed a

household and more free time is available for social events. This situation is

reversed when intensification occurs. However, animal traction and draft force later

increase both land and labor productivity. This succession is only a general trend

that should not lead to adoption of deterministic views. Variations of this general

pattern are always possible.

h. Social differentiation is dependent on the capacity of farming systems to

produce surpluses. The more surpluses there are, the more possible it is to sustain

nonfarmers such as administrators, militaries, religious leaders, etc. In the case of

societies with fewer surpluses, nonagriculturalist groups can be absent but there is

always a principle of authority in charge, at least, of land allocation, traditional

ceremonies and conflict mediation.

i. Agrarian systems are constituted of farming systems usually managed at

the household level. Several types of farming systems are encountered due to social

differentiation and environmental heterogeneity. Farming systems are themselves

constituted of cropping systems, livestock systems, plus sometimes a forestry

component and hunting and gathering in primary ecosystems.

j. The social relations between households are determined by their level of

assets. Those unable to produce surpluses, or having a deficit, typically hire out

their labor to those who can produce surpluses but lack a labor force to do so.

Lending land is another typical relation between households.

k. Farming systems can be characterized by a productive trajectory: young

households in good health with not many children are able to produce more surplus.

More children, or the necessity to feed elders not able to work results in less

surplus. Aging households with a low labor force can fall into poverty unless they

are supported by their children. In consequence, to have many children is a way to

guarantee the future. Along their lifespan, households concentrate their effort on the

accumulation of the asset that is a sign of wealth (capital) in their society (large

herd, larger home garden, improved land, etc.).

l. The agricultural calendar is a key determinant of the combination of

cropping and livestock systems. The opportunity cost of labor is a more important

criteria than daily cost (salary) to understand these combinations. All working days

are not equal. A farmer can be reluctant to do a well paid job if this opportunity

occurs when he is very busy, whereas he can accept a job with a low wage if he has

nothing else to do. This remark is quite trivial but we will see that this aspect of

realities is almost never addressed in agricultural profitability calculations.

m. Cropping systems are characterized by rotations and associations of

crops, the varieties that are used, a succession of technical operations, the calendar

of operations, the labor cost of each operation, and the tools that are used. In this

chapter, I will not analyze the details of cropping systems because they have

already been extensively studied in the region.

n. In order to characterize a cropping system in economics terms, it is

necessary to measure:

• The investments necessary to implement the system, independently of

the area under cultivation. These investments are mostly the buying of

tools and the building of infrastructure.

• The cost of the inputs that have to be used, proportionally to the surface

under cultivation. Labor force is not regarded as an input when it is

provided by the family and is better assessed by measuring labor

productivity. Labor can, however, be regarded as a service to be paid in

case it is used for a specific task during a limited period.

• The labor productivity of the system, per day of work or per laborer,

and the yield. The first criteria matters more when labor force is scarce,

the second when land is scarce, as we already have seen.

• The maximum area that can be cultivated per laborer. It depends on the

task that is most constraining in the agricultural calendar. For example,

in some cases, sowing determines the maximum cultivable area

because only a very short period is available to sow, between the arrival

of the first rain and a limit date that depends on climatic factors.

• The maximum production of the system per laborer. It is equal to the

yield times the maximum area that can be cultivated by one worker. It

is an indicator of labor productivity but integrates the constraints of the

agricultural calendar.

o. Livestock Husbandry Systems are characterized by a forage system, a

pasture system, the type of animal, and veterinary cares.

Most of the information necessary to conduct this analysis was provided by the

researchers of the BEMA,Terre Tany, and LDI projects (Chapter 3). For this reason, I

did not conduct detailed investigations. For example, I did not calculate the variables

listed in point n. But I attempted to test the outcomes of previous research studies, to

compare them with the situation in Ambodilaingo and to fill knowledge gaps, on the

basis of direct observation and discussion with farmers. I assumed that the criteria

enumerated in this section are intuitively integrated by farmers in their decision

making system and that qualitative approaches can even render them more accurately

and finely, as soon as the reality matters more than the model that can be created out

of it.

4. Conclusion

I chose to focus on the collection of qualitative data and employed informal

methods which I called “experiencing the reality,” and which can be regarded as a

form of active participant observation. I did not reject quantitative methods but

considered that the priority, given the large amount of data already available for this

region, is now to produce a comprehensive representation of realities. The reality

under investigation is a community of farmers who practice slash-and-burn cultivation

and clear primary forest in a given economic, social, cultural and political context. It is

a broad and complex object that links local and global realities. Due to this

complexity, the representation I will produce will have to be tested in real world, by

conducting a social experiment, as we will see in Chapter 7.

In spite of this ideal of being driven by the reality itself, I also chose to use the

concepts of comparative agriculture as a reading grid aimed at increasing my

efficiency. Farmers know their reality because they experience it from their birth. But

in my case, the time available to acquire knowledge was severely limited. There is

unfortunately a trade-off between objectivity and efficiency, between method and the

absence of method, which, again, justifies the translation of my outcomes into a social




1. Introduction

The fokontany of Ambodilaingo is located 16 kilometers walking south from

the National Road 2 (Map 3 and 4 page 111 and 112 and Map 12). It consists of five

villages (Ambodilaingo, Ambotanefitra, Ambohimiadana, Apasintsiry and Sarotriva),

covers an area of 32 square kilometers and has a population of about 288 households

or 1500 inhabitants. Four of these five villages (Ampasintsiry is the exception) still

have primary forest on their land (Photograph 13). This forest is cleared for practicing

tavy (Photographs 14 and 15) and many families live on its verge to find more fertile

soils to cultivate. The density is about 38 inhabitants per square kilometer (Map 10

page 131). The people (Photographs 16 and 17) belong to the Betsimisaraka group but

have some Bezanozano origin, as we will see. They live scattered in the whole

territory in order to remain close to their fields.

The information in this chapter is mostly the result of semi-formal inquiries

conducted in Ambodilaingo (the village) between late July and late September 2001.

Interviews often last several hours and sometimes included a visit to farmers’ fields.

There were no sampling strategies nor interview guidelines. Each interviewee created

a specific relationship, expressed particular concerns and interests and was as

determinant as myself of the direction taken by the interview. The reading grid

(Chapter 4) was utilized to classify the quotes and to organize the results, not to

orientate the discussion. Questions were formulated in the most imprecise and simple

way and answers were never suggested 128 . To give just a few examples, it was asked

To make no suggestion about answers is an obvious necessity, but I experienced that enquirers rarely
respect this essential rule.

Map 12: The 5 villages of the Ambodilaingo Fokontany.
Source: Institut Geographique National (1963). Based on aerial photographs taken in

Additions by Pollini. The blue circles show the five villages of the fokontany.


Sarotriva Ambodilaingo Ampasintsiriry


Photograph 13: Satellite photography showing the 5 villages of Ambodilaingo

and the forest frontier.

Source: Google Earth. Year of satellite image unknown.

Photograph 14: Tavy on the forest frontier in Ambodilaingo. The effect of fires on
the forest edge is clearly visible. Farmers purposely let fires burn the edge in order to
increase their land without explicitly “clearing” the forest.

Photograph 15: Tavy inside the primary forest in Ambodilaingo. This situation,
typical in areas recently colonized, is uncommon in Ambodilaingo. We can distinguish
a field that has been cleared and cultivated once (right part of the photograph) and a
field that has been cleared and cultivated a second time (left part). The altitude is
about 800 m.

Photograph 16: People of Ambodilaingo in their village. Many houses have been
destroyed by the Geralda cyclone in 1994 and not rebuilt since then.

Photograph 17: Children in Ambodilaingo. The picture is taken on the main square
of the village, which serves for zebu sacrifice, as shown by the ritual pole with zebu
skulls. Houses are built with bamboo (walls) and Imperata cylindrica thatch (roof).

• Where do the people from this village come from? Why did they come


• What changed in this landscape from the time of your parents?

• What is the difference between this village and those located close to

the road?

• Why do some farmers grow rice in paddy fields and others not?

• Did the people have more zebu in ancient times? Why?

• What are the main causes of poverty?

• What are the first objectives of a young man and his wife after they


• How do the people here get some money?

• How do you see the future for your children?

• What did you cultivate on this plot? What will you cultivate next year?


After this two month period of intensive interviews, exchanges were more

brief and still less informal, but villagers continued to provide relevant information.

The five Malagasy Masters students who did their final training practice in Zanaky ny

Ala, between 2004 and 2006, provided complementary information utilized in this

chapter, when indicated.

I took notes only during the two months of intensive interviews. For this reason, most

quotes in this chapter are from the period between July and September 2001 or are

retrieved from the thesis of the Malagasy students. Quotes may not always be an exact

translation because interviews were translated from Malagasy to French by my

assistant before I could take any notes. Information that was not corroborated by direct

observation or by other interviews was discarded. The names of the interviewees were

not recorded, in order to preserve their anonymity and to favor confidence.

I conducted more than 100 interviews in total in Ambodilaingo but interviewed

a few households in Ambotanefitra and Ampasintsiriry in addition (Map 12 page 185

and Photograph 13 page 186). The exact number of interviews is not known because

many inquiries were informal and notes were not always taken. But a group of about

25 informants, usually elders or farmers with more education than the average,

provided the most detailed information and most of the long quotes reported in this

chapter. This may not have caused significant bias because the community of

Ambodilaingo is relatively unified. There were limited inconsistencies between the

ideas expressed by the informants. Basically, all the information they provided and

that has been written in my notebook is reproduced in this chapter. Only redundancies

have been discarded.

The results will be presented in eight sections. Section 2 will present a brief

history of the fokontany, with a particular emphasis on early settlement (Section 2.1.),

and on the economic and social history (Sections 2.2. and 2.3.). I will then describe the

present social organization (Section 3) and land uses (Section 4). Section 5 will

present the farmer strategies for intensification, while Section 6 will describe their

relations with projects. Section 7 will show the high vulnerability of these

communities by drawing an emotional portrait of poverty in Ambodilaingo. Section 8

will show the consequences of this vulnerability, by telling the story of the influenza

epidemic that struck the village in 2002. Section 9 will synthesize the outcomes by

describing the agrarian system, in the light of Boserup’s (1965) theory of agricultural

development. It will allow envisioning future land uses, but more insights will be

provided on this matter in Chapters 6 and 7.

2. Brief social history of the area

The analyses of this section are limited to the epoch and events still vivid in the

memory of villagers. They are presented according to three topics: settlement,

economic life, and cultural changes.

2.1. Settlement

According to the field investigations of Rakotoarijaona (2005), the ancestors of

the villagers settled in the area several centuries ago. The original location of

Ambodilaingo was on the other side of the Iaroka river, a little bit downstream. It was

chosen for the abundance of fertile soils along the river. It was moved to the present

location (Photograph 18) by the French administration, in 1910 or 1920, due to a

change in administrative divisions. At that time, the main crops were rice cultivated in

tavy, cassava, sweet potato, and bananas:

In the first half or in the beginning of the century, there was no coffee and
almost no paddy fields. Banana trees were cultivated around the village but
were not traded. Sweet potatoes and cassava were cultivated for self-
consumption and tavy for rice cultivation was the main cropping system
(an elder of Ambodilaingo).
The historical leader of the community was Andrianambo, also called

Ranambo, a member of a Bezanozano lineage called Zafindrianambo. Discussions

with elders provide contradictory information, showing that the settlement was

complex and involved both Betsimisaraka and Bezanozano lineages. Rakotoarijaona

(2005) conducted bibliographical research in the National Archives. She confirmed

that the Zafindrianambo was a noble Bezanozano lineage who migrated from the

Ankay Region 129 in the seventeenth century, after a war between tribes.

Ankay is an area located southwest from Moramanga, on the eastern side of the western branch of
the forest corridor (eastern side of the Angavo mountains). A mix of Merina, Betsimisaraka and
Bezanozano people live there. Aubert and Bertrand (2003), Razafiarison (2003) and Aubert (2003)
analyzed the agrarian systems of this region and found social dynamics similar to those that I will
describe in this chapter. They showed that the Merina people, mostly recent migrants, are dominant

Photograph 18: Ambodilaingo. The forest escarpment is visible in the background.
The large bottom land, on the left, is frequently flooded, which explains the reluctance
of farmers to create paddy fields. But it could be more intensively cultivated if the
land was plowed. Fallow land frequently burnt by wildfire and invaded by ferns
(Pteridium aquilinum) is visible on the foreground.

According to Mayeur (1785, in Razafiarison 2003), Bezanozano people are the

descendants of escaped Merina slaves. They became a powerful tribe in the eighteenth

century and served as intermediaries for trading between Europeans and people from

the highlands. They refused to submit to the Merina and King Radama I rejected them

eastward, to the forests of the Angavo escarpment. They now live mostly in the

Mangoro Region, from Moramanga to Ambatondrazaka, where they practice both

irrigated and upland rice cultivation.

Ampasintsiry was founded by a Bezanozano from another lineage who married

Ranambo’s daughter. Despite the fact that it is located west from Ambodilaingo, on

more degraded land, Ampasintsiry was founded more recently. This eastward move

shows that forest was not the only attractive resource that determined settlement.

Bottom land suitable for more intensive systems may have been coveted as well,

although not for irrigated rice cultivation as this land use seems to have been

nonexistent at the beginning of the twentieth century. Sarotriva, on the other hand,

would have been created by families interested in wood extraction and in need of new

land. According to Rakotoarijaona (2005), the site of Ambotanefitra was settled by

people from Ambodilaingo who found suitable land to establish paddy fields. But the

village itself was created in 1947, by a French collector of precious stones (Corindon).

Mining created job opportunities which attracted people from the entire region. These

migrants settled definitively after the end of mining activities. Ambohimiadana is the

only village that has no common history with Ambodilaingo. It is clearly a different

economically and appropriate the land most suitable for agricultural intensification. The Betsimisaraka,
on the other hand, are often the poorest and their livelihood is dependent on tavy. The Bezanozano
would be in an intermediate position. They enjoy a dominant position with respect to the Betsimisaraka
but fear the Merina people. I visited, in 2005, the Tsiazompaniry region, located on the western side of
the forest corridor (western side of the Angavo mountain), about two days walking from the Ankay. I
observed that migration of Merina people eastward still occurred and that this move had been
accelerated by the reforestation of the Tsiazompaniry watershed, with new villages created east from
the lake. My informant described the Bezanozano as “shy people” that flee to more remote areas for
fear of being in trouble when Merina people settle in their region. This provides a supplementary
example of how reforestation can accelerate social dynamics that favor deforestation.

fokonolona. Its population is not of Bezanozano origin and is feared for its sorcery

skills. It would have arrived in the region from the east or southeast. Marriage,

however, occurred between members of the two villages, contributing to the blending

of Bezanozano and Betsimisaraka people.

This complex settlement shows that the region cannot be regarded as a simple

agricultural frontier where slash-and-burn farmers (Betsimisaraka people) would

migrate westward, abandoning degraded grassland and clearing forest to appropriate

new land with fertile soils. The two agricultural frontiers described in Chapter 1 (the

forest frontier and the “grassland” or “fallow land” frontier) may indeed be

intertwined in Ambodilaingo. The forest frontier’s main assets are biomass and fertile

soils, while the fallow land frontier’s assets are the streams that can be used for

irrigation and the deep soils in bottom land. Bezanozano people are familiar with both

irrigated rice and slash-and-burn agriculture, due to their mixed origin. As the region

was less favorable to cultivation in bottom land, probably because of frequent

cyclones and flooding, they ended in adopting the Betsimisaraka land use (tavy),

culture, and way of life. This is why no Bezanozano people are recorded in Beforona’s

census data now (Chapter 3).

These outcomes challenge the received wisdom that culture is one of the most

significant factors that impedes agricultural innovation and land use changes. But they

are consistent with the works of Kottak (1971), Astuti (1995) and Bloch (1995), which

showed, in the case of the Tanala, Vezo and Zafimaniry people, that ethnic identity

can result more from adaptation to a physical environment than from traditions and

cultural heritage.

2.2. Brief economic history

Precise information about the early colonial period was difficult to collect.

Most people who were adults in the first half of the twentieth century are now dead.

However, the forced labor in the Andasibe camp, the difficulties in finding sufficient

money to pay taxes, the touring of colonial administrators and the interdiction to do

tavy are still present in memories:

We had to work 30 days per year for the colonial power, and also had to
work for creating improvements and to transport people of the
administration. We also had to pay taxes and to grow coffee in order to get
the money, or to sell other products including rice. Usually we paid in
December-January. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Those who could not pay the taxes were arrested. This was told me by my
parents. We had to pay a tax for each zebu head. Some people fled. (a
farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Before the arrival of the French, people were doing tavy inside the forest
and had their dwelling there. About 50 persons were living in this way. But
when the French arrived, they did not dare to do that anymore and got out
of the forest to cultivate the land that had already been cultivated. (an elder
from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The most remembered event is the 1947 upheaval and the food shortage it

We did not ignite fires in order to avoid being seen by the French, because
they flew over the sky with planes. 130 (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
My father has had the bad luck of walking outside during the day and shots
have been fired on him. 131 (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
There was a strong food shortage in 1948. This was because of the
upheaval of 1947, due to the colonial pressure. People had to flee to the
forest and abandon their crops, which were damaged by wild boars. People
had to harvest wild plants in order to eat. (an elder from Ambodilaingo

Translated from a citation by Rakotoarijaona (2005): “au risque d’être repérer par les vazaha pendant
la nuit on n’allumait pas le feu, parce qu’ils survolaient le ciel, en avion au dessus de nos têtes.” Vazaha
is the Malagasy term used to designated foreigners, or the “white man.”
Translated from a citation by Rakotoarijaona (2005): “mon père a eu le malheur de se promener en
plein jour, et on lui tiré dessus.”

Concerning more recent times, farmers frequently recall the vivid contrast

between the first and second republic. At the end of the colonial period, rice

production was relatively good and the economy quite prosperous. Cash crops, mostly

coffee, were sold at a satisfying price and first necessity products were cheap. Cattle

seemed to have a central role in the economy, as shown by the following testimony:
About half of the families had big cattle in 1959. Those who had animals
had many: 15 to 30, sometimes more. Those who did not have animals
loaned them for free to the others. They did not refuse because people had
good relations at that time. Those who had large herds hired people to
watch over animals and paid them by giving calves. Usually the herds were
all put together to avoid being lost…. There was much area available for
grazing….The animals were put in corrals during the night, but only during
the cultivation season, in order to avoid damage to the crops….Animals
had good care and were visited by veterinarians….They were used for
earning money and for sacrifices. There were more sacrificed animals than
sold animals. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Cattle manure was not used, but cattle nevertheless played an essential role in

agricultural intensification, because zebus were used to tread paddy fields before

We did not use manure. There was no taboo about that, but the land was
fertile. (an elder in Ambodilaingo 2001)
The first paddy fields were created in 1914-1918. This crop did not conflict
with livestock husbandry. There was a time when paddy fields covered
more areas than now, because people had many more cattle. The animals
were used for treading of land before sowing. If we do not have cattle, we
can only cultivate small areas of paddy fields. (an elder from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
Cattle were used to tread paddy fields before sowing. My father had 50
head. He had a paddy field because treading was easy. Paddy rice was a big
activity in ancient times because people had many cattle. (an elder from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
The decline of cattle husbandry started in the seventies, maybe earlier, for a

variety of reasons. It provoked a decline of paddy fields, because treading was no

longer possible or not efficient with a small number of animals. The multiplication of

conflicts between farmers more involved in livestock husbandry and those focusing on

cultivation, due to population increase, may have played an essential role in this

There has been a big decrease of cattle in 1970. The main reason is that the
people started to be bad and asked penalties when cattle damaged their
crops….These damages mainly concerned cassava, sweet potatoes and
coffee, in the bottom land and in the lower part of the slopes. As a
consequence, cattle started to lack access to pastures. People did not build
fences because agriculture officers told the herders to care for their herds.
In ancient times, there was not frequent damage because there were fewer
crops in bottom lands and people were not so bad. (an elder from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
Livestock was also the main form of saving to withstand times of economic

difficulties and was sacrificed during traditional ceremonies, which contributed to herd

reduction. Eventually, cattle suffered much from diseases:

Other reasons for the decrease in cattle are the sale because of poverty and
the sacrifices….Cattle also died because of diseases: some people bought
cattle from other regions, and this brought the disease. The animals get
quickly thin and die [when they get this disease]. The liver is full of small
animals and cannot be eaten. This disease developed around 1983 132 and
still exists. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
We saw in Chapter 2 that the Malagasy state entered into bankruptcy in the

early eighties. In Ambodilaingo, veterinary services and support for the development

of irrigation schemes stopped, which accelerated the spreading of diseases and the

degradation of infrastructure by cyclones:

Another reason of the decrease of paddy fields is the inundations that
destroyed the dams and improvements. The ancient paddy fields became
land for tavy or have been planted into banana trees. (an elder from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
The crisis was also aggravated by the degradation of the terms of trade. Coffee

was sold at a very low price due to the nationalization and was progressively


Around 1978 according to another informant.

Coffee cultivation developed around 1950, under the authorities of the
contremaitre 133 . Coffee generated higher income at that time. One
kilogram was sold for 150 F, while one kilogram of rice cost 30 F. Today,
one kilogram of coffee is sold for 2500 F, and one kilogram of rice costs
about 2000 F. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The population felt abandoned by the state and went back to autarky, by

practicing tavy. Fear of repression had disappeared after independence:

The main period concerning interdiction of clearing was after the visit of
Mr. Abraham and the forest guards in 1954…. Interdiction mainly
concerned the upper part of the slopes. People clearing forest at that time
were sent to jail, but this did not occur anymore after the independency. (an
elder from Ambodilaingo 2001).
During the colonial period, it was forbidden to clear the forest. There were
forest guards. It was strictly forbidden to clear the primary forest and the
crests. This lasted until independence. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Chapter 2 showed that the Malagasy economy started to recover during the

nineties, due to the opening to foreign investments and the financial support provided

by the international community. But for the villagers of Ambodilaingo, this recovery

never occurred. The period from the seventies to present is one of continuous

degradation of their livelihood. As they put it, “we are always becoming poorer.”134

The renovation of the road and the opening to foreign investments and international

aid led to some changes in Beforona but did not reach their village, except during a

few years when the ginger price was high. Poverty is now dramatic, as I will show

Staff from the colonial agriculture services.
This statement was frequently made during enquiries and contrast with the situation in the villages
close to the road, where some villagers assert that their situation improved during the last decades, due
to increasing opportunities to market products, mostly ginger and bananas.

2.3. Social and cultural changes

The main social transformations in Ambodilaingo concern traditional

ceremonies and solidarities between households. They are consequences of economic


2.3.1. Evolution of traditional ceremonies

Zebu sacrifice for burials (Photograph 19 and 20) was practiced from as far

back as people can remember. In earlier times, the nuclear family had to provide the

zebu. The reduction of herds and the economic crisis forced this rule to be changed. In

1974, the Vavanzaka and the Tangalamena of Ambodilaingo decided that the cost of

sacrifices would now be born by the whole fokonolona (Rivolalao 2006). With this

new system, sacrifices turned from being a burden to being an opportunity for a

collective buying of meat. Due to the economic crisis, this collective buying is now an

excessive burden as well. Several months can be necessary to gather the money. In

some cases, several deaths are celebrated through one single sacrifice. In

Ampasintsiry, the community is divided concerning the continuation or abandonment

of zebu sacrifice (Rivolalao 2006). As a village elder puts it,

the difficulties of the living people are already profound, due to the
economic situation of the region, so it is unbearable to purchase one or
several oxen for one deceased person! (an elder from Ampasintsiriry, in
Rivolalao 2006) 135
Some villagers propose to organize a special ceremony to ask the ancestors to

forgive them the abandonment of the cult. Others are afraid of a possible wrath. They

refuse the change and do not want to donate for the ceremony, which leads to social

discord (Rivolalao 2006).

An elder in Ampasintsiry, In Rivolalao (2006). Original citation in French (translated from Malagasy
language by Rivolalao): "les malheurs des vivants sont déjà assez, vue la situation économique de la
région, et c'est insupportable de fournir un ou plusieurs bœufs pour un mort.”

Photograph 19: Young villagers playing with a zebu before its sacrifice in
Ambodilaingo. Accidents in these games are frequent but usually result in minor

Photograph 20: Meat distribution after a zebu sacrifice. Each household of the
community contributes to pay for the zebu and receives a share that also depends on
social rank.

With respect to the other celebrations (birth of the tenth child, circumcision,

new harvests and access to new land), zebu sacrifices have been abandoned except for

the later. In the past, the birth of the tenth child and circumcision were opportunities to

call people from the neighbor villages. They are now celebrated in a more modest and

intimate way in order to reduce the costs (Rivolalao 2006). A long time ago, it seems

that a sacrifice was necessary to authorize any vegetation clearing (Ratsimijanona

2006). In more recent times, fewer and fewer places, usually those affected by a taboo

or located close to graves, are subject to this mode of regulation. Only the richest

households can contribute to the sacrifices, meaning that they became a way to reserve

the most fertile land for the richest members of the community:
We have to sacrifice a zebu every two years in order to do tavy on this
land. There is such a rule because there were much cattle and good harvests
in ancient times. But the rule is not so well respected now. We had to
sacrifice every year in ancient times. Another change is that we can grow
other crops than rice without doing a sacrifice while in ancient times, we
had to do a sacrifice for any crop…. This rule exists in all hamlet of
Beforona. All people from Ambodilaingo can do tavy on this land if they
contribute to the sacrifice. Usually, five to ten families associate together
for buying a zebu. It is also possible to pay the participation for another
family. We were 10 people associated last year, and we also sacrificed a
zebu three or four years ago. It is interesting to do so because the land is
less cultivated here and the fertility is higher…. There are about five zones
affected by this rule in Ambodilaingo and they are subject to regular
sacrifices. They are called "Vazimba" and are close to the ancestor's
graves. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
These examples show that far from being static, cultural features change over

time according to economic constraints. As we saw in the case of ethnic identity,

which switched from Bezanozano to Betsimisaraka in certain lineages, the physical

environment and the economy it can support determine culture, rather than the

contrary. There can, however, be a transition period during which culture impedes

adaptation to the environment, as shown in the case of Ampasintsiriry where some

farmers refuse to change the rules. As long as it can be preserved, cultural identity

may help to decrease anxiety in the face of changes. The practices of the ancestors

sustained livelihood until the present whereas new practices represent the unknown.

But when ecological or economic realities render ancient practices obsolete, farmers

pragmatically change their practices. In sum, culture can slow change but does not

necessarily block it. As the fokontany president of Ambodilaingo put it:

I am in this village since 1956. I never left. People do not respect cultural
rules like they did in the past. People did not raise pigs because there was a
taboo on this animal. [three households raise pigs now in Ambodilaingo].
Working was forbidden certain days, but this is usually not respected now.
This lower respect of taboos is because the rules do not fit with the current
realities of our life. For example, people did not go to the hospital. Now,
they do. They thus have to find some money. In the past, the state helped
the people buy medicine. People have to pay themselves now. (fokontany
President 2001)

2.3.2. The loss of solidarity

The social disruptions that resulted from the economic crisis are not only

expressed in ritual changes. Several citations in the previous section evoked the idea

that people “were not bad” in ancient times and helped each other more. Rivolalao

(2006) showed how poverty favored individualism and the decomposition of social

fabric in Ambodilaingo.

Solidarity between households is expressed by a mutual support system that

facilitates agricultural work. In the past, this system operated at the scale of large

families and was used for most agricultural work. All participants brought some food

and shared their meal together. Now, farmers expect a salary for any work they do

outside their own family (Rivolalao 2006).

Another sign of social fabric degradation is the increasing frequency of

There are now people stealing cassava in the fields. This problem did not
exist in the past. This is because some people are lazy and do not work, but

still have to eat. You should force the people to plant cassava. 136 (an elder
from Ambodilaingo 2001)
In response to this problem, farmers build a secondary house close to their

field and stay there all the year round to watch over their crops. They sometimes

harvest banana regimes before maturity to avoid theft.

The dispersal of households is both a cause and a consequence of solidarity

loss. In ancient times, farmers had their main residence in the village and often stayed

there to participate in ceremonies or visit relatives. Secondary houses were built with

cheap material and rebuilt every year in the location of new tavy. Now, secondary

residences tend to be the main ones, resulting in decreasing socialization. The

commune threatens the villagers with a five to eight USD fee 137 if they do not stay in

the village at least a few months per year. When asked why they stay away, farmers

first give the conventional answer: they need to watch over their fields in order to

avoid pests and theft. But when conversation goes more in depth, they often respond,

in a more passionate way, that “life in the village is not for the poor,” and that they

would “be ashamed to show their poor condition” (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2004,

in Rivolalao 2006).
Here, [close to the forest], we live alone and nobody comes to disturb us
and criticize our condition. We choose to live like this because anyway,
nobody in the village would come to help us to solve our problems. Now, it
is every person for himself because everyone has his own problems and we
do not support each other anymore. 138 (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2004,
in Rivolalao 2006)

This answer certainly suffers from a “postcolonial” bias. But the informant expressed this idea as a
joke, and after a good glass of local rum.
50,000 FMg.
Translation by Pollini. Original citation in French: "le village n'est pas vraiment fait pour les
pauvres.” "Ici (près de la forêt), nous sommes seuls et personne ne vient nous déranger et critiquer la
situation économique de notre famille. Nous choisissons de vivre comme ça parce que même au village,
personne ne viendra vous aider pour résoudre nos problèmes. Maintenant c'est chacun pour soi car
chacun a ses propres problèmes et on ne peut plus s'entraider.”

To the contrary, those less in need prefer to remain isolate in order to not be

under the pressure of their poorer neighbors.

Farmers also evoke the loss of solidarity to explain why they do not control

wild fires, whereas the lack of control is also an explanation as we will see

(Photograph 21):
In ancient times, when there was a fire, we called our neighbors and
everybody came to stop the fire. Now, people just think of themselves and
do not come. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Farmers also evoke individualism to explain the difficulties to gather sufficient

money for zebu sacrifices, to mobilize the community to repair the school and to

organize the transportation of diseased people to the commune’s hospital. It is,

however, mostly the young that refuse these solidarities, which leads them to criticize

the elders and sometimes to enter into conflict with them. Rivolalao (2006) gives the

example of a group of young people who were asked by the elders to transport a

foreign visitor back to the road after she twisted her ankle. The transporters were not

supposed to be paid for this service and just received a minimal indemnity. They all

accepted the duty but complained during the trip:

Only the dina 139 is important for them [the elders]. It is not surprising that
they are so poor. They do not realize that everybody needs some money. 140
(a young farmer in Ambodilaingo 2004, in Rivolalao 2006)
This last example shows that, beyond poverty, new consumption needs may

also explain the development of individualism.

Community rule issued by the traditional authorities. Dina can also be given a legal power if they are
registered at the commune.
Translation by Pollini. Original citation in French: “ seul le dina reste important pour les
raiamandreny [elders]. Ce n'est pas étonnant qu'ils soient si pauvres. Ils ne se rendent pas compte des
besoins importants en argent.”

Photograph 21: The impact of wildfires in Ambodilaingo. These fires can be
criminal or result from negligence and the absence of firebreaks. As they are not
associated with management rules, they are much more destructive than tavy. Most
households agree that they should be forbidden. They almost disappeared after the
repression campaign of 2002-2003.

3. The present social organization

3.1. Traditional and legal authorities

The distribution of power in Ambodilaingo is similar to the case of Beforona

(Chapter 3). The representative of the legal power (fokontany President) collaborates

with traditional representatives (Tangalamena and Vavanjaka). Conflicts between

traditional and legal power occur but do not seem to be significant. The fokontany

president 141 summarizes community ruling in the following way:

There has always been a juxtaposition of authority. There are exchanges
between legal and traditional representatives. We try to eliminate the
traditional rules that do not match with the legal rules…. The rules of the
fokontany are elaborated by the advisors of the commune. They are the
same for all 13 fokontany of the commune. They are typed on a paper and
we have a copy here. These documents indicate several rules, with the
price to pay. There is a stamp of the commune…. The documents do not
include rules concerning tavy. We do not have other papers coming from
the province or district…. In the case of violation of the law, the judgment
is done by the commune. But in the case of small conflicts, we try to
arrange that with the village elders first, in the presence of the whole
community. The mobile guard and the fokontany president have to execute
the decision…. There are also traditional rules. They concern, for example,
when someone damages the house of another person. He is punished and
has to buy a zebu for sacrifice. All the elders of the region are called to
apply pressure on the person. This happens when people have bad
relations. This rule is not written anywhere. It is in the memory of the
people…. There are also national laws, such as not making tavy in the
primary forest and not raising unvaccinated animals. (fokontany President
This description shows the pragmatic attitude of local administrators. National

laws are adapted to local realities. The ban on tavy, for example, concerns only

primary forests whereas the national law authorizes tavy on nonligneous and nondense

ligneous vegetation only (Chapter 2).

Representative of the administration, appointed by the mayor.

3.2. Land tenure

Land in Ambodilaingo is divided into several sections occupied by different

fokonolona. Each of the five villages is a distinct fokonolona and has its own land.

Four of them still have primary forest on their land, Ampasintsiriry being the

exception. Forest land is cleared under the authority of the Tangalamena, who decides

which area to clear and allocates tracks of land to each lineage. It seems, however, that

the Tangalamena’s authority is decreasing and that these rules apply only for newly

cleared forest land. Concerning fallow lands, they theoretically belong to the lineage

that first cleared the forest but every household can take the liberty to choose an area

to crop, though this sometimes provokes conflicts. The following testimonies show

that the rules are not always clear.

We only work the land of our ancestors. (an elder from Ambodilaingo
When someone clears a piece of land, he continues to cultivate the same
land along generations. People know the limits of their land because of the
messages left by their parents. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
We do not need to ask to the owner for doing tavy because we are all
owners, except if we want to do it in another hamlet, but it is usually
accepted. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
We cannot remember the year of clearing and cultivation for all land. We
cannot locate all the land of our ancestors either, but there is no conflict on
this point. (a young farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Now, we do not really know who cleared the land the first time, except for
the land surrounding the village and for the bottom land. So, if we find a
land far from the village, we usually can cultivate it. (a young farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
A general tendency can however be drawn. Land tenure seems to evolve from

a situation where the owner was the first lineage who cleared the land, to a situation

where the owner is the household who actually cultivates the land. The sense of

ownership hence shifts from collective (fokonolona or lineage) to individual

(household) and from permanent (maintained during the fallow period) to temporary

(lost if the land is fallowed).

This confusion of the land tenure system may be a constraint to intensification,

because extensive systems are easier to implement and are privileged by farmers who

want to quickly secure their land tenure:

If we use a land, and if we have a problem to continue cultivation, then the
other people insert into the land. This concerns the paddy fields, which are
difficult to improve, but not the banana trees because they are perennial.
For example, someone makes a paddy field and abandons it, and another
one takes the land to make a home garden. This happens many times
because we do not always remember which ancestors cleared the land.
Such problems have to be solved by the elders. The story of the ancestors is
fuzzy from the second or third generation. Orphans are the main victims. (a
farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The following testimonies show that land suitable for the most profitable

systems (paddy fields or home gardens) is already quite difficult to purchase, which

could also increase the risks of conflicts:

Only about 20 families own land in the large bottom land. Some families
own land in the small bottom land. Less than 50% of the families own
bottom land. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Some families have no bottom land because it was already cleared when
their ancestors arrived. They have to request some land if they want to
cultivate. This is usually accepted, but only for annual crops. It is
impossible to make paddy fields or home garden in this way, except after
buying the land. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Some people do their home garden far from the village and have their
house out of the village, for looking after the home garden. There is a risk
of exodus out from the village, because people go far to find land for the
home garden. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
We prefer to build our house in the village because there is more
communication between the people. But if we want a big home garden, we
have to find the land quite far from the village. If we accept to move, it is
quite easy to find such a land. (a young farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
It is hard to find a piece of land for the home garden because the soil is
hard. There is available land but it already belongs to someone. If we want
to borrow, the owner refuses. Much land is in this case because people start
to improve the bottom land and progressively cultivate the upper part of the

slope. There is no case of land renting. (a young farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
This land shortage, however, discourages the development of systems that

would maximize yields rather than labor productivity (see the hypothesis of

comparative agriculture in Chapter 4). Once suitable land is found, farmers attempt to

secure their ownership by extending their home garden or their paddy field over the

largest possible surface, which is not compatible with intensive management. This

securing of the land is regarded as essential due to the fear of land-taking by

foreigners, especially if a road would be constructed:

One big worry for the people of the village concerns the taking of land by
foreigners in the future. The problem is that they have no money to pay for
titling their land. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
If they build a road, people will come to get the best land. New people are
strong and we are weak. We do not know about land titling. We have to do
that if it is possible. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
No entitlement has been done until now to protect the land from outsiders. A

few farmers tried but failed due to corruption of state services and to a lack of

In order to title the land, we have to meet the topographer, check that the
land is used, go to the domain services, and check that the land has no title
deed already. The titling itself is cheap but the traveling of the officers is
very expensive (two persons), about 400,000 FMg 142 for two days. We can
lose all this money because we do not know if it will work. People have to
organize together in order to title their land. The titling of several families
together is possible and these families will share their land. The titling of
all Ambodilaingo is also possible. But all demanders have to be on the title.
This is complicated. This is what the state wants to do, rather than letting
the land to the domain. But people are not motivated to do that. They do
not have the habit of doing so. They are afraid of offices. Most are not
intellectuals. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
I tried to get the title for five hectares of land (1 hectare bottom land and
adjacent slope). I paid 150,000 FMg 143 but I failed. I had a discount
because I was a military, and that was a long time ago. It is still more
expensive now. I failed because I had to find some money to make the land
About 60 USD at the time of the enquiry.
About 23 USD.

officer come here, but I did not have this money, so I lost everything. There
is no way to know how much we would have to give. (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
In sum, land suitable for tavy is abundant, but land suitable for intensification

(paddy fields and home gardens) is insufficient and unequally distributed. The first is

usually collectively owned, while the second tends to be individually appropriated.

The boundary between what is collective and what is private is not clear, resulting in

conflicts that are quite rare but may increase if intensification is to occur. Households

either have no land suitable for intensification, or have more land than what they can

improve. If land tenure securing programs were implemented in the area in the future,

they would have to consider this distinction and give priority to titles for the most

coveted and individually appropriated land. Such programs could also favor

intensification because tenure appropriation, which implies cultivating the largest

possible tracts of land, currently tends to favor extensive systems.

4. Land uses

4.1. Cropping systems

I made a brief presentation of the land uses encountered in Beforona in Chapter

3. More details are provided here in the case of Ambodilaingo.

4.1.1. Slash-and-burn systems (tavy)

A farmer of Ambodilaingo provides the following description of slash-and-

burn systems:
When we clear the primary forest, we first grow rice, and sweet potato on
part of the plot when the rice is 30 cm high. Clearing the forest is the basis
of our way of living. We cultivate the land a second time after 3-4 years,
with rice and sweet potato, in the same way, with cassava in addition. We
do not wait more because we lack area to cultivate, because of population
increase. After that, we wait six years before cultivating again, because the

soil is not so fertile. The fallow period after this third cultivation cycle will
have to be still longer….
The harvest is 20 vat 144 [400 kilograms of white rice] for one vat of
seedlings [20 kilograms] at the first cultivation cycle, if the harvest is good,
and five vat [100 kilograms] if it is bad. It is often bad because of rain
excess. For the second cultivation cycle, we harvest 10 vat [200 kilograms]
from five kopy 145 [10 kilograms] if the harvest is good, or five vat if it is
bad. We have to use more seedlings: five kopy instead of four for the same
area, because the soil is less fertile. The worst is if the rain falls in
November because the seeds do not germinate. For the third cultivation
cycle, we have to sow seven to eight kopy where we sowed four or five,
because there are no trunks on the soil and because the soil is less fertile.
We get eight to 15 vat…. 146
The distance between seed holes is about 25-30 cm for the first and second
cycles and much closer for the third cycle. The number of seeds per hole
does not change. We associate beans, maize and tsidimy 147 with the rice.
The rice is sowed first. Maize grows better in the first cycle. We do not
stop cultivating until the land is invaded by Tenina [Imperata cylindrica]
and Rangotra [Pteridium aquilinum 148 ]. This usually occurs at the fifth
cultivation cycle, but these plants can disappear if we wait about 20 years.
But the Tenina can also invade from the third cultivation cycle. For the
fourth cycle of cultivation, we usually wait 8-10 years because the soil is
not fertile. We sow one vat and harvest eight to 20 vat….
We often move, when the soil is not fertile anymore. We also have some
land in the bottom land. We have banana trees and coffee there but the
cyclones made much destruction. We also lack water for making paddy
fields. In regards to the aspect, it is better to grow rice on east and northeast
slopes. We can also cultivate on other exposures if the season is good….
Forest guards do not come anymore from many years. But clearing of
forest is not so fast because this depends on the families. It is a very hard

One vat is about 20 kilograms of hulled rice.
One kopy is about two kilograms of hulled rice.
According to a questionnaire passed to the whole population of the village (quantitative survey,
whose results have not been processed yet except for what follows), during the 2002-2003 season,
farmers in Ambodilaingo produced 525 kilograms of paddy or 350 kilograms of white rice on average
in their tavy. That year, however, was a bad year due to the antifire campaign. The price of the rice
varies from about 0.25 to 0.6 USD per kilogram. It is lower during the harvest period, which is when
most farmers sell it, so I will use the value of 0.3 USD per kilogram. Considering that 600 kilograms is
a good harvest, I hypothesize, considering also the secondary products in tavy (beans, maize and
vegetables planted in association with rice), that tavy produces no more than about 250 USD worth of
agricultural products per year. This number is just a gross estimate and more precise calculation
remains to be done.
Phaseolus lunatus.
See Table 9 page 147 for more information about these species.

work and people are also afraid of the law. Forest edges are also more
favorable for cultivating. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo, 2001)
This description is representative of the situation in the region and matches

with the results of other interviews, except concerning the quantity of seed that is

sown. According to other enquiries, the amount sowed ranges from about two to 15

kopy and the harvests from five to 50 vats (100 to 1000 kilograms). Harvests beyond

one ton per household are exceptional. These results match with the fact that the rice

shortage period lasts three to nine months for most households. The variation in the

amount sowed is explained by the variety of strategies in terms of combination of

cropping systems:
I clear the land for cassava in August but I only can do a small area. Then I
leave the vegetation drying, and I clear another land for rice, and go back
to the cassava land for burning and planting. Then I burn the tavy and plant
the rice. Weeding starts after one month. We do it twice and also weed the
cassava. Weeding is continuous. We do not stop until rice fructification.
The worst weeds are Bemimbo [Ageratum conizoides] and Fatakana
[Pennisetum sp?]. We have to throw the weeds far from the plot in order to
eliminate them. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo, 2001)
We sow tavy first, in October-November and we sow rice in paddy fields
later, in November-December-January. We can sow in paddy fields at
different seasons because there is no problem of water.” “Plowing the
paddy is in January, at the same time as weeding in tavy. We always lack
time. We also lack time for watching over paddy fields and tavy in the
same time. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo, 2001)
Clearing in primary forest (Photographs 14 and 15), it is not frequent due to

fear of the law, except in forest patches. This tendency was put in evidence by

Nambena (2007) and is confirmed by farmers from Ambodilaingo:

In ancient times, there were forest patches outside the forest. We kept
forest patches to have medicinal plants because we do not use modern
medicine here. These forest patches belonged to everybody. We also
harvested fruits and construction material in them…. But as the people
were later not allowed to clear primary forest, they cleared all the
remaining forest patches. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)

Only one farmer in the whole community still tries to maintain a forest patch

on his land. He is a traditional healer and needs to conserve this patch for collecting

forest products:
I do not want anybody to touch anything in this forest patch. I use it for
collecting firewood and other products. The latex of this tree 149 is used for
trapping small birds. I planted this Pandanus for making the roof of small
houses [with the leaves]. I did not plant other trees…. This forest patch will
not last a long time. My sons will fight each other to know who will burn
it. This is why I asked my girls to plant eucalyptus. (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
Concerning the definitive abandonment of degraded land, it seems to result

from the frequent passage of uncontrolled fires (Photograph 21 page 205), rather than

from tavy itself. The invasion by Imperata cylindrica and Pteridium aquilinum is the

main cause of abandonment. But most farmers contend that if no fire occurs, any land

can become cultivable again. The initial subject of this dissertation consisted in an

analysis of vegetation dynamics in fallow. Some vegetation measurements have been

done on 98 fallow plots. The data have never been processed, but I observed that

almost every time I made measurements on plots dominated by Imperata cylindrica,

Pteridium aquilinum, or other species typical of advanced degradation, the land had

actually not been submitted to tavy itself in recent times but was subject to the

frequent passage of wild fires. Farmer’s testimonies are consistent with this fact:
We do not stop to cultivate until the invasion by the tenina [Imperata
cylindrica] and rangotra [Pteridium aquilinum]. This usually occurs at the
fifth cultivation cycle, but these plants can disappear if we wait about 20
years. But the tenina can also invade from the third cultivation cycle. It is
the case in this land that we cleared nine years ago and cultivated three
times. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
If we do not control fires, then the vegetation burns outside the cultivated
land. This helps much the development of the tenina (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001).

Maybe Voacanga thouarsii.

Some plants come into the fallow from outside, after 4-5 years. They can
eliminate the tenina if there is no fire. The best fallow plants are
dingadingana [Psiadia altissima 150 ] and harongana [Harungana
madagascariensis]. Thakok [Rubus mollucannus] and longoza
[Aframomum angustifolium] are quite good also. All these plants can come
from outside and invade the plot. Longoza comes by its rooting system. (a
farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The invasion of Imperata cylindrica causes them much concern:
The production of rice decreased because of soil degradation. Tenina
[Imperata cylindrica] started to develop around 1967. It is necessary to
wait 10 years to see it disappearing. Only six years were necessary some
decades ago. Thakok [Rubus mollucannus] existed for a long time, but
expanded in about the same period. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
But they have management rules aimed at controlling Imperata (tenina):
There is some land where the dingadingana is mixed with tenina. This is
not good for doing tavy. The dingadingana makes the tenina disappear, but
not completely because the roots are still there for 3-4 years. If we put the
fire, then we will have much tenina in the next fallow period. (a farmer
from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The tenina comes where the soil is hard. It is mixed up with
dingadingana.… The dingadingana eliminates the tenina if we wait six to
10 years. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The tenina develops after clearing and burning. It also develops better in
altitude, and in dry land. It can be completely suppressed by banana trees
and by sugarcane but these plants do not grow well in areas where there is
much tenina. There is no solution against this weed except in the bottom
lands, where we can plant bananas and sugarcane. (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
They also recognize that controlling wild fires is necessary to fight against this

invasion but refer to poverty, the lack of solidarity (see also Section 2.3.2.), and the

lack of state control to explain the frequency of wildfire:

We usually burn the land that we want to cultivate but the fire can
propagate beyond the field. We have to call friends in order to control fires
better. Sometimes, we also prefer to burn in the night in order to avoid
accidents. The propagation depends on the day we burn rather than on the
period we burn. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)

See Table 9 page 147 for more information about these species.

If we do not control fires, then the vegetation burns outside the cultivated
area. This helps much the development of tenina. People do not take care
and let the fire extend everywhere. This is frequent but some people take
care. We respect the land because we came back to the village four years
ago and we do not have our own land. We have to take care of the land that
we borrow. People were more careful in the past because there was the
police and the rules were strict. They were calling friends for controlling
fires together. Now, everybody just takes care of himself. There has never
been community rule on this point. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Concerning the tools used for slash-and-burn cultivation, farmers use a

machete, plus sometimes an axe, to clear the vegetation. Seed holes are made with a

stick and weeding is done with the machete again or an old small angady. Rice is

harvested with a simple knife. In other words, almost no resources other than labor

and vegetation biomass are necessary to practice tavy. Anybody that has access to land

(granted by traditional authorities) and owns a machete and some seedlings can

practice it.

In terms of labor productivity, the system is perceived as efficient if it is

practiced in the forest. Most households consider that it is more profitable than

lowland rice cultivation, unless a good spot is available in bottom land and can be

irrigated. Weeding is not an issue on land cleared in the forest but can cause

abandonment of a field on degraded land. It seems that weeds, more than low fertility,

are the cause of low rice harvest on tavy. Fighting against pests, mostly Behatoka

(Heteronychus plebejus Klug), rats and red fody, a small bird of the Passeridae family

(Foudia madagascariensis Linnaeus) can be a significant work burden. These pests

are a frequent cause of bad harvests:

Rats are a big problem, as well as parrots. They are more numerous on the
crests. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Behatoka is a big problem on rice, in tavy, and in paddy fields as well.
There are also many rats. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Another essential constraint to tavy is the repression of this practice by the

government. Tevy ala (primary forest clearing) is perceived as being forbidden by the

government but was still practiced in 2001, due to the absence of control (Section

2.2.). The legislation actually puts some restrictions on the practice of tavy in fallow

land (Chapter 2) but we saw that these restrictions are usually not enforced. In sum,

until 2001, farmers in Ambodilaingo did not worry about state control when they did

tavy on fallow land, but they expressed a certain fear of state control in case of forest

It is forbidden to clear the forest. The state is very strict. It seems that there
is something in the forest that is useful for the state. We do not really know
what would be the punishment but most people are afraid. Maybe we could
go to jail. People cultivate bad soils despite the fact that they have bad
harvest. They move into fallow land and put their production in the hands
of god. When we have a bad harvest uphill, we cultivate the bottom lands.
(a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
This situation changed in 2002, when the government launched the antifire

campaign (Chapter 3). The Presidential speech was heard on the radio and information

about farmers that had been arrested for practicing tavy quickly reached the village.

Some farmers did not dare to burn the vegetation they had already cleared and did not

sow rice. Others moved deep into the forest to hide from state control or came back to

the village to do tavy on degraded lands (Ratsimijanona 2006). Others waited to see

what would happen and delayed sowing, resulting in a low harvest. Those who had no

or a bad harvest employed the same strategies they use in case of cyclonic damage.

They switched their diet earlier to cassava, harvested food in the forest, and searched

for income opportunities (Ratsimijanona 2006). In Ambodilaingo, a decrease in school

attendance was observed because children were asked to contribute more to support

their family (Ratsimijanona 2006). Parents send them to Beforona to sell bananas. The

2002-2003 season may indeed have been the less appropriate for developing more

intensive land uses. It is remembered as a period of deep crisis by most people. Forest

activities, mostly the transportation of wood from harvesting sites to the road, were the

main source of income that helped people to survive. Fortunately, the campaign was

not repeated the next year and the situation came back to normal, despite the fact that

provincial authorities issued a decree that forbid agricultural fires (Chapter 3).

Certainly this campaign had a positive impact on the environment (it clearly

resulted in less primary forest clearing and better fire control), but it was unethical due

to the deep poverty of most households in this region. Moreover, the same results

could have been obtained targeting only tevy ala (primary forest clearing) and


As a consequence of this history and these practices, tavy in Ambodilaingo

encroaches relatively slowly on the forest. The limit between agricultural land and

forest land follows a straight line. Not many tavy are encountered inside the primary

forest, almost no forest patch remains in the agricultural land and secondary forests are

nonexistent. Long fallows are never practiced except in case of arrested succession or

land invaded by Imperata cylindrica and Pteridium aquilinum. But state control does

not seem to be the only explanation. It seems that rice reaches it ecological limit on the

forest edge, at an altitude of about 800 meters. Big rains result in high risk and

cultivation on degraded land located at lower altitude is sometimes preferred for this


In other regions of the world, farmers move over a vast territory and allow a

complete forest recovery when they abandon their village for a better location. Such

systems are qualified as shifting or swidden agriculture. They cannot be compared to

the situation in Ambodilaingo. Here, villages never move once they are established.

When pressure on the land is too elevated and fertility degrades, some households can

leave the village and create a new dwelling closer to the forest. Those who move are

usually young households in the search for new land to establish themselves. In other

cases, villages split due to internal conflicts and a complete lineage leaves.

But at present, even this move toward forest land does not seem to occur.

Young households that leave the village rather search for locations suitable for

establishing a home garden, as we saw in the section about land tenure. Tavy is not the

only land use and may even be on the verge of not being the main land use.

4.1.2. Paddy fields

We saw that irrigated rice cultivation has been in decline since the seventies

due to the quasi-disappearance of cattle. This land use is, however, still practiced,

usually by the few families that own zebu. In general, paddy fields are created where

water can be derived from a stream with a minimal effort, for the benefit of a single or

a few families. The fields are usually in the form of small terraces as the land is rarely

completely flat. Larger collective improvements are rare, unless support is provided by

the government or by projects for the construction of cement dams (Chapter 7). Areas

suitable for irrigated rice cultivation are limited and are unequally divided between


Rice can be cultivated twice a year if there is efficient irrigation. The counter-

season cycle provides lower yield due to lower temperatures and a higher

susceptibility to pests. The techniques are usually traditional, but direct sowing is quite

rare. Rice is sown in nurseries and transplanted after four to six weeks. The plot is

prepared with an angady or a hoe, or by treading using zebu for the few families that

still raise cattle. The yield usually ranges from one to two tons per hectare. After a few

years, it can decrease significantly, depending on the location of the plot. When yield

reaches a bottom line, the plot is abandoned into fallow for a few years. Families that

have sufficiently large plots cultivate just half or less and switch from one part to the

other over the years. Manure is not used, even by households that own cattle.

Techniques recently popularized by projects, such as sowing in line, transplanting at

an earlier stage or using fewer seedlings per seed hole are encountered in some

locations. But the use of the whole SRA 151 package is quite rare, and SRI 152 is totally

absent 153 . Here is a farmer’s description of a typical paddy field in Ambodilaingo.

I have four zebus for treading but this is not enough. I have to work the
land with the angady. If we do not tread, we do not have a good harvest.
We prepare the land for the nursery using an angady. To prepare the land
with an angady takes much time. After we sow, we have to watch over the
field for 15 days because of the Fody birds…. We cultivate this paddy field
from 13 years. We were doing tavy before, on a land that we now want to
sell. All this bottom land is ours and we cultivate it every year, on the same
plots. We usually sow one vat [20 kilograms]. There are variations in the
yield because of the cyclones. The knowledge for doing this comes from
our ancestors…. People do not use the plow because there are not many
zebus in this area…. We do not have to weed if we sow in October,
because there is much water. We do not extend our paddy field because
part of the land lacks water and cannot be cultivated properly. (a farmer
from Ambodilaingo 2001)
This description shows that the main issue for the extension of paddy fields is

the availability of animals to facilitate labor, for treading and plowing the land. More

and more farmers attempt to work the land with an angady and to cultivate paddy

fields without cattle treading. But many are discouraged by the fact that bottom land is

covered by vegetation that is dominated by fast growing perennials, mostly Rubus

mollucanus, Lantana camara and Aframomum angustifolium 154 , which are very

difficult to eliminate with a simple angady:

Not everybody has land but everybody can ask for land for cultivating rice
in the bottom land. This is for free. We do not ask for this land because it is
much work to eliminate the weeds. One needs to have money and food to
invest in cultivation in bottom land. Rice in bottom land is cultivated like
in tavy if we cannot irrigate, but there are many weeds and if we do not do
a good weeding, then we lose. Nobody has worked this land with a plow.
We just use the angady and the machete. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo

Improved Rice Cultivation System. In French: Système de Riziculture Améliorée. See Chapter 6.
Intensive Rice Cultivation System. In French: Système de Riziculture Intensive. See Chapter 6.
I will explain these systems in more detail in the paragraph dedicated to the work of rural
development projects.
See Table 9 page 147 for more information about these species.

Once the land is cleared, it is also necessary to dig irrigation canals, which

represents still more work and is constrained by a shortage of food:

People tried to dig a canal. But they lacked food and did not finish in time.
There is a problem of lack of zebu, but irrigation is very important also. (a
farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
In spite of this, there seems to have been an increase in land improvements in

recent years. Those who cultivate rice in paddy fields still practice tavy and the two

systems complement each other.

I grow paddy rice in the bottom land. I plow by hand, but I have enough
water in this plot. Last year, I sowed 50 kapoks [10 kilograms] in my
paddy field and 100-200 [20-40 kilograms] in my tavy. Paddy necessitates
more work, mainly for plowing because we do not have a plow. I have
been doing that for 10 years but I can only grow a small area and I can see
that it is very hard and complex to do that. The yield is decreasing because
we cannot provide all the care. We cultivate the same land every year.
Weeding on paddy is more difficult because we have to remove the weeds
to avoid letting them regrow in the water. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo
This farmer’s statement further reveals that paddy fields are usually regarded

as more constraining in terms of labor. Buying a plow, which costs about 40 USD, is

often mentioned as a way to increase labor productivity, giving more evidence that the

lack of labor force is a more severe constraint than the lack of land to develop irrigated

rice cultivation:
There has never been any plow here in the past, and now it is the same. I
have a project to buy one for my kids but life is difficult. (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
I know that you just do research, but I insist that people here need some
means. There is much good land in the bottom land and the water does not
come until here. But we need a plow in order to cultivate this land. People
here lack means and tools for working. (an elder from Ambodilaingo 2001)
We already thought about working with the plow but it is impossible for
one household to do the investment. We could try to organize to buy one
with four or five households together. If one person had this equipment,
maybe everybody would use it. Those cultivating rice in paddy fields, at
least, could use it. But people have to be sure that they can successfully use
it. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)

In this last testimony, the interviewee lists what could be the three main

constraints to intensification: the lack of capacity to invest, the lack of solidarity, and

the risk factor.

4.1.3. Home gardens

Besides tavy and irrigated rice fields, farmers in Ambodilaingo have home

gardens where they grow cash crops, mostly bananas and coffee. These crops were

marginal until the mid twentieth century. Coffee was an essential cash crop during the

1950s and 1960s, but has declined since the 1970s due to low price. Bananas mostly

developed after 1990 because the rehabilitation of the road in the late eighties

increased market opportunities.

Creating a new home garden is the first objective of a newly established

household. Farmers sometimes go far away in the search for suitable places for

creating their home garden, as we saw in the paragraph about land tenure. Other

constraints are the important work necessary to establishing home gardens and

transportation cost, which confirms Nambena’s (2007) outcomes:

It is easy to plant 1000 banana trees in one year if we want and if we have
many friends. We get the seedlings from friends. But we do not plant that
much because we have many other activities. For instance, now is the time
for weeding the home garden, but we also have to clear the tavy. Most
people just plant 10 to 20 banana trees. But if we specialize in this crop, we
can plant more. If there would be a road, sure, we would plant more banana
trees because we could sell. (a young farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
However, home garden maintenance has a low cost. It consists of one or two

weedings per year and can be done at any time, whereas some periods are more

There is no special time to weed banana trees. We do that when we can,
little by little. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)

Bananas also have the advantage of being harvested all year round, providing a

limited but permanent income. Unfortunately the sale price is low: about 0.5 USD per

kilogram. Collectors know that farmers will not return to their village with a 30

kilogram load. They impose a very low price and it happens that farmers prefer to

dispose of bananas rather than accept this price. Bananas are also consumed, mainly

during the rice shortage period.

Coffee played a significant role in the economy a few decades ago, as we saw.

At present, coffee plantations are almost abandoned due to low and unstable prices

and coffee is harvested mostly for self-consumption. The other products found in

home gardens (e.g., avocado, jackfruits, grapefruits, oranges, limes, and sugar cane)

are locally consumed and often go to waste.

4.1.4. Other cropping systems

Ginger used to be cultivated in Ambodilaingo as a cash crop until a few years

ago, using techniques similar to those employed in Beforona. It has now almost

disappeared because “farmers along the road produce big quantities and the price went

down” (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001). Due to transportation costs, ginger is not

profitable anymore in Ambodilaingo 155 . It has a comparative disadvantage due to the

remoteness of this fokontany. The elevated cost of seedlings is also a significant


Beans and vegetables are grown on plowed land, on flat land, on river banks or

down the slopes on the most fertile soils. They are not frequent due to the difficulty in

purchasing seeds, the problem of transportation (in the case of vegetables) and

climatic risks. The profitability of cropping systems based on plowing and crop

In 2006, Ginger was sold as low as 750 FMg/kilogram in Beforona (0.07 USD), while transportation
cost 300 FMg/kilogram (0.03 USD). Ginger can however be sold a more elevated price if its harvest can
be delayed until the price gets higher. But poverty leads to selling it as soon as it is mature.

rotation, in comparison with tavy, is disputable. The labor cost of plowing discourages

most households due to the difficulties of eradicating the root systems of invasive

perennial herbs and shrubs. Plowing is, however, practiced on small plots and may

become more frequent in the future, as we saw in Chapter 3. Chapters 6 and 7 will

assess this option in depth.

The LDI project 156 attempted to develop crop cultivation in collaboration with

village teachers:
I cultivate beans in the bottom land, on land previously cultivated two
years in rice. Last year, I sowed 10 kapoks and harvested 100 kilograms.
This year, I sowed the 10 kapoks again and harvested 120 kilograms. The
harvest increased because the roots decompose in the soil…. The land has
been slashed and burnt for rice before growing the beans. It was a Thakok-
Longoza-radriaka 157 fallow. There was no tenina…. The rice was sowed
like in tavy. But for the beans, I plowed the land to a 20 cm depth, using an
angady…. I am the only one doing that. People did not try because plowing
is difficult. The beans are for self-consumption…. This has been done with
the support of LDI. The seedlings come from the agriculture center of
Moramanga. The difference with the traditional system is that the land is
plowed, instead of just taking out the upper part of land with all superficial
roots. This asks four times more work but plowing gets easier every year. I
had a training in Andasibe for making compost and I will start soon to do
that. (the teacher of Ambodilaingo 2001)
The main constraint for this system seems to be the labor cost of plowing, as in

the case of paddy fields. But plowing gets less difficult when it is repeated successive

years, because the root systems of perennials are progressively eliminated. The

extension of permanently cultivated plowed land can be seen as a long-term

investment that will need years to occur, unless it is encouraged by outside supports.

The main constraint may be this initial investment in terms of labor, rather than the

profitability of the system. Chapter 7 will show how this constraint can be lifted.

Landscape Development Interventions, financed by USAID (Chapter 6).
Rubus mollucannus, Aframomum angustifolium, and Lantana camara. See Table 9 page 147 for
more information about these species.

Pineapple is cultivated by a few farmers in Ambodilaingo, on fallow land like

in Beforona and with minimal care. This system can be seen as an improved fallow

having high labor productivity (Chapter 3). Only one household grows pineapple at a

significant scale, however, due to the lack of opportunities to sell the fruits and the

elevated transportation cost. The fruits are used for self-consumption or to feed the


4.2. Livestock systems

Livestock husbandry is not much developed. Pigs are not consumed because of

taboos but are raised by a few households. Fowls are raised by almost all families in

an extensive manner. For most farmers, the lack of agricultural surplus is the main

constraint to raising these animals:

We do not have means to raise pigs. We must have food to give to them,
like cassava or maize. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Pig raising, however, seems to be paid increasing attention by farmers:
People started to raise pigs eight years ago. There was a taboo on this
animal before. Four people raise pigs in the village now. (the fokontany
President of Ambodilaingo 2001)
Cattle were abundant until the 1960s but declined for the reasons I explained

earlier. Farmers who have cattle either managed to find sufficient cash to buy the first

animal, or inherited them from their ancestors. Here are two descriptions of livestock

husbandry by two of the few farmers who own cattle. Both are better-off farmers. The

first one receives income from a small trade while the second has one of the largest

irrigated rice fields in the village:

We put the zebu on the paddy field after the harvest. We also use them for
treading. We have a corral for the night. During the cropping period, we
bring the animals in the forest. The main problem is that we have to look
after the animals all the time, because there are crops everywhere. Our
small boy can do that…. We had zebu from our ancestors but they died.
We bought these ones…. Dingta is not the only disease. There is another

disease: when you put the flesh of the dead animal in a pan, it gives some
water. We can eat the meat but it needs much preparation…. We bought
the animals in 1994 because they were cheap, due to the Geralda cyclone.
We get some money from our small trade…. We do not use manure but
there is no taboo for that. We never heard that we could use manure. The
corral is always in the same place…. We do not give forage to the cattle in
the corral…. Our male is dead last year from the disease we described. We
have to ask other herders in order to fertilize our female. We now have the
mother and two young. We do not sell animals except in case of absolute
necessity. (A farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
I have these four zebus because I bought them six years ago, from the
money of rice. I was trading zebu before. I bought them because the price
was very low after the Geralda cyclone. I had two births. One is dead of
disease and one fell into a hole in the forest…. I feed my animals in the
bottom land and also bring them inside the forest. There is no special
period for this but if there is no grass in the bottom land, I bring them
inside the forest…. We always have to look after the animals. I join with
my son for doing so…. The difficult period for feeding the animals is when
there is much rain or a cyclone, because it is difficult to look after them, or
when we have health problems…. We do not join forces with other
families because not many people have zebu…. The animals spend the
night in a corral. We have one in the forest and one in the bottom land….
There is no taboo concerning the use of manure, but we do not use it
because we are not used to it. We prefer to rotate the corral and cultivate on
it, but this is not always done…. Nobody complained about our animals
because we always look after them, me or my sons. This is difficult but we
have no choice. We tie them up when we leave for lunch…. My zebu were
vaccinated. The veterinary came and we just had to pay the vaccine. But
the veterinary did not come this year. (A farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
These descriptions show that cattle husbandry necessitates investment and is
risky due to the frequency of disease and the difficulties in finding veterinarians, and

to “accidents” of cattle that fall in the steep terrain of the forest. They also show that

potential damage to crops results in an important labor burden to look after the

animals, and that the use of manure is only embryonic.

In sum, small animal husbandry, especially pig husbandry, may be more

suitable to local conditions than cattle husbandry in the short term. But the situation

could evolve if the problem of conflict with agriculture was solved, for instance, by

enclosing permanently cultivated land, and if the vulnerability of livestock was

decreased, by increasing veterinary care. The lack of capacity to invest, however, will

remain an essential constraint to the development of cattle husbandry.

4.3. Forest products extraction

The forests of Ambodilaingo have not yet been depleted of their wood

resources. Palisander has been harvested for about ten years. The resource may be on

the verge of depletion and second category woods are starting to be cut. Harvesting is

controlled by a few operators. Some received a legal permit, but cut beyond the

authorized period and area. They employ intermediaries to collect the wood on the

road (Chapter 3).

Wood is cut inside the forest and carried to the road in the form of boards. This

provides significant job opportunities to villagers. Some villagers also search and cut

trees themselves in order to receive a larger part of the benefit. It seems that between

ten and twenty households specialized in this business in Ambodilaingo. In 2003, a

road was constructed by an operator to transport wood from Ambodilaingo to

Beforona. Trucks transported a few loads until the extraction stopped, certainly

because of the permit suspension that occurred in 2004 (Chapter 2). The road is now

impassible but exploitation recently started again. Staff from the forest service offices

sometimes comes to visit. They deliver documents that allow wood to circulate in

apparently legal conditions. For example, they authorize the circulation of ancient

stocks but the documents are used for transporting newly cut trees. According to

informants from Beforona, people with high political connections protect this

business. An operator recently attempted to utilize the GELOSE legislation to allow

legal extraction by local communities. He prepared all the legal documents and made a

few promises to convince villagers to collaborate with him. The villagers of

Ambodilaingo were going to sign the documents to form a COBA (Chapter 11) that

could be granted extraction permits. But the mayor, aware of the manipulation,

opposed it.

In Ambodilaingo, most men of working age transport boards from the forest to

Beforona. They earn the equivalent of about 5 USD a week transporting two or three

boards that weigh about 30 kilograms each. This represents three to six days of work

but most workers need to rest one day after each transport. In spite of this, the job is

very attractive because it provides immediate cash that serves to buy basic products

like rice, salt, kerosene for lamps and rum as a reward after the effort. Some young

people manage to do important saving they use as a dowry to marry. People over 55

years old have been seen engaged in transporting boards. Some men specialized in this

activity and almost abandoned agricultural work. They are criticized by other farmers

who remind them that forest product extraction can stop any day and that people

“should better plant cassava if they do not want to starve some day” (an elder from

Ambodilaingo 2001). A rigorous calculation remains to be done but it may be that

agriculture production actually pays less than working as a board transporter.

In sum, forest exploitation, and especially board transportation, plays a very

significant role in Ambodilaingo’s economy. But this activity is perceived in a very

different manner by the elders and the young. Elders are often against it:
Young people rush into this activity, but it has no future. People should
plant banana trees, coffee, and grow rice. (an elder from Ambodilaingo
It is very hard to do this job. People do that because of poverty. Young
people should better invest in agriculture. The money they earn is only
used for eating. There is nothing remaining, except for drinking rum. They
always think that they will earn money again the following day…. They get
so tired when coming back that they cannot work the land. They usually
have a family and a young child, and some are still older. Some families
are dependant on this income and forget to grow rice. (an elder from
Ambodilaingo 2001)

Young men are more enthusiastic because board transportation represents the

fastest way to get cash:

To get a wife, one needs about 500 000 FMg [about 75 USD]. One has to
cultivate and earn money two to three years to get this money. Ginger is the
crop that allows earning more money, but it necessitates much work.
Sometimes, 10 years [of saving] is still not enough. Some people carrying
boards can get the money in a few months. Most young men collect the
money in this manner. We can pay part of the sum to ask for the woman
but if we do not finish paying, we can lose the wife and the money, and the
kids if we already have kids. This money is for the wife’s parents. (a young
farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
A large number of other products are harvested in the forest. They are mostly

materials for house construction, wood to produce furniture or other items (such as

mortar and pestles), medicinal plants, orchids to be sold in Andasibe (only a few

households do this), and food such as meat from hunted animals and forest yams. The

later seems to play a significant role in the diet during the food shortage period.

Besides the harvesting of forest products, reforestation exists but is limited to a

few small eucalyptus plantations.

The first eucalyptus were planted in 1957. We prefer forest patches but
there were not anymore, so we planted the eucalyptus. Some plantations
belong to the village and others belong to individual owners. In this case,
we must ask their authorization in order to harvest firewood or construction
wood. But we prefer to harvest firewood in fallow land…. In this village,
we do not produce charcoal. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
In 1964 and 1972, planting eucalyptus was the condition for getting
authorization for doing tavy. Eucalyptus were planted on land not suitable
for rice because they grew well on this land anyway. (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
Eucalyptus tends to be invasive. Farmers sometimes cut them to do tavy. They

argue that they lack land to do tavy and that this clear-cutting allows dense eucalyptus

woodland to grow after the crops has been harvested.

5. The strategies for intensification

We saw that agriculture in Ambodilaingo was relatively prosperous until the

seventies. Livestock husbandry was more developed and paddy fields and coffee

cultivation complemented tavy to sustain livelihood. The situation degraded after the

seventies due to the decapitalization of livestock, the abandonment of paddy fields, the

degradation of terms of trade, the degradation of land, and the ban on forest clearing.

At present, slash-and-burn systems are in a situation of crisis because they face their

ecological and political limits. For these reasons, farmers in Ambodilaingo perceive

that tavy is not the crop for the future. In contrast to what their ancestors did, they

search for new economic opportunities:

In ancient times, rich people did not make cash crops but extended their
tavy cultivation. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Now, rich people invest their money to pay hired people to extend their
home garden, their paddy fields, or for coffee or cassava cultivation. (a
farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
If I had money, I would invest in agriculture and in raising pigs. A 15
kilograms female costs about 200,000 FMg [about 30 USD]. We cannot
buy a younger one because there is a big risk that it will die, because there
are many diseases. We can sell the pig for 400,000 in April, after it gives
babies. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
If we had money, we would invest in ginger and rice. (a group of farmers
from Ambodilaingo 2001)
But they lack investment capacity and market opportunities to adopt these

There is much land to cultivate but the problem is to find money. The area
is favorable to ginger and pineapple but the problem is to sell the products.
There are big price variations. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The cultivation and market for ginger started to develop in 1987. Ginger
was sold for 3000 FMg/kilograms five years ago [about 0.45 USD]. Now,
it is sold for 750 FMg [about 0.12 USD]. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo

We grow pineapples that are very easy to sell in Beforona because they
grow big here. But the transport cost is 300 FMg per kilograms 158 [0.45
USD]. We also have problems with rats but we can eat pineapple. It is
good for the children. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
The construction of a road is often evoked as a way to solve these problems:
The main problem is the transport to Beforona. We could grow coffee,
banana, rice, cassava, sugarcane but it is difficult to sell the products.
People would be very happy if there was a road, because they could sell
easily. Now we go to Beforona once a week to sell our products and buy
something. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
I am here for one year, and I think that the number one problem is getting
products out. Most people would agree to the creation of a road. Only a
few would be against…. The priest had a project to create a road, but the
commune did not agree. I do not know the reason why they disagreed. I
also heard that a forest operator had a project to build a road for carrying
the wood. 159 (the catechist of Ambodilaingo, recent migrant 2001)
But the road is also perceived as a danger because it could favor the

appropriation of land by immigrants:

The problem is also that people coming from outside can take the land. The
population living along the road does not encourage its construction
because they may have to move. They nevertheless need a road to get their
products out. The solution? We have to take the risk and to be smart. We
have to title the land. (the catechist of Ambodilaingo, recent migrant 2001)
The problem is that the road also brings new people who seek for new land.
We will have to cultivate land in the forest to have something when there
will be land tenure problems. We do not title the land because we do not
know about that. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)
Beyond the lack of investment capacity and market opportunities, cash crops

and other alternatives to tavy are also constrained by climatic risks:

The main problem in Ambodilaingo is the climate. Harvest can be good but
there are cyclones and hail storms. The hail gives cold to the rice’s roots.
This happens almost all years. There are two kinds of hail storms. The
small ones that do not do much damage and the big ones that cool the rice
roots. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo 2001)

In 2006, pineapple were sold for about 500FMg per piece in Beforona (0.075 USD), and the
transportation cost was about the same.
This road was eventually constructed in 2003-2004, but was impassible after a few months, due to
big rains and the stopping of forest exploitation.

When there is a lack of rain, the production is bad. But it is the same when
the rain is too big. We put our production in the hands of god. (a farmer
from Ambodilaingo 2001)
There is also a big risk of inundation in the bottom land when rice is
flowering. These inundations destroy the improvements in the bottom land,
so it is dangerous to invest by paying people to do these improvements.
The slopes are not affected by the cyclones. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo
Fields and houses have been destroyed [by the Geralda cyclone, in 1994].
Banana trees, cassava and almost all crops have been destroyed by
inundations on bottom land and wind on slopes. People left the village and
did not come back because they had to find food. (a farmer from
Ambodilaingo 2001)
In the end, even energy purchase is insufficient to work and improve the land,

as we already saw:
People now have fewer paddy fields, fewer zebu and less food. They thus
have less strength for working their land. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo
In sum, several pathways for intensification already exist (paddy fields, home

gardens, cash crop cultivation such as ginger and livestock husbandry) but are

constrained by the lack of investment capacity, by vulnerability and by insufficient

access to markets.

6. Relations with Projects

Facing such difficulties, one could expect that farmers would ask for support

from projects. We saw that projects operate in Beforona from many years. People

from Ambodilaingo know about that. Market days, every Thursday in Beforona,

provide opportunities to exchange information with people from other villages. But in

the end, projects are perceived as being associated with anti-tavy policies and are not

welcomed in the area, as shown by the following declarations:

I know the people from here. People do not dare to tell you that but I want
to be sincere. People in Ambodilaingo are afraid of LDI because they have
little means to cultivate the bottom land and only do tavy. People are afraid

of LDI because LDI impedes doing tavy and cutting the forest. People here
also observe that LDI does not really have a solution to replace tavy. They
have some solutions, but it is impossible to do what they propose. LDI also
tries to convince the foreign people that they have some solutions. (a
farmer from Ambodilaingo, among the most educated 2001)
Chapter 6 will show that this fear is rational. My own presence also created

fear in the village, at least at the beginning:

Maybe you did not follow that in the meeting, but there was a big
discussion when you first came. The elders did not want you to come but
the young people insisted for the village to receive you. People are not
confident with LDI because LDI does not support them well for the new
techniques. (a farmer from Ambodilaingo, same as for the previous citation
When you came for the first time with [the representative of the commune],
I proposed that we wait for the agreement of the elders from the five
hamlets of the fokontany, before giving approval. I have some difficulties
feeding my 11 kids and I resisted at the time of your arrival, but the person
who was accompanying you insisted on getting my immediate acceptance,
without agreement from the whole fokontany. (an elder of Ambodilaingo
The main concern is, of course, the attitude of visitors with regard to tavy:
When one forbids tavy, one kills people. (a farmer of Ambodilaingo 2001)
If you do not come for forbidding tavy, then we are safe. (a farmer of
Ambodilaingo 2001)

7. An emotional portrait of the local economy

In this section, I will describe the poverty situation in Ambodilaingo in the way

it has been felt during the six months I spent in the village. I believe this is necessary

because the most talkative farmers, those who provided me with the longest and more

informative citations in the previous section, are often the better off. The poorest often

remain shy. They hesitate to receive visitors because they are ashamed of having

nothing to offer. There is also much information that is collected by direct observation

and that does not require asking questions, such as the belongings people have and the

materials they use to build houses. This section will thus complement the previous

one. It concerns a significant part of the population of Ambodilaingo, certainly a large

majority; however, no precise measurement as been done of poverty level and


The first sign of poverty in Ambodilaingo is that almost all new houses are

built with the same local materials collected in forest and fallow lands. Roofs are made

of thatch and walls and floor are made of bamboo or other cheap materials. Only

ancient houses are made of boards and have a corrugated iron roof. The Geralda

cyclone destroyed most of these houses in 1994 and they have not been rebuilt since

that time (Photograph 22). Nobody now seems to have enough money to buy

corrugated iron.

Every day’s life is about the same for everybody. It is marked by a food

shortage period (indeed, a rice shortage period) which lasts three to nine months.

During this period, households attempt by all means possible, mostly by transporting

boards or bananas for sale, to find money to buy rice. If they do not manage to

purchase rice, they eat mostly cassava, which has a lower nutritious value, but also

bananas, yams and sweet potatoes. For the households that have no revenue (for

example, widowed women or elders who cannot transport palisander boards or banana

racemes), the temptation is great to eat the seeds kept for the next agricultural season.

Meat is eaten during a few weeks of the months following oxen sacrifice, which

occurs about twice a year. Households living close to the forest also hunt and eat game


During the rice shortage period people are quite depressed. They complain and

dispute more with their neighbors and almost beg support from foreigners (myself and

the Malagasy students I worked with). During the harvest period the atmosphere

changes. Foreigners are more frequently invited for lunch or dinners (it can happen

that we had five or more meals a day). Farmers are not ashamed of their condition

Photograph 22: The main street of Ambodilaingo. The village was almost
abandoned after the Geralda cyclone in 1994, but farmers started to move back and
rebuild their houses in 2004. This photograph also reveals that the economy was more
prosperous in the past: households are unable to buy corrugated iron at present.

because they still have food for the next day. Children are more alive, move more and

speak more. The bodies of children as well as of adults change: they recover their

normal weight and muscles.

The basic goods that almost all households have are a few cooking pans, some

blankets, a bag containing a few nice clothes used for ceremonies and other social

events, some plates and spoons, a set of woven items made by the wives, and

sometimes a small backpack and a tape player, used on party days only due to the high

cost of batteries. Even these basic objects are missing in many households. Blankets

are not sufficient in number for the whole family or are very old. The missing items,

especially new clothes, are bought before the national day (June 26). This period of

the year is a time of party and joy and people do everything possible to eat and dress

decently. As rice harvest occurs in April and May, some rice is sold to purchase

clothes and to donate for the collective buying of zebu for sacrifice. This rice is sold at

very low price (no more than 0.2 USD per kilogram), despite the fact that rice will

have to be bought at twice this price during the food shortage period.

Children are educated in the same public school despite the fact that their

parents know that the education quality is poor. Only a handful of households send

their children to a private boarding school, managed by the catholic church of

Andasibe, 27 kilometers from Ambodilaingo. People usually stay in their village and

do self-medication or use traditional medicine when they are ill, because going to

Beforona results in costs they cannot bear (Chapter 3). When they are seriously ill,

they cannot afford to move to the district town and pay the hospital. It would cost one

to a few hundreds USD to cure a disease such as a tuberculosis in its final stage, or to

do basic surgery. This sum would need the contribution of the whole community to be


In this context of high poverty, the capital of farmers, except land, is reduced

to almost nothing. Agricultural tools are only the machete, a stick for sowing rice in

tavy and a small angady, usually very old and used for weeding. Only one person in

the whole fokontany would have a plow. For many households, increasing this capital

by buying a new and bigger angady that costs about two USD cannot be done without

some sacrifice.

Even labor force is insufficient in this weak economy. Very few documents

about the region raise this issue 160 but it was one of the facts I most deeply

experienced during my stay in the village. When asked to explain why they do not

improve a larger part of their bottom land, farmers often answer that they lack food to

work hard. Things are that simple. This issue is not reported in the previous section

except in one citation, because I had no idea to ask about it and people are ashamed to

say that they lack food. But in the end, I had more opportunities to discuss this issue

and it was clear that lack of food was a major constraint. Others farmers asserted that

health issues or the lack of cash are their main concern, but this still reflects the same

problem of bad diet, low calorie intake, and high vulnerability.

A comparison with the situation in other regions of Madagascar helps one to

understand that this “energy” constraint is not a new myth. When the Betsileo farmers

of the highland, who are regarded as hard workers, spend their whole day plowing,

they need a huge plate of rice to recover their strength, which makes them famous for

the quantity of rice they are able to eat in one meal! If they do not have such a plate,

they will obviously not be able to do the same work the next day. If 2000 calories per

Styger (2004) collected testimonies that express a similar situation in Ambavaniasy, a fokontany
located farther north on the forest edge, on the National Road 2. Food shortage creates income needs
that result in the negligence of agricultural production: “When I plant rice, I can only harvest after six
months. If I am in need of food or money, I have to go cut wood, which does not allow me to do a good
weeding. The rice harvest is therefore low and I have to concentrate more and more on the wood” (a
farmer in Ambavaniasy, in Styger 2004, 39).

day is the minimal necessary intake to have ordinary activities, the need can reach

8000 calories per day in the case of intense efforts 161 . Plowing the whole day with an

angady, creating terraces on slopes, digging canals for irrigation with a hoe,

transporting 50 kilograms cement bags for 17 kilometers to build a dam may

necessitate much energy and be problematic when meat is rare and calorie intake

insufficient. If farmers prefer to use their strength to carry palisander boards, it may

merely be because they immediately earn sufficient cash to buy rice and recover their


Concerning income, even the one USD per day economy is out of reach for

most farmers in Ambodilaingo. Cash is absent in most households at anytime of the

year. When it is present (after the transportation of wood, bananas, or rice, or more

rarely after the sale of honey or local alcohol) it never represents more than a few

USD and is generally spent to buy rice and basic products, sometimes a small

backpack, a radio, a watch or some clothes. When foreigners want to buy something

using a big note (50,000 FMg, equivalent to 5 USD in 2006), farmers never have the


In sum, farmers are much poorer in Ambodilaingo than in the villages located

close to the road. Due to transportation cost and limited access to market, people

almost live in autarky and the economy still depends mostly on tavy. The repression

on this land use, the fact that it reaches its ecological limits and the reduction of the

fallow period result in insufficient production to sustain livelihoods. Palisander

transportation provides significant income but mostly serves to compensate for the low

rice production and to purchase basic products. As the villages located close to the

road provided most of the knowledge basis about the region (Chapter 3), there could

Cycling, for example, can require up to 8000 calories a day

be a significant bias in the representation of tavy farmer communities by aid


It may be, however, that more remote villages located farther south are not in

the same situation of deep crisis, due to the absence of forest control. If this was true,

it would also mean that the negative economic impact of an enforced ban on forest

clearing would be very significant.

A few households, nevertheless, are the exception to this depressing picture.

They are also at a quite low economic level in comparison with urban standards, but

they can be asked for change on a 5 USD note. Some send their children to the private

school of Andasibe; some have a more powerful tape player that they hire out during

village celebrations; others have some unusual items in their house, such as a gun, a

radio or a tape player that looks quite new, and batteries to make it work all day. In

most cases, the relative prosperity of these atypical households has a nonagricultural

origin. The head of household may be a representative of the state administration

(fokontany President); a person who traveled and worked outside the village, found

good job opportunities, saved money and came back; a traditional musician that gets

paid for playing at ceremonies; a man who specialized in wood extraction and logs

trees himself; a merchant who opened a small shop in the village. I would call these

atypical people the local elite. In the few cases where they owe their success to

agriculture, this results from a combination of advantages: they inherited cattle from

their ancestors, have a good spot for irrigated rice cultivation and a large track of

fertile land to grow banana trees. We will see in Chapter 6 that this local elite is first in

line to capture the aid provided by projects.

8. The influenza epidemic

An influenza epidemic occurred in July-August 2002. This epidemic has been

recorded by the World Health Organization in the Tanala region, located several

hundred kilometers farther south. It moved northward to Beforona, where it has not

been recorded officially but was witnessed by myself, the students I worked with and

by medical staff working in the commune. The disease came to the village like a wave.

The first day, a few people were ill and had to rest. Their family provided them with

care. The second day, there were ill people in every family. The third day, almost

everybody was ill in the village and lay on a mat, rolled in a blanket. Diseased people

were visited by the few relatives still in good shape. Many households had no food in

their house, no cash available and insufficient strength to collect cassava from their

fields. So they just waited for the disease to go. The third day, people started to die,

mostly young children and old people. Food was purchased by the World Food

Program through the Food Security Program of the nongovernmental organization

ADRA 162 , financed by USAID, and healthcare was provided by private donors. The

head of Beforona’s hospital was the first to come on the ground and to provide

healthcare. He made a report to the district health center in Moramanga. The Director

of ADRA-PSA and a representative of the Red-Cross office in Moramanga also came

to state the situation. The private local doctor was hired (he actually worked almost for

free) and was given a stock of drugs. He provided healthcare to about 800 persons in

the three fokontany he visited. People actually did not die from the influenza directly.

The virus, in synergy with malnutrition, weakened their immune system, resulting in a

malaria crisis and in the development of other latent pathologies, mostly respiratory

diseases. Both the private doctor and Beforona’s health center chief of staff agreed on

Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

this mechanism. Their statements are consistent with the WHO 163 report about the

epidemic that occurred in Ikongo. WHO and a nongovernmental organization were

contacted in Antananarivo. They were unfortunately unable to act unless they were

requested to do so by the Ministry of Health, whose decision depended on reports

received from provincial and district offices.

The district health office sent a medical team which refused to recognize the

existence of the epidemic and provided no healthcare. After one night in

Ambodilaingo, the team traveled back to Moramanga. Some messages were broadcast

on the radio contending that the epidemic was a rumor. Eventually, facing the

evidence, the district health services provided some drugs, one week after the

epidemic had passed.

The disease may have killed 36 persons in Ambodilaingo out of a population

of about 1500. The mayor recorded 27 deaths. The difference can be explained by the

fact that the mayor did not have time to visit all the scattered households and by the

fact that many people, mostly young children, are legally nonexistent because births

are often declared only after a few years, or are not even declared. I decided to

investigate the situation in villages farther south, to see if the epidemic was still

striking and to understand where it came from. I visited the commune of Ambalabe

(Map 4 page 112), located 55 kilometers southeast from Beforona, guided by the

person who would later become the mayor of Beforona. In all villages we crossed,

local authorities described the same epidemic and established a list of deceased

people. The death toll was always the same: about 2% of the people, mostly babies

and old persons, during a one month period. Ambalabe had been stricken two months

earlier and people explained that the epidemic had come from farther south, from

Ifasina II (Map 4 page 112). If one would walk until Ikongo, located 300 kilometers

World Health Organization.

farther south, he would cross just two roads, in Marolambo and Ifanadiana, the first

one being closed almost all year round. But he would cross a village about every two

hours. It may be that people died silently in the villages located along this itinerary.

The disease did not strike all villages in the same way. There were reported

cases in many villages of the commune but people died only in three fokontany:

Ampasimazava, Ambodiara, and Ambodilaingo (about 100 persons in total). In the

other fokontany, people just had a “cold,” managed to cure themselves by a better diet

and had access to healthcare, at the communal hospital or at the private doctor’s

office. These differences reflect the lower or higher vulnerability of communities. The

three fokontany that suffered from the outbreak are the most remote ones. Cash

economy is almost absent, the agrarian system is in a situation of crisis and access to

healthcare is problematic. The healthy period only lasts a few months after the rice

harvest. After that, the diet is based on cassava and people lack the strength and

courage to resist diseases. In sum, the influenza outbreak confirmed the high

vulnerability of tavy farmers living in remote areas and having no access to market,

forest land or other resources. To put a ban on tavy, the main land use that sustains the

livelihoods of these vulnerable communities, would be a crime that only ignorance

could explain. Fortunately, the Malagasy government is not ignorant of this

vulnerability and enforced the ban during a short period, in 2002, just enough time to

please the donors and favor the launching of EP3.

9. The Agrarian system

We saw that the region is in a situation of agricultural crisis due to the

reduction of the fallow period. The reproduction of fertility over time is not allowed.

Fallow periods usually last from three to ten years in Ambodilaingo. The consequence

is yield decrease that forces the development of new land uses. If there had been no

repression of forest clearing, the same situation would have occurred sooner or later,

after the clearing of all forest land or when the remaining forest land became

unsuitable for the existing land uses. But the fact that the crisis might have happened

anyway does not imply that it could not be avoided. Agrarian system analysis can help

us to envision what pathways could be used to avoid this crisis and to anticipate land

use change, before the systems reaches its political or ecological limits.

The challenge is to develop a new system which would have a higher carrying

capacity, i.e. which could develop and sustain the life of more people on the same

land. We saw that the elements of this new system already exist. They are mostly

paddy fields, home gardens, ginger cultivation systems and livestock systems – mostly

pig farming. A more general framework is necessary, however, to understand more

comprehensively the changes to come and the challenges associated with them. This

leads me to introduce the work of Esther Boserup (1965) about the conditions for

agricultural growth. We will see that the dynamics analyzed in this chapter, to which

more insights will be given in Chapter 6, can be better understood in the light of

Boserup’s framework.

Boserup (1965) criticizes the Malthusian perspective, which limits its enquiry

to the understanding of “how changes in agricultural conditions affect the

demographic situation” (Boserup 1965, 11). Her own concern is to understand “the

effects of population change upon agriculture” (Boserup 1965, 11). According to the

Malthusian theory, population growth is

the dependant variable, determined by changes in agricultural productivity
which, in their turn, are explained as the result of extraneous factors, such
as the fortuitous factor of technical invention and imitation. (Boserup 1965,
Boserup’s assumption, to the contrary, is that

the main line of causation is in the opposite direction: population growth
is… the independent variable which in its turn is a major factor
determining agricultural development. (Boserup 1965, 11)
Boserup’s main argument is that population growth increases the labor force

available and renders the development of new land uses necessary and possible. More

labor input facilitates the adoption of new technologies, which can lead to a total

landscape transformation.

This phenomenon would have been overlooked by classical economists

because they regarded soil fertility “as a gift of nature, bestowed upon certain lands

once and for all” (Boserup 1965, 13). They believed that the only pathways to develop

agriculture were “the expansion of production at the… margin, by the creation of new

fields, and the expansion of production by more intensive cultivation on existing

fields” (Boserup 1965, 12). Moreover, they did not explicitly consider fallow land and

pastures as agricultural land. For example, they saw North America as a virgin land to

be conquered, whereas the landscape was already anthropogenic when the first

colonists settled in New England (Cronon 1983).

Challenging this classical view, Boserup proposed the concept of frequency of

cropping. She showed that early stages of agriculture are characterized by systems

with long fallow and that fallow periods are progressively reduced in later stages, until
the land becomes permanently cultivated. The reduction of the fallow period leads to

lower soil fertility, but this fertility can be rebuilt in the later stages. This is permitted

by population increase, which provides a labor force with the power to create new

agro-ecosystems and to rebuild the soils that have been lost during the period of

extensive cultivation. The consequence is that

soil fertility, instead of being treated as an exogenous or even
unchangeable “initial condition” of the analysis, takes its place as a
variable, closely associated with changes in population density and related
changes in agricultural methods. (Boserup 1965, 13)

Using the concept of frequency of cropping, Boserup proposes a classification

of land uses with respect to their degree of intensity. Stage 1 is “forest-fallow

cultivation.” Forest land is cleared and cultivated one or two years and then left in

fallow for a long time span that allows secondary forest to regrow. Shifting or swidden

cultivation systems usually belong to this category. Stage 2 is “bush-fallow

cultivation.” The fallow period is shorter (six to eight years) and just allows the

development of a mix of shrubs and herbaceous plants. This stage is the one that

predominates in Ambodilaingo. Stage 3 is “short fallow cultivation.” The fallow

period (a few years) only allows herbaceous vegetation to grow. Some villages in the

commune of Beforona are already at this stage, especially the most densely populated

ones located close to the road (Photographs 7 through 10 page 156 to 159). Stage 4 is

“annual cropping.” Here, the fallow period lasts just a few months and crops are

rotated in order to avoid soil depletion. The agriculture of the Malagasy highlands is at

this stage, at least in the bottom land, and this system is progressively being exported

to the small plains and large bottom lands of coastal regions, including in Beforona.

Native farmers of Beforona also attempt to reach stage 4 on their own, by struggling to

create paddy fields and by inventing new crop rotations where ginger and plowing

play a prominent role (Chapter 3). Stage 5 is “multiple cropping.” Several crops are

grown on the same plot the same year, in association and/or in succession, allowing

several harvests per year. These systems are encountered in densely populated areas

such as the highlands of Burundi (Pollini 1993), as we will see in Chapter 10.

This classification is extremely simple, even trivial. It is based on the simple

assumption that soil fertility is a function of land use as much as land use is a function

of soil fertility. Soil fertility is depleted from stage 1 to 3, which we can call extensive

stages, but is increased during stages 4 and 5, which we can call intensive stages. Fire

is usually the agricultural tool that is used in stages 1 to 3 because it allows the

concentration of fertility in space (on the top soil) and in time (on the cultivated year).

Farmers’ work replaces fire during stages 4 and 5. But as farmers are less efficient

tools than fires, this replacement can only be progressive. Farmers build new soils and

new agro-ecosystems over the years, but they need a transition period where fire

continues to play its role and where extensive and intensive systems are combined,

until the new systems achieve their full productive capacity. In this perspective, soil

degradation is just a transitory stage to be reframed into a longer historical process.

This conception of soil fertility brings into question the vicious circle of land

degradation and poverty, a concept which shapes the strategies and practices of

development projects, as I will show in Chapter 6. There could be, indeed, a

population threshold above which the available labor force allows the rebuilding of

soils, and a soil fertility threshold below which farmers are motivated to change their

land use and rebuild its fertility. This second threshold explains why the shift does not

occur at low population density, by concentrating the available labor force on part of

the land.

In the light of the previous sections, we can guess that labor productivity is the

criterion to consider for determining when these thresholds are reached. Farmers allow

soil degradation to occur during the early phase of agriculture development because a

decrease in yields can be compensated for by cultivating larger tracks of land, or

because labor productivity is still sufficient to satisfy household needs or is superior to

that of other systems. When the labor productivity of extensive systems reaches the

level of more intensive ones, then the switch can occur. However, things are not that

simple because implementing new systems is also a move to the unknown, which

implies technological innovation and the taking of risks. Intensification further needs

investments, at least in the form of work as we saw. These constraints explain why the

switch to new systems does not always occur at the most appropriate time, and

sometimes does not occur, especially if the fertility threshold is attained brutally, as

appears to be the case in Beforona (Styger et al. 2007). The validity of the Boserupian

model, hence, does not imply that Malthusian crises are always avoided. Such crises

actually occur, as shown by the history of European agriculture (Le Roy Ladurie 1969;

Mazoyer and Roudart 2001) and by the situation in Ambodilaingo. They just cannot

be explained by a simple linear relationship between a level of resources supposedly

bestowed once and for all and a population having a certain density and technological


It is also important to notice that primary ecosystems are sacrificed while

passing from stage 1 to stage 2, because their clearing extends the land available for

cultivation, allowing long fallows to be maintained, and thus delays reaching these

thresholds. In contrast to soil chemical properties, biodiversity cannot recover when

population density increases, unless primary ecosystems have been maintained in

some places and are allowed to recolonize some land once the switch to more

intensive systems has taken place 164 . The challenge, thus, is to allow the switch to

occur before the complete clearing of primary ecosystems. A ban on forest clearing,

logically, is a condition for this to occur, unless forests are located on marginal land

with no potential for agriculture.

One could wonder why such agricultural development dynamics, which do not

appear to be particularly complex and have occurred for many decades in Beforona,

have been overlooked, as we can already guess from the previous chapters and as we

will see with more scrutiny in Chapter 6. The reason may be that the models of the

classical economists that Boserup put into question are still excessively influential,

including in development programs in Madagascar. To understand this, we must get

This situation is encountered in a few tropical countries which managed to modernize their
agriculture before all forests were cleared (for example: Costa-Rica and Puerto-Rico).

back to the logic of the agricultural conquests that formed the background of these

classical economists.

When European settlers arrived in the new world, they did not exactly

“develop” their land use from the beginning. Rather, they transferred it from Europe to

America. They had the advantage that earlier stages of resource depletion had not yet

occurred on the new continent, because native agricultural systems were only at the

first or second stage except in a few locations. They greatly benefited from the

conjunction of several resources being available at the same time: a capital of

knowledge and some finance that they brought with them, and a natural capital that

was still in place. Interestingly, the situation in Madagascar may be comparable.

Intensive agriculture systems have already developed in the highlands and are now

being exported by migrants to less densely populated areas where extensive systems

are still practiced by local people with less knowledge and less economic capital. The

classic model of agricultural development led development actors to confuse these two

agricultural dynamics: colonization at the margin by migrants and development by

autochthonous groups. The consequence is that development actors could support the

logic of the first process to the detriment of the second, whereas only the second leads

to an increase in the carrying capacity and can reduce the pressure on natural

resources. We will see in the next chapter that this is what actually occurs in Beforona.

10. Conclusion

In conclusion, the challenge in Ambodilaingo is to accelerate the switch to

Boserup’s stages 3 and 4 and to make this switch happen before the remaining primary

forests are cleared. A ban on forest clearing is a condition to achieve this. Otherwise,

the forest will be used to avoid reaching the thresholds that determine land use change.

The forest, however, has to remain open to the harvesting of its products, so it can

contribute to sustaining livelihood, rendering the ban on clearing more economically

and socially acceptable.

Closing the forest frontier, however, must be mitigated 165 by support for

agricultural intensification, for a quicker passage to stages 3 and 4. This can be done

by supporting the development of more intensive cropping systems, such as irrigated

rice cultivation, crop rotation and perennial crops. For all these systems, some

investment will be necessary, at least in the form of labor, and some risks will have to

be taken until the new systems are adjusted to local conditions. Villagers from

Ambodilaingo have an almost null investment capacity and their high vulnerability

renders them risk averse. Support from outside is thus necessary if this intensification

is to happen quickly. This support could take the form of subsidies to energy, in order

to favor investment in the form of labor, while the risk factors could be alleviated by

taking in charge agricultural innovation.

I will finish this chapter by giving two reasons for hope. Communities of

farmers in developing countries have two advantages for avoiding a Malthusian crisis.

First, the new technologies that are necessary to change the system have long been in

existence (developed countries switched from slash-and-burn cultivation to more

intensive systems hundreds or thousands of years ago). Second, investment capacity

could be huge if the international community was committed to provide it. Resources

are indeed available, but what remains to be questioned is rather the form this support

could take. Chapters 6 and 7 will attempt to answer these questions.

I will eventually conclude, after the analysis of development discourses in Part V, that mitigations
will not suffice because they offer no guarantee that the ban on clearing will be actually compensated.
In the last chapter of this dissertation, I will argue that a more direct compensation, in the form of
subsidies, will be necessary. But for now, based on the analysis of the agrarian system in Beforona, I
can only argue about the necessity to support agricultural intensification.



1. Introduction

We saw that Beforona is easily accessible from Antananarivo (three hours

driving on a good road) and is still covered by rain forest on its western limit (the

Betsimisaraka escarpment). For these reasons, several major rural development

projects aimed at stabilizing or eradicating slash-and-burn cultivation have worked in

the commune for decades.

From 1969 to 1972, the CTFT 166 supported 12 households to intensify their

land use in a 150 hectare watershed in Marolafa (Map 5 page 114). It proposed various

rice intensification techniques, crop rotation on slopes, organic fertilization, fireless

alternatives to tavy and anti-erosive techniques, introduced draft force for plowing as

well as several forage crops and improved irrigation by the creation of small dams (De

Coignac et al. 1973). Some farmers remember CTFT as being “a good project” (a

farmer in Beforona, 2002) 167 because some dams were built and “agricultural tools

were provided for free” (a farmer in Beforona, 2002). It is not clear whether the

project had actually an impact but it probably contributed to lowland rice


In 1974, after the end of the first republic and the departure of most foreign

experts, the Marolafa watershed became a research station managed by FOFIFA, the

Malagasy National Research Center for Agriculture and Rural Development. Applied

research on lowland rice intensification continued. A few technicians having their

French Technical Center for Tropical Forestry. In French: Centre Technique Forestier Tropical. This
institute is now the Forest Department of CIRAD.
Farmers frequently say that this project was the best project they remember. This information can be
biased by the fact that the project was run by a French organization while I am French myself.
Moreover, the fact that the project was well perceived does not imply that it had a positive impact.

office in Moramanga visited the site and supported rice and coffee intensification, but

this support did not last due to the bankruptcy of the state.

In 1989, in the context of opening to foreign intervention, new aid programs

started with support of the Swiss government, which funded two projects: Terre-Tany

from 1989 to 1998 and BEMA 168 from 1994 to 2001, whose research outcomes have

been utilized in Chapter 3. The main objective of these projects was to provide a

comprehensive understanding of the agrarian system and its dynamics. Beyond this

research effort, these projects collaborated with the Malagasy nongovernmental

organization SAF-FJKM, 169 from 1994 to 1998 (Nambena 2004). The main activities

implemented through this collaboration were the construction of community granaries,

reforestation and intensification. Farmer groups were supported in nine villages

(Nambena 2004).

The USAID funded project LDI 170 started in 1999 and resumed the

management of the Marolafa station. LDI lasted until 2002 and was followed by a

transition project called PTE, 171 until 2004, and by the ERI 172 project which is still

ongoing today. These projects have other working sites in the Toamasina and

Fianarantsoa Provinces. They work hand in hand with other USAID programs

implemented in the area and presently form the Toamasina eco-regional alliance, a

platform for coordinating and monitoring conservation and development activities in

the Mantadia-Zahamena corridor.

In this chapter, I will analyze the rural development activities implemented by

the LDI and PTE projects in Beforona. Section 2 will critically examine the

Ecological Assessment in Madagascar. In French: Bilan Ecologique à Madagascar.
An NGO tied to the Malagasy protestant church.
Landscape Development Interventions, operated by the consulting firm Chemonics International.
Ecoregional Transition Program. In French: Programme de Transition Ecorégionale. This program is
operated by Chemonics International and by the NGO PACT.
Eco-Regional Initiatives, operated by Development Alternative International.

knowledge base that has been produced by the BEMA/Terre-Tany and LDI/PTE

projects for developing alternatives to tavy. Three PhD dissertations have been the

hallmark in this endeavor: the works of Messerli (2003), Nambena (2004) and Styger

(2004). 173 Many other relevant works exist but will not be reviewed here because

these three authors already synthesized their outcomes. In Sections 3 and 4, I will

analyze the activities implemented by the LDI and PTE project in Beforona and will

study the case of the VMCRCC project (Vohidrazana Mantadia Corridor Restoration

and Conservation Carbon Project), implemented in the neighboring commune of

Ambatovolo. The VMCRCC project is still in its very early implementation but

illustrates a new turn that could be taken soon by conservation and rural development

policies in Madagascar.

2. The search for alternatives to slash-and-burn

2.1. The BEMA/Terre-Tany research about alternatives

Messerli (2003) reviewed most of the existing and potential alternatives to

slash-and-burn cultivation applicable in Beforona. He synthesized most of the research

work done on this subject by the Terre/Tany and BEMA programs. This section is

mostly based on his work. I will start by presenting his review of alternatives based on

fire suppression and the maximization of biomass production, which are usually those

paid more attention by projects. I will call these alternatives agrobiological

technologies for convenience. These technologies are, for instance, mulching,

improved fallow, and alley cropping. In a second section, I will present alternatives

already practiced by farmers (some of them being practiced in Ambodilaingo as we

saw in Chapter 5) and the pathways envisioned by Messerli (2003) to improve them.

My own research work was partly financed by CIIFAD (Cornell International Institute for Food,
Agriculture and Development), an institute based in Cornell University and partner of the LDI project
for the implementation of its activities in the Toamasina Province.

2.1.1. Agrobiological alternatives

Messerli showed that mulching provokes a very significant yield decrease in

rice due to very low germination rates and insufficient nutrient availability, and

necessitates a very significant additional labor, in comparison with slash-and-burn

systems, as shown in Table 12. These negative effects can, however, be corrected by

applying the mulch six months in advance, in order to favor its decomposition, and by

implementing the system on flat land (Table 13). In this case, a positive effect of no

burning on rice yield is observed the first year, but this effect is not sufficient to

compensate for the increased labor requirement. It must be noted that the experiment,

whose results are presented in Table 13, has no control: T1 is not a traditional tavy as

biomass is only partially burned and is cut six months prior to cultivation as for T2. In

order to remedy this, Messerli (2003) compares the results obtained in his trials with

the yield of traditional tavy, which averages 1670 kilograms/ha or 4 kilograms/day of

labor on less degraded land, according to Moor (1998b). But this comparison can be

misleading because Moor’s (1998b) data concern ordinary tavy usually implemented

on slopes, whereas Messerli conducted his experiment on flat land. An experiment

with a control plot which would be a tavy practiced on the same flat land should be

done to check the advantage of fireless practices. Other options, such as plowing or

the application of manure on land cleared using fire, would also be worthwhile to test

and compare with mulching.

Concerning improved fallow, Messerli (2003) obtains a significant biomass

increase on bottom land by planting Crotalaria, but identified no plant that can

produce more biomass than native vegetation on slopes. However, he did observe a

20% yield increase, with no additional labor cost, when he associated Tephrosia with

cassava (Messerli 2003, 179).

Table 12: Comparison of tavy with alternatives
Tavy (control) Biomass mulching and Biomass mulching and cutting
Criteria composting
Germination rate 10 stems/m2 42% of control 47% of control
(after 5 weeks)
Yield 100% 41% of control 31% of control
(834 kg/ha)
Invested labor 100% 580% of control 320% of control
(4.5j/120 m2)

Source: Messerli (2003, 151). Translation by Pollini.

Table 13: Effect of limited burning and no burning on rice yield and labor
First year Second year
T1 (limited burning T2 (no burning) T1 (limited burning T2 (no burning)
the first year) the first year)
Required days of labor 190 292 185 200
Rice yield 2430 3350 1540 1520
Labor productivity (kg/day) 12.8 11.5 8.3 7.6

Source: Messerli (2003, 162). Translation by Pollini.

Concerning alley cropping, ginger plots protected by Tephrosia vogelii Hook.

f. planted in contour strips resulted in a maximum 40% decrease in erosion, in

comparison to traditional systems (Messerli 2003, 197). This allowed a 29% yield

increase (Messerli 2003, 192) if the hedgerow was appropriately managed. However,

competition between hedgerow and crops eliminates the advantage if pruning is

delayed, which can easily happen due to constraints in the farmer’s work schedule. On

the other hand, no supplementary work is required in alley cropping because the better

control of weeds by mulching compensates the time spent establishing and managing

the hedgerow.

In sum, mulching appears to be irrelevant in Beforona due to the excessive

labor it requires, while other agroforestry technologies may allow a 30% productivity

increase 174 in the best cases. This gain is significant but appears to be insufficient to

expect an agrarian revolution to occur through these technologies. Agroforestry may

be of interest for broadening the scope of potential future land uses but should not be

regarded as a panacea for intensifying agriculture in the short-term. Even if the 30%

productivity increase was confirmed, the fact that alley cropping and improved fallow

have not been adopted, despite important extension efforts, should be considered

seriously. The risk factor, the opportunity cost of labor, the trade-off between higher

yield obtained in the long-term and lower yield obtained in the short-term, in

comparison to tavy, have never been analyzed in depth, whereas these factors may be

the main concerns at the farmer level. The integration of fast growing agroforestry

shrubs in farming systems must also be investigated in the long-term. It can be

In the context of Beforona, where land is not the limiting factor, labor productivity is a more
important criterion than yield to assess the profitability of cropping systems. Labor productivity can be
increased without converting more land to agriculture, by increasing the frequency of cropping (Chapter
5), i.e. by decreasing the fallow period.

expected that the positive impact on yield will increase with time, but the labor

requirement may increase as well. Shrubs planted in hedgerows may grow fast and

require increasingly frequent pruning so not to compete with crops. Those planted in

fallow could constrain the development of more intensive systems with crop rotation

and plowing, because their root systems would render plowing excessively

burdensome. Nambena’s (2004) outcomes will confirm this view. Moreover, if

research efforts in agroforestry are to be continued, it will also be necessary to

demonstrate that these techniques are more profitable and more suitable to farmers

than more conventional technologies such as plowing, manure application or

irrigation. It will also be necessary to demonstrate that erosion is indeed a key problem

in Beforona and that these technologies are efficient for limiting soil and nutrient

losses. Based on existing knowledge, even this point is doubtful. According to Brand

et al. (1997, 32):

the traditional technique is largely better adapted, ecologically, to the
torrential rain than most proposed or already practiced technical
innovations.… An improvement of the physical quality of soils (for
example by mulching or agroforestry) on steep slopes could favor
crumbling and landslides. The anti-erosive improvements should be
adapted to extreme events rather than to daily rains because most soils are
lost during these rare events. 175

2.1.2. Intensification of indigenous alternatives

This second series of alternatives concerns the integration of agriculture with

livestock husbandry and the development of permanent cultivation on the most fertile

land, usually on bottom land. These techniques are already practiced by the

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French: “ la technique agricole traditionnelle est
écologiquement et largement mieux adaptée aux pluies diluviennes que la plupart des innovations
pratiquées ou proposées.… Une amélioration de la qualité physique des sols (par exemple par mulching
ou agroforesterie) sur pentes raides pourrait favoriser le déclenchement des éboulements et des
glissements de terrain. Les dispositifs anti-érosifs devraient s’adapter plutôt aux événements extrêmes
qu’aux pluies quotidiennes parce que c’est pendant ces moments rares que la plupart des terres sont

population, in a rudimentary form and at a limited scale, as we saw in Chapters 3 and


First is ginger cultivation on plowed land. This crop has existed in Beforona

for several decades but boomed in the late 1980s, when the renovation of the road

opened access to a wider market (Chapter 3). Beforona is now the leading area for

ginger production in Madagascar. Ginger is usually cultivated on slopes (Photographs

7 to 10, page 156 to 159). The land is cleared, burned and plowed, which provokes

elevated soil losses 176 (Brand and Rakotovao 1997). These losses are the main

motivation of projects to improve the system.

Messerli tested an improved technique consisting in growing ginger on bottom

land and applying 25 tons of cattle manure per hectare. Yields increased by 288% and

labor productivity increased by 203% in comparison with a control with no manure

(Messerli 2003, 198). Clearly, the system is much more profitable than tavy and

agrobiological technologies, but the constraint is the availability of manure as most

farmers do not own cattle. The quantity of manure applied to the plot was very high

and more modest amounts should be tested. These results, however, show that

integration of agriculture with livestock husbandry could be a wiser pathway than

agrobiological technologies for future intensification.

Messerli (2003) showed that swine husbandry could be developed to favor this

intensification. The initial investment is much lower than in case of cattle

husbandry. 177 Beyond the production of manure, pig farming offers multiple
advantages to farmers. Rice bran and by-products of cassava and bananas can be used

to feed pigs. The sale of animals can provide a significant amount of cash that helps to

These losses are much more elevated than in the case of tavy: 50 ton/hectare/year on average in
ginger cropping systems, if we consider the whole rotation, including the fallow period; five
ton/hectare/year in the case of tavy, also for the whole rotation (Brand 1997).
In 2002, a young pig cost 100,000 FMg (about 15 USD) while a young zebu cost about 800,000
FMg (about 120 USD).

satisfy social obligations or to resist natural calamities. Farmers are always very

motivated to develop this activity, as Nambena (2004) showed in the case of

Ambinanisahavolo. 178 The main constraints, on the other hand, are the insufficient

investment capacity to buy the first animals and the risks of disease.

A second pathway for intensification is the improvement of home gardens.

Messerli (2003) confirmed that the home garden is the most profitable agricultural

system in the area in terms of labor productivity (Chapter 3) but also needs important

labor investment for its establishment (Chapter 5). He proposed to associate annual

crops such as ginger, beans and other plants traditionally grown in tavy, as a way to

provide short-term high returns and amortize these investments. He demonstrated that

these crops increase the profitability of the system and allow a shorter-term return, but

it remains unclear whether the association is actually an advantage. Farmers do their

empirical economic calculations at the farming system scale, not at plot scale, so

growing ginger in or out home gardens will not make any difference for them unless

bananas and ginger have positive interactions. Messerli (2003) did not provide insight

on this point. In a context where land is not rare and considering that ginger

accommodates poor soils, the advantage of the association remains doubtful, which

Nambena (2004) will confirm.

Lastly, Messerli investigated the potential of irrigated rice cultivation on bottom land.

His outcomes are similar to those of Chapter 5. The lack of investment capacity and

the damage caused by cyclones would be the main constraints to the creation of new

paddy fields. Land tenure and socio-organizational aspects would also be of prime

importance. In this context, the introduction of new techniques and varieties would not

be the priority (Messerli 2003). Ultimately, Messerli (2003) recognizes that paddy

fields cannot substitute totally for tavy, but considers that the potential for its

A village in the commune of Beforona.

development is, however, significant. He also showed that permanent rice cultivation

can stimulate the establishment of other permanent systems, such as home gardens and

crop rotation in and around the bottom land.

2.1.3. Toward new farming systems

Based on these results, Messerli (2003) assisted three households to implement

a combination of alternative systems. All three significantly increased their

production. Labor productivity ranged from 0.8 to 3.5 USD per day of labor 179 (the

maximum was obtained with animal husbandry). Home gardens, irrigated rice

cultivation, livestock husbandry and the use of manure were the main elements of this

success (Figure 12). Agrobiological technologies were also used but did not appear to

be essential. Only one household, which was living close to the forest, continued to do

tavy but on a significantly reduced area.

Messerli (2003) concluded that the key factors for this successful

intensification were (1) the integration of agriculture with livestock husbandry; (2) the

existence of opportunities to develop irrigated rice cultivation (access to bottom land

and efficient social organization to manage the water); (3) the possibility of selling

products from home gardens, which allowed the purchase of cash crop seedlings and

(4) the abandonment of tavy, or at least of large tavy practiced in remote places. This

abandonment was essential to allocate more labor force to more profitable activities.

Off-season cultivation of beans and vegetables was particularly successful because it

did not compete with rice cultivation (in tavy or in paddy fields), still regarded as

essential to assure food security. Most revenue was provided by the home garden

(mostly planted in bananas), by the sale of animals and by ginger cultivation on

About 6000 to 27,000 FMg. Gross estimation due to the variations of the exchange rate and to the
uncertainty about when the data were collected.

Ecological cycles Economic cycles

Figure 12: Alternative farming system in Beforona (to be compared with figure 10
page 166)
Source: Messerli (2003, 279). Translation by Pollini.

bottom land fertilized with manure. One household also speculated on the price of

products (rice price at least doubles between harvest and food shortage periods), which

almost doubled his revenue.

2.2. Nambena’s (2004) research on agroforestry alternatives

Nambena (2004) strengthened Messerli’s (2003) conclusions. Her research was

explicitly aimed at developing alternatives to tavy based on agroforestry technologies

such as agroforests, improved fallow and alley-cropping. She tested a large number of

agroforestry species chosen for their potential to produce green manure, improve

nutrient balances and provide by-products. Concerning improved fallow, she

concluded that fast growing agroforestry species cannot easily compete with the

invasive species that already grow in fallows. She proposed to move straight to

systems that are more intensive than improved fallow. She observed that the

elimination of invasive shrubs, by uprooting, is “a necessary condition for the

abandonment of burning and the adoption of permanent agriculture”180 (Nambena

2004, 218). As ginger cultivation necessitates plowing, she proposed to use this crop

to eliminate perennials fallow plants and amortize the important labor required for this

elimination. She observed that some farmers already do this and plant beans or

cassava on plowed land after ginger’s harvest. Eventually, she proposed manure,

compost or mulching application as a way to maintain sufficient fertility in these new

systems. In short, Nambena (2004) proposes the transition to Boserupian stage 4 that I

described at the end of Chapter 5 and observes that this transition is already on the

verge of happening. It is interesting to notice that her working hypothesis was to favor

the plantation of perennials (agroforestry species), including in fallow land, while her

Translation by Pollini. Original text in French ”le nettoyage a fond par déracinement de ces arbustes
rudéraux [est une]… condition indispensable pour le renoncement au brûlis et pour une mise en culture

outcomes lead her to propose the uprooting of perennial species in fallow. To use the

jargon of the working hypothesis of this dissertation, the reality has been stronger than

the representations that framed her research (the belief that agroforestry technologies

were the solution). Chapter 10 will show that the demystification of agroforestry

alternatives did not occur only in Beforona.

Nambena, however, still advocates for the use of agroforestry species planted

in contour lines to produce mulch and green manure and protect the soils from erosion,

as shown by the exemplary hillside design she proposes (Figure 13). She is aware that

some factors could constrain the adoption of these techniques (labor requirement, risk

factor) but she did not fully assess these constraints. In sum, Nambena (2004) may

have found the clue for the future development of the region and provided some

arguments to demystify agroforestry technologies. But she partially remained framed

in this agroforestry myth and may have not apprehended all the consequences of her


2.3. Styger’s (2004) research about fireless alternatives

Styger (2004) conducted research in two villages located close to National

Road 2: Ambinanisahavolo, where Nambena (2004) did part of her research, and

Ambavaniasy (commune of Ambatovolo, west from Beforona). Her research focused

on the development of fireless techniques for upland rice cultivation, using

technologies such as manure, green manure, mulching, improved fallow and the

application of guano-phosphate.

Styger (2004) analyzed land degradation in detail. She showed that thresholds

that render slash-and-burn unprofitable can be quickly reached at the scale of a whole

landscape and are not anticipated by farmers, who are then projected into a situation of

crisis they cannot escape, due to a lack of suitable alternatives (Styger et al. 2007).

Forest trees and cover crops

Agroforestry trees
and cover crops

Forest trees
and ginger




Ginger in young

Home-garden with
cash crops


Paddy field


Figure 13: Eco-design of an exemplary agroforestry hillside.

Source: Nambena (2004, 221). Translation by Pollini.

She quickly reviewed existing alternatives practiced by farmers or paid attention by

former projects. She noticed that improved fallow technologies developed by BEMA

had quickly been abandoned by farmers after the end of trials, because “the techniques

were developed only in preliminary form and were not fine-tuned to the current

system” (Styger 2004, 36). Farmers were “unable to solve emerging problems… [and]

it was easier to return to their traditional practices” (Styger 2004, 36). She stated that

irrigated rice cultivation could not produce enough rice to substitute for tavy, due to

insufficient availability of bottom land, and derived from this statement a less

optimistic conclusion than Messerli’s about the potential of this land use. Concerning

home gardens, she pointed out the insufficient quality of their products (except for

bananas) and low market price as the main constraints for their development. But she

missed the main advantage of this system (the high labor productivity) and the main

constraint for its development (the need of investment for its establishment, at least in

the form of labor). Concerning off-season crops, mostly beans and vegetables, she

considered them to be the most successful alternative. Finally, Styger (2004) deemed

that composting is not applicable at a large scale.

After this review, Styger (2004) concludes that “people will continue tavy as

long as possible, because it is the only technique they know. The result is that all

uplands degrade and there is no reversal of this trend in sight” (Styger 2004, 50). This

conclusion contrasts with the conclusions of Messerli (2003) and Nambena (2004), as

well as with my outcomes in Chapter 5, which showed that irrigated rice cultivation,

home gardens, and ginger cultivation on plowed land are alternative systems that most

farmers already know, but that a lack of investment capacity constrains the

development of these systems at a larger scale. The difference between the

conclusions of these authors may, however, be explained by the fact that Styger (2004)

conducted part of her research in Ambatovolo, where the topography is particularly

hilly and where bottom land suitable for intensification cover limited areas.

Based on these analyses, Styger (2004) proposed to develop alternatives that

would minimize nutrient losses and improve nutrient cycling. She proposed the

application of guano-phosphate (which provides an important level of the most limited

nutrients P and Ca) in combination with mulching and fallow improvement with

leguminous species. Her treatments were:

• T1: slash-and-burn (control)

• T2: slash-and-mulch without guano-phosphate

• T3: slash-and-mulch with 600 kilograms/hectare of guano-phosphate

• T4: slash-and-mulch with 1200 kilograms/hectare of guano-phosphate

She applied the same crop rotation on all three treatments:

• Year 1: upland-rice in the main season, followed by off-season beans

• Year 2: ginger

• Year 3: improved fallow (Crotalaria grahamiana Wight and Arn.)

Table 14 summarizes her results. These results are consistent with Messerli’s

(2003) outcomes. They show that slash-and-mulch (T2) leads to lower yields than

slash-and-burn (T1) on the early rotation (rice and beans) and moderate yield increases

later on (for ginger). When guano-phosphate is applied in addition (T3 and T4),

significant yield increases are obtained but only for beans and ginger. The more

degraded land (Rubus and Imperata fallow) are those where the yield gains are the

most significant.

Styger (2004) also compared the treatments in terms of monetary return (Table

15). She showed that more production and added value is obtained using guano-

phosphate but not with slash-and-mulch alone. But the use of monetary return as the

main criteria for economic assessment is disputable, because it does not consider labor

Table 14: Relative yields of fireless alternatives according to type of land.
(% of yield obtained in slash-and-burn system = % of T1)
Dominant species in fallow
Trema Psiadia Rubus Imperata Average for
all fallow
Crop Treatment types
Rice T1 (SaB) 100 100 100 100 100
T2 (SaM) 53 21 53 34 31
T3 (Gp600) 87 47 63 81 56
T4 (Gp1200) 74 33 62

Beans T1 (SaB) 100 100 100 100 100

T2 (SaM) 128 56 86 91 96
T3 (Gp600) 177 196 265 275 221
T4 (Gp1200) 349 299 324
Ginger T1 (SaB) 100 100 100 100 100
T2 (SaM) 155 108 161 117 126
T3 (Gp600) 119 127 226 152 156
T4 (Gp1200) 254 159 195

Source: Styger (2004: p.192). Adapted by Pollini.

Table 15: Relative monetary return of fireless alternatives in USD

Treatments Crops Guano- Return Return - Relative

phosphate from input cost monetary
cost harvest return
T1 (tavy) Rice 0 351 351 100
Beans 0 107 107 100
Ginger 0 1312 1312 100
Total 0 1770 1770 100
T2 Rice 0 110 110 31
Beans 0 103 103 96
Ginger 0 1647 1647 126
Total 0 1859 1859 105

T3 Rice 62 198 136 39

Beans 62 236 175 163
Ginger 62 2042 1980 151
Total 185 2475 2291 129
T4 Rice 123 218 94 27
Beans 123 346 223 209
Ginger 123 2562 2439 186
Total 369 3126 2757 156

Source: data from Styger (2004, 239). Adapted by Pollini.

costs. We saw that labor availability is limiting for most households and that labor

productivity is a criterion that matters more than yield for farmers in Beforona,

because much land is still available. Chapter 5 provided arguments for this hypothesis

and the Section 3 will confirm it again. Styger (2004) did not calculate the labor cost

of the techniques she proposed and the description of mulching operations she

provided leads one to expect that these costs are elevated. 181

The systems proposed by Styger (2004) should also be compared with other

options. From an agronomic perspective, its makes sense to use tavy as the control

treatment. But from an economic perspective, this is not the comparison that matters.

The application of guano-phosphate necessitates significant investments (185 to 369

USD for the complete rotation). If a farmer would be proposed to make such

investments, he would compare this option with other possible investments, such as

buying bottom land, paying labor force to create paddy fields, planting more banana

trees or buying animals to raise. This last option would appear more appealing to him

because it would allow the production of manure which could play the same role as

guano-phosphate. The investment would not need to be renewed in the future unless

the animals died from disease. Animals could even multiply and provide income and

draft force, in addition to manure. One hundred eighty-five to 369 USD (the cost of

guano-phosphate in T3 and T4) is the price of two to four young zebus or nine to 18

young pigs. There is little doubt that this option would be preferred by farmers and

that this choice would be a wise choice.

In conclusion, Styger’s (2004) statement that no alternatives are suitable to

farmers is certainly right in the sense that existing alternatives are not easily adopted

“For the mulch treatments in the trema, Psiadia and Rubus fallows, the woody stems and thick
branches were removed from the mulch plots just before planting. The leafy biomass, small twigs, and
branches remained on the plot as part of the mulch. The mulch was cut with the machete into pieces of
50cm to 1 m in length, and was evenly distributed on the plot.” (Styger 2004, 179)

and fail to substitute for tavy at a significant scale, whereas this land use is clearly in a

situation of crisis. But the alternatives she proposes face the same constraints as the

existing ones (paddy fields in bottom land and terrace; development of livestock

husbandry and use of manure; extension of home gardens) for their adoption. They are

probably even more constrained due to the elevated investment they require, in the

form of cash to buy guano-phosphate and in the form of labor to prepare the mulch.

2.4. Conclusion: future land uses in Beforona

In conclusion, the excessive focus on agrobiological pathways to

intensification may be misleading. Mulching clearly appeared to be unprofitable at

least in the short and mid-term. Agroforestry technologies did not appear to be the

most promising alternatives due to their longer term return, the limited productivity

increase they allow, and uncertainties about management constraints that could arise

in the future. These limitations have been underestimated because the strong desires of

development and conservation organizations to suppress fires and maximize biomass

production narrowed the range of envisioned options, and because alternatives were

often compared with tavy, instead of being compared to one another. Messerli’s work

(2003) was a benchmark in the production of knowledge about land uses in Beforona

because it made this transversal comparison. Unfortunately, fire-suppression policies

and technological fashions have been stronger than Messerli’s outcomes and

researchers continued to produce biophysically perfect techniques while overlooking

economic constraints to their adoption.

A new series of agrobiological technologies appeared recently, based on the

use of cover crops and the absence of tillage. A few projects started to develop them in

Beforona in collaboration with ANAE. Not many conclusive results are available yet

but it seems, according to the few discussions I had with project staff, that the main

difficulty faced by these techniques is the need to eliminate the perennials plants that

dominate fallow land. These plants grow faster than the cover crops and ANAE

proposed to eliminate them using chemical herbicides. 182 A second problem often

evoked is that the advantage of cover crops, in comparison with burning, occurs only

the third or fourth year. In sum, these new alternatives may be submitted to the same

economic constraints for their adoption. 183 In spite of this, zero tillage technologies

and cover crops are already planned to be the new technological package to be

developed and proposed to farmers in Beforona by the Marolafa research station, as

we will see in the next section. As they offer new agronomical challenges, they may

play the same role as agroforestry did before in maintaining the belief that finding

solutions to land degradation implies to tackle biophysical issues, whereas the main

challenge may rather be economical.

In parallel to these research efforts, farmers will continue to develop their own

land uses. Based on the outcomes of Chapter 3 and 5 and on the work of Messerli

(2003) and Nambena (2004), we can guess that future farming-systems in Beforona

will be a combination of irrigated rice fields, home gardens, permanently cultivated

plots fertilized with manure, cassava plots on degraded land, livestock systems, and

tavy, which would persist but decrease in extent during a transition period. Support to

investments, the opening of new roads to access markets, labor productivity

maximization and the minimization of risks are certainly key criteria for the successful

development of these new systems. Significant investments will be necessary to create

irrigation schemes and terraces, to acquire animals in order to produce manure, to pay

labor force for the extension of home gardens and to buy cash crop seedlings.

According to discussion I had with ANAE experts who visited Beforona.
I am discussing here the suitability of these techniques in places like Beforona. Zero tillage
technologies, on the other hand, proved to be profitable and are widely adopted in the Vakinankaratra
and Alaotra Regions (Groupement Semis Direct Madagascar 2006), where agriculture is more advanced
and prosperous.

These new farming systems may develop in clusters around new dwellings

located close to bottom land (Messerli 2003). This new organization of space is

already visible in the villages with more degraded land and easy access to markets,

such as Ambinanisahavolo, (Nambena 2004). As farmers put it, “when the soil is

unfertile, we move to the bottom land.” 184 From this perspective, erosion is not as

much an issue as it was expected to be. It can occur but does not necessarily lead to a

dead end because part of the nutrients and soil lost on slopes accumulates in bottom

lands. Once these bottom lands have been totally cultivated, farmers will be interested

in reconquering land on hill sides. Then they will be interested in agrobiological

technologies, which can explain the success of zero tillage technologies and cover

crops in the more densely populated highlands (Groupement Semis Direct Madagascar


In sum, the works of Messerli (2003) and Nambena (2003) provided more

evidence of the Boserupian dynamics envisioned in Chapter 5. They showed that the

seeds of future land uses are already present in the landscape and revealed that project-

driven technological innovations have a different logic to that of farmers. Farmers

focus on bottom land, whereas projects develop sustainable systems on slopes.

Farmers utilize the capital of fertility present in deep soils, whereas projects develop

technologies aimed at maximizing biomass production and at restoring this biomass to

the top soil. Farmers attempt to maximize the return of their efforts, while projects are

mostly concerned by yield maximization or monetary return. But the main mismatch

between project’s representations and realities may concern tavy itself. Clearly, tavy is

less profitable than most existing alternatives in terms of yield, as well as in terms of

labor productivity when it is practiced on degraded land. For this reason, it has often

been considered as uneconomical (Styger 2004). But tavy also has three key economic

From field enquiries in Beforona in 2002.

advantages: it is more secure, necessitates less investment 185 and provides the main

staple food. In a context of frequent cyclones, high poverty and limited access to

market, these advantages may be determinant. In other words, tavy is not

uneconomical but is regarded so because economic analyses are too often limited to a

few criteria (yield, monetary return, labor productivity) which are not sufficient to

account for the complexity of farmers’ economic strategies. The consequence is that

unsuitable or unprofitable alternatives continue to be proposed to farmers even though

much research has been implemented in Beforona on this subject.

The next section and Chapter 7 will confirm these discrepancies between

representation and realities and Chapter 10, in Part IV, will show that this excessive

focus on agroforestry and agrobiological technologies is a general pattern, not specific

to the case of Beforona.

3. The LDI and PTE projects

I stayed in Beforona (in Ambodilaingo) during six months in the year 2001

(Chapter 5) and made short but frequent visits in the commune until 2007. This

allowed me to conduct informal interviews with farmers (beneficiary or not) and

project staff and to make my own direct observations about the strategy and the impact

of the project, who actually benefited from it, and how it was perceived. I will present

here a brief summary of the knowledge I accumulated during these six years and from

the reading of LDI’s and PTE’s reports. I also hired two students to pass a

questionnaire to Kolo Harena associations in 2002. As said earlier, the quantitative

results of these enquiries have not been processed yet and will not be presented here,

Moor (1998) showed that the average household revenue in Tanambao (a village in the commune of
Beforona) is about 140 USD per year. Only 13% of this income is invested (about 15 USD per year),
the rest being spent to buy food and first necessity products and to satisfy social obligations.

but these students also conducted informal interviews and took some notes which

confirmed my own experience and are exploited to draw this section.

3.1. Main objectives

According to their annual reports, the primary objective of LDI (2003, 60) and

PTE (2004, 19) is:

to reduce environmental pressures on the Mantadia-Zahamena forest
corridor through an eco-regional approach to agricultural intensification,
community based natural resource management, environmental education,
conservation enterprise development and farmer capacity building. (LDI
2003, 60)

3.2. The CDIA

In Beforona, these objectives are achieved by supporting the research and

extension station of Marolafa, now called CDIA-LADIA. 186 CDIA owns 10 hectares

of land where trials and demonstration plots are implemented (Photographs 23 and

24). It is equipped with two training rooms, dormitories that can welcome 30 persons,

an electricity generator, computers, audiovisual equipment, and a radio for

communication with Antananarivo, as there is no electricity or telephone in

Beforona. 187 The CDIA

offers farmers, nongovernmental organizations, and other development
projects the opportunity to see first hand an integrated farming system that
provides sustainable alternatives to tavy that improve agricultural

CDIA is the name that was used under the LDI and PTE project. It means “ Centre de Diffusion pour
l’Intensification Agricole ” (Extension Center for Agriculture Intensification). LADIA is the new name
that has been coined in June 2006. The ladia is a plant that serves to make strong ties, and the acronym
means “Lapa Ara-Drafitra Ivoaran’ny Ambanivolo” (community house for rural development in
Malagasy language). In addition to the LDI, PTE and ERI projects, the CDIA-LADIA had
collaborations with the Roger Haus Foundation, Cornell University, the Heidelberg University, the
Faculty of Sciences of the University of Antananarivo, the HEPHO (Haute Ecole Provinciale du
Hainaut Occidental in Belgium), the LEGTA St-Paul (Lycée d’Enseignement General des Techniques
Agricoles de Saint-Paul, La Reunion), the EPSA Bevalala (Ecole Professionnelle Supérieure Agricole
de Bevalala), the Peace Corps, and the Madagascar Green Healthy Communities Project (MGHCP).
According to the mayor, Beforona should receive electricity in 2007.

Photograph 23: Visitors at the CDIA-LADIA in Beforona. A group of farmers and
officials visit the center. We can distinguish fish ponds (foreground, left), contour
lines (middle ground, left), and buildings for raising pigs and chickens (behind the

Photograph 24: The CDIA-LADIA in Beforona. Most land is in fallow (picture

taken in February 2007, during the agricultural season). We can distinguish trees
planted on the upper part of the hill (left) and fallow land.

production. 188 In the last year [2002-2003], the CDIA has provided more
than 60 technical training sessions that have reached over 800 farmers.”
(LDI 2003, 63). In 2006, “83 farmers’ associations, 3209 farmers, 1094
technician, 51 researchers and 160 private operators benefited form the
activities of the center. 189
In sum, the CDIA is a training, research, and extension center similar to what is

encountered in most rural development projects worldwide

3..3. The Kolo Harena

LDI’s approach is also based on support to farmers’ associations, the Kolo

Harena, 190 who are now organized into a federation. These associations are expected

to be the privileged partner for the implementation of bottom-up approaches:

Kolo Harena Federation farmer members meet annually with the
University of Antananarivo to define research objectives and assure that
the research carried out at the center [the CDIA] addresses the real needs of
the farmers. Farmer defined research objectives are oriented towards
increased productivity with the focus on promoting initiatives for farming
without burning, and protection of the forest corridor. (LDI 2003, 61)
We will see later that Kolo Harena are not perceived as legitimate

representatives by most farmers. The citation above also reveals that despite the fact

that alternatives have to be defined by farmers, they have to be fireless. Farmers have

indeed to abandon tavy to be accepted as Kolo Harena members, a rule that was,

however, applied with certain flexibility.

Support for social organization by the creation of Kolo Harena associations is

indeed central in LDI’s strategy. Kolo Harena were supported to create cooperatives

that facilitate access to inputs and commercialization, and benefited from a large

number of trainings. But LDI’s support also took other forms. Farmer extension agents

According to a flyer given to visitors (in 2006), these trainings mostly concern intensive rice
cultivation, upland rice with no burning, ecological ginger cultivation (no burning), agroforestry, fish
farming and chicken farming.
According to a flyer given to visitors.
In 2003, 26 Kolo-Harena federations grouped 20000 members, at national level (LDI 2003, 6).

(“paysans vulgarisateurs”) and farmer organizers (“paysans animateurs”) have been

trained to favor a direct farmer-to-farmer extension of new techniques. In 2003, the

LDI and PTE projects had trained, at national level, more than 600 paysans

vulgarisateurs and animateurs. Among them, around 400 received a certificate from

the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forest, and from the Ministry of Agriculture,

Livestock and Fisheries (LDI 2003).

3.4. The ban on tavy

Another important element in LDI’s strategy is the collaboration with the

Malagasy government to enforce the ban on slash-and-burn cultivation. The 2002-

2003 antifire campaign (Chapters 3 and 5) has been implemented with technical and

financial support from USAID funded projects MIRAY, LDI and PTE. These projects

provided communication materials, organized workshops, identified green communes

and provided support to these communes (MIRAY 2004; PTE 2004):

With USAID support, the MIRAY team was mandated to support the
campaign in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water and
Forest (MinEnvEF). (MIRAY 2004, 19)
By the 2002 year’s end, 11,973 posters (format A2) and 24,995 (format
A3), 79 banners, 28,890 stickers, 15,130 animation manuals, 9,700
legislation texts, 3,893 campaign fact sheets, 3,543 President speeches, two
radio spots, and two TV spots were produced and disseminated at the
national level. (MIRAY 2004, 20)
The presidential decree (Gouvernement de Madagascar 2002) and the

presidential message broadcast on radio did not employ the term tavy. They spoke of

the necessity to control fires, not to eradicate them, and planned to offer a premium to

“green” communes that would not be invaded by fires. The PTE and MIRAY

projects, as revealed by their annual reports, switched the focus from bush fire control

to tavy eradication. Several passages of the LDI and PTE reports reveal this strategy.

For example, the arrest of farmers that practiced tavy, in Beforona

Ambatovolo, was perceived as giving opportunities to achieve more results and was

Since August 2002, the new administration has taken unprecedented steps
to strictly enforce laws and regulations against bushfires, which
considerably facilitate our task, broaden the impact of our actions and
encourage rural communities to actively seek alternatives to tavy. In that
context, we teamed up with the Ministry of Water and Forest, local
communities, and ten communes in our zones of intervention, to promote a
campaign against tavy and launch a small-scale reforestation program.
Those communes will soon be certified as “green communes.” This
initiative deserves special attention and should be replicated at a larger
scale, because it demonstrates how a drastic change in governmental policy
can induce a much more conducive framework and lead to productive
partnerships that can effectively reduce bushfires and tavy. (LDI 2003, 6)
Another passage reveals that repression is viewed as a way to alleviate the

effect of traditions, which seem to be regarded as an important constraint to change:

Since July 2002 when the government arrested six farmers practicing tavy,
the pressure has diminished considerably, and in spite of their tradition, the
farmers are now beginning to more intensively exploit fallow lands. (LDI
2002, 73)
Economic constraints to change are however also recognized:
The disadvantaged parts of the population are by far the most affected by
this situation [by the repression]. Their lack of financial and land resources
has led them to practice tavy because this is the only way they can make
ends meet. The gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged has
widened in the last year because of the ban. (LDI 2003, 73)
This statement could have led to questioning the validity of an approach that

uses repression as a mean to facilitate adoption and may conduct the poorest farmers

to more poverty. Instead, the report continues with a note of optimism:

The farm families that join the Kolo Harena associations have not been
adversely affected by the ban; their production improves (ginger, bananas,
coffee, irrigated rice), they have access to agricultural inputs and
equipment, and their investment capacity is increasing (resulting in the
purchase or rent of new land, or hiring of labor), their influence is
dominant in the federation, and they tend to dominate the local market. In
light of the tavy ban, there has been an increase in the number of requests

to join and to set up new Kolo Harena associations, where farmers are
enthusiastic about learning methods to reclaim abandoned upland areas.
(LDI 2003, 73)
But this optimism fails to hide the risk of favoring a minority of competitive

farmers that can afford to adopt alternatives while the majority would just suffer from

the ban. The minority could in the end be empowered by controlling the local

economy, as the excerpt itself states. Remembering the problematic of marginalization

evoked in Chapter 1 and the situation in remote villages (Chapter 5), one can wonder

if this dynamic could contribute to alleviate poverty and reduce pressures on primary


The repressive campaign provoked significant protest in the region, leading to

the organization of a provincial workshop in the district capital Moramanga, on

August 8, 2003. Representatives of all communes were invited to talk. The Ministry of

Environment, the Senate and the National Assembly vice presidents, the Toamasina

Province President, the deputies and the senator of Moramanga attended the

workshop. There were more than one hundred participants and it was asked that one

farmer of each commune speak. The large majority of them (about nine out of ten)

asked for an authorization to practice tavy in fallow land. Their interventions were

always followed by strong applauses. They argued that they did not have sufficient
bottom land and that the cropping systems with no burning were not profitable. They

also expressed distrust about the technicians working for projects. They asked for the

building of infrastructures: dams and canals for irrigation and the creation of new

roads to market their products. A representative of the Kolo Harena association also

spoke. He encouraged farmers to stop doing tavy and to apply the techniques proposed

by technicians. His intervention was disturbed by hecklers and he was forced stop his

talk before finishing, demonstrating that the Kolo Harena were not legitimate

representatives of tavy farmers.

Eventually, the decisions taken during the workshop were the following:

• Communities should ask authorizations to do tavy in fallow land and

the Ministry would send staff for approbation. But in all cases, clearing

on steep slopes and on riversides was forbidden.

• The ministry would support land titling and would send agriculture


• Irrigated rice cultivation on terraces should be encouraged.

• Some local committees should be constituted to control fires.

• In the long-term, the forest corridor should be restored from the fallow


Being present at the workshop, I had the sense that the requests by the farmers

had been heard and that an opening to the practice of tavy on fallow land was about to

occur. Many participants had the same optimism. This did not happen, however. A

provincial order outlawing fires in the Toamasina Province was issued after the

workshop. 191 This contradiction is typical of what frequently happens in workshops.

The participatory ideal justifies the organization of workshops and meetings with local

and regional stakeholders but these workshops mostly serve to legitimize decisions

that depend on centrally designed policies. The issuance of the Provincial order can

more easily be explained by the lobby of conservation organizations and development

projects than by the workshop’s outcomes. The fact that the PTE project “Assisted the

Direction du Département chargé de la sécurité civile et de la conservation de l'environnement
(2003). According to article 2 of this order, the use of fire is strictly forbidden on the whole Toamasina
Autonomous Province, on the littoral plains zone, the hill zone, the escarpment zone, and along streams
and rivers. The burning of detritus (herbs and branches) without protection and watch over, and without
taking account of the wind direction, is also forbidden. Translation by Pollini. Original text in French:
“Sur l’étendue de la Province autonome de Toamasina, l’usage du feu, sur la zone des plaines littorales,
les zones de colline, zone des hauts massifs, ainsi que la zone située aux abords des rivières et fleuves,
est strictement interdit. L’incinération de déchets (herbes, branchages) ou écobuage sans protection,
sans surveillance et sans tenir compte du vent est également interdit.” Some contradictions appear in the
text but the main message is a strict ban on all types of tavy, whereas the national legislation authorizes
the practice of tavy on herbaceous vegetation (Gouvernement de Madagascar 1960).

provincial government in drafting and eventually finalizing a provincial decree

outlawing forest fires” (PTE 2004, 27) provides arguments in this sense. The order

was, however, never enforced in Beforona, showing that realities were eventually

stronger than decisions taken from misrepresentations. One decision, however, was

eventually translated into action: the restoration of the forest corridor (Section 4). This

decision is also the only one that is at odds with the outcomes of the discussions that

animated the workshop.

In sum, the LDI, PTE, and MIRAY projects used two strategies expected to act

in synergy. On one side, repression was viewed as a way to discourage farmers from

practicing tavy. On the other, training and communication campaigns were designed to

convince farmers of the interests of the new systems. A behavioral change was

expected from the combination of these two elements. This approach is not consistent

with the outcomes of Chapter 5 and the conclusions of Messerli (2003). There is much

doubt about the profitability of fireless alternatives and investments are necessary to

adopt and develop more intensive systems. We further saw in Chapter 5 that the

antifire campaign was suffered like a calamity by vulnerable people. The supporters of

tavy repression forgot that projects operate mostly along roads, whereas the

presidential message and information about the arrest of farmers have been heard in all

villages, regardless of their distance from roads and markets. Due to this asymmetry, it

is wrong to pretend that development activities and anti-tavy campaigns act in

synergy. The repression campaign may have had a high price indeed, both politically

and economically. I did not meet one single person of the Malagasy administration

that considered it realistic and wise. Only the lobby of conservation organizations, if

not of the whole aid system, can explain such a radical action. One could wonder why

such importance is given to fire suppression in the area. It may be that biodiversity

conservation and erosion control are not the only explanations. A new “actor” may be

on the verge of powerfully shaping development discourses and practices around the

forest corridor: carbon. The last section of this Chapter, about the VMCRCC carbon

sequestration project, will provide arguments to this thesis.

Economic aspects and the necessity to support farmers in making investments

required for intensification have, however, also been tackled by the LDI and PTE

projects, as I will now show.

3.5. Economic support

Economic aspects have mainly been addressed in three ways: support in

accessing credit and other sources of funding, support in accessing markets, and

support for private entrepreneurship (eco-enterprises) and ecotourism. Beforona has

mostly been affected by the two first options. LDI helped the Kolo Harena

cooperatives to establish commercial contracts, mostly for the sale of ginger. It also

helped farmers to obtain funding through the OTIV 192 system and the PSDR 193

project, mostly for developing ecological ginger cultivation, livestock husbandry and

vegetable cultivation in a few cases.

I did not collect specific information about these grants in the case of

Beforona. But for the overall LDI project (activities mostly implemented in the

Toamasina and Fianarantsoa provinces), 143 farmers have been helped during the year

1998-1999, mobilizing 16,500 USD at OTIV. This allowed the cultivation of irrigated

rice using intensified and sustainable techniques on 242 hectares of land. A second

request of about 2,700 USD “helped 68 farmers produce upland beans on 48.3

hectares using anti-erosive and soil fertility improvement technologies that will

stabilize the need for continued slash burn agriculture on the hillsides” (LDI 2000, 4).

In Malagasy: Ombona Tahiry Ifampisamborana Vola. A Malagasy NGO that provides rural credit.
Rural Development Support Project. In French: Projet de Soutien au Développement Rural. Project
financed by The World Bank for supporting the Malagasy Rural Development Action Plan (PADR).

About 90,000 USD have further been mobilized, from OTIV and from the Bank of

Africa, to fund 45 community granaries. During the year 2002-2003, OTIV loans

“totaling 158,313,350 FMg 194 were disbursed to 218 Kolo Harena farmers

beneficiaries [110 USD per beneficiary] with 60% of these loans funded by the

revolving fund, and the remainder as new loans.” (LDI 2003, 73)

Concerning the PSDR, this project accepted 18 grant requests during the year

2001-2002 (LDI 2002, 27). In the year 2002-2003,

with assistance from LDI staff, the Kolo Harena Federations begun
submitting requests to the World Bank-funded PSDR project for grants
involving as much as 60 million FMG [about 9200 USD]. These grants
were destined to help the farmers develop new, or expand existing
production activities (e.g., ducks, peanuts, fish farming) which are
implemented with LDI and farmer extension agent support. Grants
approved thus far to Kolo Harena total 20 billion FMG [about 3 million
USD]. (LDI 2003, 11)
Considering this general information and the few examples given in the reports

(not specifically from Beforona), it seems that a limited number of beneficiaries

benefited from most of the aid, and that the amount of PSDR grants represented a

large sum in comparison with the economic level of slash-and-burn farmers. Moor

(1998b) calculated that households invest about nine to 13% of their revenue, which

represents 22 USD for an annual revenue of about 175 USD. 195 The farmers supported
by Messerli (2003) had an annual benefit 196 ranging from 700,000 to 900,000 FMg

(100 to 140 USD) and invested 13 to 41% of this benefit into agriculture, which

represented about 10 to 40 USD per year. These amounts appear to be insignificants at

first glance but actually allowed farmers to significantly improve their livelihood. This

even sometimes resulted in jealousy from the rest of the community (Messerli 2003).

About 24,000 USD.
1138,000 FMg.
I do not consider speculation on rice price, which allowed one farmer to obtain a much higher

In comparison, the amount of OTIV grants may be adequate only in the case of

richer or less poor farmers. For others, they may represent amounts they could not

reimburse, especially if a cyclone, a flood or any other natural calamity were to

destroy their harvest. This would be particularly true in the case of remote villages

having no access to market, such as Ambodilaingo. The PSDR grant represented a still

more elevated amount. Several thousand USD were usually granted to Kolo Harena

associations 197 which grouped less than ten households (in the case of Beforona).

However, loans were nonreimbursable, meaning that PSDR grants represented no risk

and could even be used for nonprofitable activities. PSDR loans may have indeed been

the main incentive for the creation of Kolo Harena associations. But farmers with

more education and economically better off, often migrants that never practiced tavy

or were never dependant on this land use, were the first to benefit from the loans. Even

nonfarmers (teachers, employees from projects, etc…) received nonreimbursable

grants from PSDR. Certainly these people deserve support because not being poor

does not mean being rich in Beforona. But if the objective of the projects was to

reduce tavy and poverty, their economic empowerment may be counter productive, as

we will see later.

Concerning the smaller loans made by OTIV, they may, however, be

appropriate if properly managed. But they remained inefficient because they were

To give a few examples viewed in the LDI and PTE reports (not specifically from Beforona): the
Hery Miaradia association in Mahanoro received 43 million FMg from PSDR (about 6,600 USD) for
developing duck farming; the Vonona Tsarahonenana in Fenerive Est received 25 million FMg (about
3,800 USD) from IPPTE (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative of the World Bank, a fund
managed by the Malagasy government) for reforestation); The TLA association in Amboditonononana
received 25 million FMg (about 3,800 USD) from CEQUIP to buy a huller; five cooperatives and a
COBA received 135 million FMg (about 20,000 USD) from IPPTE for reforestation (PTE 2004a, 20);
two associations (Vorontsaradia-Ambonivato and Miavotena–Mahanoro) received nonreimbursable
funding totaling nearly 65 million FMG (about 10,000 USD) for the acquisition of an improved still and
a huller (from various LDI and PTE reports). In Beforona, according to local informants, the first
association that benefited from a PSDR grant received 55 million FMg (about 8,400 USD) to grow
“ecological ginger” (ginger using fireless alternatives).

conditioned to the adoption of fireless techniques, mostly for ginger cultivation, which

did not prove to be profitable as we saw in the previous section and as we will see

again later. Many farmers had difficulty repaying the loans and complained about the

low profitability and high risk of these “supports.”

3.6. Technical support

In this section, I will review the techniques proposed to farmers by the LDI

project. I will use as a starting point the CDIA center, which contributes to the

development of these techniques and offers demonstration plots.

The small watershed where CDIA is located shows a zoning from its upper to

its lower part.

Up the hill are trees that have been planted by the CTFT project in the early

1970s. They mostly belong to the genera Pinus, Araucaria and Agathis.

Under this woody crown, banana trees have been planted in association with

coffee and a few fruit trees. These home gardens show some differences as compared

with those of local farmers: they are not invaded by weeds or invasive species such as

Rubus mollucanus, whatever is the period of the year. As a consequence, their yield is

certainly higher than in traditional systems. But we saw that high yield is not the

priority in the area. The goal of farmers is to maximize their production at a farming

systems scale and labor productivity is the main criterion to achieve this. We saw in

the case of Ambodilaingo that home garden maintenance can be done at any time of

the year. Due to this flexibility, the opportunity cost of labor in home gardens is very

low. If cleaning and weeding would be done several times a year, this advantage

would be lost and the system would become less profitable.

Looking down the home garden, hedgerows planted on contour lines delineate

plots either cultivated or in a state of herbaceous fallow. These improvements may

represent a significant investment in terms of labor for their maintenance. A

permanent cultivation of ginger, beans, rice, and other crops in the alleys between the

hedgerows may be necessary to amortize these investments. Ginger is the main cash

crop promoted by LDI to achieve this and is sometimes seen growing at CDIA. The

project proposes fireless techniques (“ecological” ginger), which are supposed to be

more profitable than traditional systems due to higher yields:

Organic ginger and improved rice cultivation have been the centerpiece of
agricultural intensification activities [in Beforona]. (LDI 2001, 63)
[Ecological ginger yields] from 7.5 [to] 14 T/ha (traditional ginger yields ~
5 tons/hectares), and even though it requires increased labor and financial
investment (the use of compost, limited chemical fertilizer and hillside
stabilization techniques such as contour vetiver planting), it is very popular
along the eastern side of the forest corridor. (LDI 2003, 74)
Farmers contest these yields, but more importantly, they explain that higher

yield does not necessarily result in more production because the new techniques also

demand more labor and they can “only apply the technique on a small plot.” As a

farmer extension agent of Beforona explained,

Fire is doing much work for us. It clears the land and kills the insects and
the weeds. So if we do not use fire, we have to apply many supplementary
techniques to clear and fertilize the land and to control the pests. Each of
these techniques takes much time and then we cannot cultivate a large area.
So I apply the new techniques on a small piece of land for demonstration
and I continue to practice traditional systems on the rest of my land.
Sometimes I also use 80% or 90% of the technique. But what really takes
much time is the preparation of compost. This I really cannot do. 198
This assertion is consistent with Messerli’s (2003) review of agrobiological

alternatives to tavy. The supposed high profitability of ecological ginger is also

contradicted by the fact that this crop is grown only sporadically and on limited

A farmer in Beforona, 2007. Other testimonies from farmers have been received during enquiries in
Beforona (2001 and 2002): “those that are not members and continue to do tavy actually live better than
us”; “the technique of LDI can produce much, but they need more work and we can implement them on
a small piece of land only.” “We do not have the means to implement these techniques. We have been
trained but we do not get any support for implementing the techniques after the training.”

surface in the CDIA itself. This absence could, however, be explained by a reason

other than a lack of profitability. According to CDIA staff, organizational, and

management issues would be the cause of this situation. Management decisions are

taken along a chain of actors that goes from the center to the project’s regional office,

and from there to the head national offices, which itself has to answer to expectations

from the donor and from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. This chain of actors

reduces the array of agricultural technologies that the center can implement and slows

the decision process, resulting in difficulty getting cash at the right time and following

the agricultural calendar.

In other plots of the hill sides, cinnamon trees are planted but are not yet in


Small paddy fields are encountered in the bottom land, which is quite narrow.

A small cement dam and a canal divert water from a small stream for irrigation. Two

types of rice cultivation systems are implemented: SRI 199 and SRA. 200

SRI is an innovative rice cultivation system that can achieve high yields

without requiring chemical inputs (Stoop et al. 2002). It is based on a simple principle:

whereas conventional systems imply a permanent inundation, SRI necessitates

alternately inundating and drying the field, with a weekly frequency or more. This

provokes an oxygenation of the soil that strongly benefits the root system, allowing

rice to express its total biological potential if other factors are not limiting. Many

thallus can be obtained from a single stem and more spikelets are born by each stem.

The rice can be sowed at larger spacing and with just one seed per seed hole, which

allows saving many seedlings. Yields of 10 tons per hectare and more can be

achieved. Soil oxygenation is higher, which stimulates biological activity and makes

Intensive Rice Cultivation System. In French : Système de Riziculture Intensive.
Improved Rice Cultivation System. In French : Système de Riziculture Améliorée.

nutrients more available and better preserved in the long-term. SRI works with all

varieties of rice and does not require “modern” inputs such as fertilizers or machines.

The diffusion of SRI in Beforona, however, faces several problems: farmers

criticize it for the high labor input it requires. The reason is simple: the oxygenation of

the soil also benefits the weeds. The main function of the water table in rice

cultivation systems is actually not to feed rice in water, but to eliminate weeds. It is

true that water stress is detrimental to rice and that the natural environment of wild

rice is wetland, but a permanent inundation is not necessary to cultivate rice, including

in the case of bottom land varieties. But in the absence of inundation, SRI plots have

to be weeded three or four times (some technicians recommend weekly weeding). The

consequence is a lower labor productivity that causes concern to farmers, as for

ecological ginger. I did not find data to verify this because most evaluations focus on

yields, but farmers directly experience this constraint. As they put it, “we do SRI on a

small plot and traditional rice on the rest of the land.” 201 They try it rather than adopt

it, and abandon it as soon as projects leave, as shown by Moser and Barrett (2003a;


SRI may also be riskier because transplanting from the nursery is done at an

earlier stage (8 to 15 days after sowing), which renders the plot more vulnerable to

flooding and cyclones. A perfect control of the water table is necessary to achieve

success. This risk factor may indeed be as important a constraint for adoption as low

labor productivity. If everything goes right, SRI may also be profitable in terms of

labor productivity because high yield could cover the supplementary work. But

cyclones, flooding, pests, and diseases can annihilate the efforts a farmer invests in

All farmers practicing SRI that I have visited until now (about 6, in Beforona and Ikongo) made
exactly this same assertion. Discussion with project staff shows that they experience the same

SRI. As I showed in Chapter 5, the objective of vulnerable farmers is to produce more

in the worst years, not to produce more in the best years.

SRI’s rational is to express the complete yield potential of rice. This implies

that there are no other limiting factors, which may hardly be the case in Beforona. For

example, it is doubtful whether the soils in Beforona are sufficiently fertile to allow

high yields and amortize the high labor input invested in SRI. Eventually, SRI’s high

yields have to be verified in the long-term. A significant organic fertilization may be

necessary to compensate for the exportation of nutrients when very elevated yields are


The LDI and PTE projects were aware of these limitations and proposed

another pathway for irrigated rice intensification: the SRA. SRA is based on more

conventional techniques such as transplanting in rows, using varieties with higher

yield potential and doing an earlier transplantation. Its diffusion started during the first

republic (and maybe earlier), through support by the CTFT project. Some ingredients

of the SRA package are sometimes adopted by farmers. The main advantage they

notice is that new techniques (both SRA and SRI) allow saving seedlings due to a

larger spacing and a lower number of seedling holes. SRA extension thus certainly

contributed to the progress of rice cultivation in the area. However, the labor costs of

the new techniques are also criticized, although to a lesser extent than in the case of

SRI. The main work constraint results from transplanting in rows (this also applied to

SRI). Rows allow mechanical weeding, which saves some time, but on the other hand,

more time is needed for transplanting. Furthermore, weeding machines are not always

available, are expensive with regard to the investment capacity of most households,

and the labor gain for weeding does not necessarily compensate for the labor cost of

transplanting in a row. In order to compare these two tasks, labor has to be compared

considering its opportunity cost. This has not been done yet.

The CDIA further developed livestock husbandry activities. It raised improved

breeds of pigs and chickens but these activities were not profitable due to the high cost

of food supplements. They were abandoned in 2002 but restarted later. The CDIA also

created fish ponds but their production was low or uncertain for reasons that are not

yet clear, and they necessitated labor investments that farmers cannot easily afford.

Here again, a calculation remains to be done to know if the profit compensates for the

investments, and to compare the profitability of fish ponds with other activities.

Farmers have done their empirical “calculation” already and are reluctant to create fish

ponds on their land. Fish ponds are even the subject of jokes and those who adopted

this activity complain about the low production.

All these techniques are supported by training. CDIA proposes training

programs about agroforestry (contour strips, alley cropping, and improved fallow),

agrobiological agriculture (mulching, zero tillage), home garden intensification,

“ecological” ginger cultivation (fireless techniques), horticulture (litchis and

vegetables), SRA and SRI, compost production, and swine and chicken husbandry.

When beneficiary farmers are asked about their interest for the training they receive,

they almost unanimously answer that the topics are interesting but that they usually

cannot apply the proposed techniques because they do not have sufficient time or

financial resources.

The situation I described is indeed common in agricultural research and

extension centers. The limits of this type of approach have been already analyzed and

criticized in depth. The CDIA, similar to other centers of the same kind, is isolated

from the farming systems it is supposed to support. In spite of this, the CDIA is the

subject of many newspapers articles that speak in praise of its achievements. 202 It may

Articles in Midi Madagascar, July 28, 2003; Madagascar Tribune No 4414, July 28, 2003; L’express
de Madagascar, July 29, 2003; Le Quotidien de Madagascar, July 20, 2004; L’express de Madagascar,
September 24, 2004; Midi Madagascar, May 30, 2006 ; Les Nouvelles, May 31, 2006 ; La Gazette, May

be possible that its implicit function is the demonstration of the project’s achievements

to journalists, rather than to farmers. Representatives of the Malagasy government, of

the donors, and even of citizens from donor countries (American congressmen) come

to visit the center and leave with an enthusiasm that contrasts strongly with farmer’s

criticisms and complaints, as we will now see.

3.7. LDI as perceived by the beneficiaries

When asked to say what they think of the LDI and PTE projects, people in

Beforona speak of excessively frequent training that makes them lose time while

providing them with techniques they cannot apply, and complain about the fact that

the project requires the abandonment of tavy. As they, the “beneficiaries” of LDI,

often put it, “those who still do tavy are less poor than us, because the alternatives we

adopt cannot be applied on large surfaces.”203 LDI is accused of lying to farmers or of

“just talking about alternatives without even trying to implement them” (a farmer in

Antandrokomby in 2002). Fireless alternatives are criticized for the excessive work

they require and the increased risk of pest damage they lead to.

Beside these issues, “beneficiary” farmers recalled a few other problems: they

had been promised certain prices for ginger sales but the price had eventually been

lower; seedlings arrived late with regard to the agriculture calendar; the management

rules of community granaries had unexpectedly changed and the profit farmers hoped

to receive were eventually directed to Kolo Harena federations; some farmers

complained that they were obliged to buy coffee seedlings. These problems have

31, 2006 ; Madagascar Tribune, June 1, 2006 ; Le Quotidien, June 1, 2006 ; La Gazette, June 3, 2006 ;
Les Nouvelles, June 3, 2006 ; Midi Madagascar, June 3, 2006 ; Madagascar Tribune, June 3, 2006.
Many testimonies, coming from the enquirers I hired, from my own informal enquiries, from
discussion with project staff, include this statement. I faced exactly the same statements during visits of
the LDI project in the Fianarantsoa Province (Ikongo and Ranomafana) and of the PDFIV project in
Tsinjoarivo (Ambatolampy district).

sometimes been the cause of anger, but can be regarded as minor issues because they

do not put into question the strategy of the project itself. They just illustrate the

logistical and communication difficulties encountered by any rural development

project. But in a context where the local elite receives the main benefits, these small

mistakes have an elevated cost in term of discontentment.

The concentration of the aid in the hands of a local elite may indeed be the

main pitfall of the project. As we saw, the Kolo Harena associations that received

PSDR grants are often headed by traders and product collectors who are not dependant

on tavy for subsistence or who never even practiced tavy. Key positions such as the

presidency of the local federation are held by the most prosperous traders. This

category is indeed the only fraction of the beneficiaries that expressed satisfaction

over the program with no ambiguity. It benefits from access to significant

nonreimbursable loans (PSDR), from a better commercialization, and maybe from a

better social and political status in the commune. The rest of the population usually

sees these people as opportunists, not as their representatives.

This support of local entrepreneurship is a laudable objective but is not

consistent with the objective of supporting tavy farmers and alleviating poverty. The

project argues that if rich farmers adopt new techniques, the poorer will follow, but

this logic did not prove to be true. The empowerment of the most competitive farmers

lead them to fill market niches and to lower the prices of cash crops to the detriment of

farmers living in remote areas, as we saw in Chapter 5 in the case of ginger. As rich

farmers appropriate the land most suitable for intensification, their empowerment may

contribute to the marginalization of the poorest ones, with both environmental and

social negative consequences.

The problem of inadequate target has been recognized by the project itself. The

ERI program is now committed to avoiding excessive focus on what he calls “false

farmers” (Staff from the ERI project, 2007). It seems that only the neighboring

commune, Andasibe, is still concerned by this problem. Kolo Harena leaders,

however, recognize themselves that targeting the poorest is still a challenge.

Eventually, people in Beforona often put forth support to irrigation as a key

strategy to develop the commune and complained about the absence of support at this

level. Even project staff complained that LDI neglected this activity (only one dam has

been built with LDI’s support, irrigating about 10 hectares). The reasons behind this

neglect are the lack of budget for this activity, the fact that the construction of

irrigation schemes is funded by the World Bank Project FID, 204 the elevated cost of

cement dams and the limited potential of the commune for irrigated rice cultivation.

Concerning the elevated cost, Chapter 7 will show that dams are actually quite cheap.

Concerning the area suitable for irrigation, the Mayor established, in 2002, a

preliminary list of 60 sites that could be equipped or repaired, for a total of about 260

hectares. It must be verified whether the improvement of these sites is actually

feasible, but Chapter 7 will show that this number is not unrealistic if the case of

Ambodilaingo could be extrapolated to the whole commune. If rice fields in terrace

could be created in addition, the impact could be significant.

3.8. Conclusion (LDI and PTE projects)

In conclusion to this section, the LDI and PTE projects focused excessively on

training and on techniques, whereas farmers expect mostly economic support to

implement the new techniques. The proposed alternatives imply more risks and

necessitate investments that most farmers cannot provide, while the more realistic

alternatives, those already known by farmers, are overlooked. Modalities of funding

lacked flexibility, consisted of excessively large loans that farmers had difficulty

Social Fund Project. In French : Fonds d’Investissements pour le Développement.

repaying and concentrated nonreimbursable grants in the hands of a better off

minority. Excessive importance was given to repressive policies whose overall effect

on livelihood was destructive, especially in remote areas. As a result, LDI and PTE

may have ended up empowering a rural elite which has never been dependent on tavy

to subsist, and which may be in an unequal competition with tavy farmers to seize

market opportunities and to access to the most fertile lands, those suitable for

alternatives if the required investments can be done.

These dynamics, together with the negative impact of the anti-tavy campaign,

may have increased the vulnerability of poor farmers. I did not prove these facts but a

large bundle of evidence renders this interpretation of the reality much more

defensible than the optimistic picture produced in the LDI’s and PTE’s reports, such

as the belief that fireless alternatives and PSDR grants will allow the development of

the area.

The consequence is that most farmers in Beforona complain that the LDI

project “just helps the rich” (several farmers in Beforona 2002) and “does not propose

viable alternatives” to tavy (several farmers in Beforona 2002). It is true, however,

that agriculture has developed in the commune over the last decade, but this may result

more from the increasing pressure on land, which forces farmers to develop more

intensive systems (usually other than those proposed by LDI). The development of

cash crops, such as ginger and bananas, also played a role by providing opportunities

to increase incomes.

4. The Ankeniheny-Mantadia-Zahamena Corridor Restoration project


In this section, I will present the Ankeniheny-Mantadia-Zahamena Corridor

Restoration project (AMZCR), currently in its early implementation in the neighboring

communes of Ambatovolo and Andasibe, west from Beforona. This project is aimed at

reestablishing connectivity between corridor fragments located north and south from

National Road 2. It will be partly funded by the sale of carbon newly stored by

reforestation. It is the first attempt to implement the Clean Development Mechanism

in Madagascar and reveals the rural development and conservation strategies that

could prevail in the corridor in the future.

4.1. Context

With the signature of the Kyoto Protocol and the implementation of the Clean

Development Mechanism, carbon has become a commodity that can be bought and

sold on the world global market. Land use change and forestry, if they lead to an

increase of carbon stocks, create opportunities for transactions on this market (Brown,

in press; World Bank 2006). It seems that the idea of using the carbon market to

finance conservation and development activities in Madagascar was first expressed in

the mid 1990s, concomitantly with an increasing will to reestablish connectivity

between fragments of the eastern rain forest corridor. A workshop about the Clean

Development Mechanism was organized in Antananarivo in October 2001 (IRG

2001). Surveys were launched to assess the potential of Malagasy forests to store

carbon. Rarivoarivelomanana (2001, 15) showed that the lowland rain forests store

120 to 450 tons of carbon 205 per hectare, whereas the middle altitude forests store 80
to 310 tons/ hectares. The Wildlife Conservation Society launched the Makira Forest

Project (Meyers 2001; Meyers and Berner 2001), partially funded by the sale of

emission offsets on the voluntary carbon market. But the AMZCR project is the first

attempt to use the Clean Development Mechanism. It was prepared with support from

the nongovernmental organizations Conservation International (CI) and Tree for

One ton of carbon is equivalent to 3.664 tons of CO2.

Life. 206 It would last 30 years and would be worth eight million USD, including 3.2

million USD from the BioCarbon Fund of the World Bank. 207 The main other donors

are IDA, 208 GEF, 209 USAID, CI through its Global Conservation Fund, the Climate

Trust, 210 and Dynatec (a private mining company) (UCFB 2006).

Conservation International has been working in the area for over a decade. It

collaborated with ANGAP 211 in the early 1990s to implement the ICDP212 approach in

the Zahamena National Park, during the first phase of the NEAP. It further

implemented the ESFUM 213 component of the second phase of NEAP, with the

USAID funded MIRAY project (MIRAY 2004), from 1998 to 2004, and collaborated

with the projects LDI, PTE, ERI, and FSP-ADRA, which, together with their partners,

constituted the Toamasina USAID eco-regional alliance. These USAID funded

projects are expected to provide the main knowledge base and capital of experience

for the implementation of the AMZCR project, meaning that a continuity can be

expected between the activities proposed by LDI and PTE and those that will be

proposed by the AMZCR.

This NGO “promotes the restoration of the world's degraded ecosystems as the most important task
facing humanity in the coming decades” (http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/about/aboutus.html).
The Biocarbon Fund, managed by the World Bank, serves as an intermediary between carbon buyers
and sellers. See World Bank (no date) for more details about this fund.
International Development Agency, a division of the World Bank dedicated to the poorest countries.
Global Environmental Facility.
“The Climate Trust is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to providing solutions to stabilize
our rapidly changing climate.” (http://www.climatetrust.org/)
National Agency for the Management of Protected Areas. In French : Agence Nationale pour la
Gestion des Aires Protégées.
Integrated Conservation and Development Project.
Multiple Use Forest Ecosystems. In French: Ecosystèmes Forestiers a Usages Multiple.

4.2. Presentation of the AMZCR project

The AMZCR project has three objectives: to reestablish connectivity between

fragments of the corridor, to create carbon sinks and to develop sustainable cultivation

systems as alternatives to slash-and-burn. It would achieve these objectives through

three components (UCFB 2006):

• Component 1: Restoration of the forest corridor (3020 hectares of

reforestation with native species) along National Road 2, between the

Mantadia and the Vohidrazana forests (Map 13).

• Component 2: Protection of 405 000 hectares of natural forest, by

avoiding the deforestation of 80 000 hectares over the next 30 years,

between and around the Mantadia and the Zahamena National Parks.

• Component 3: establishment of forest or sustainable gardens (928

hectares), fruit gardens (334 hectares) and firewood plantations (661

hectares) (Map 13).

Component 1 is eligible for the clean development mechanism and will be

partly funded by the Biocarbon Fund. Component 2 (avoiding deforestation) is not

eligible at present, 214 but may be supported by the voluntary carbon market and be

eligible for a second “window” of the Biocarbon Fund. Component 3 is a support

activity designed to avoid leakage: as farmers live in the reforestation area, they may

move and clear forest in other places to compensate for the loss of agricultural land in

favor of reforestation. Sustainable gardens, fruit gardens, and firewood plantations are

aimed at providing food and income to these farmers, in order to allow them to stay in

the same location while improving their livelihood.

There are currently discussions to render avoided deforestation eligible to the Clean Development
Mechanism in a series of pilot countries, and Madagascar could be chosen as one of these pilot



Target area for

Ambavaniasy 1
and 3

National road
Fruit gardens
Firewood plantation
Sustainable gardens

Analamazoatra Beforona


Vohidrazana Ambodilaingo

Map 13. Target area of the VMCRCC project.

Source: Conservation International Madagascar. Additions by Pollini
(Blue arrows).

The Biocarbon Fund of the World Bank accepted the project identification

document (Project Idea Note) in November 2004, and agreed to implement the project

with the government of Madagascar as a host party (Intention Letter signed in March

2005). A Project Design Document has been prepared but addresses components 1 and

3 only. The area of intervention is limited to an area surrounding National Road 2,

close to the Mantadia National Park 215 and the Perinet-Analamazoatra reserve,216

between the communes of Beforona and Andasibe. Its main objective is the

reconnection of the south and north parts of the forest corridor along National Road 2

(Photograph 25). This subproject has been named the Vohidrazana-Mantadia Corridor

Restoration and Conservation Carbon Project (VMCRCC) and the analysis that

follows will be limited to it. The VMCRCC’s Project Design Document has not been

validated yet, but carbon sales have already been negotiated by the Biocarbon Fund

and are ready to be signed. The Malagasy government has put in place a coordination

unit (in April 2005), which includes staff from its central and decentralized services. It

also promised to engage 1.5 million USD from its GEF-IDA funding (third phase of

NEAP). But until now, only Conservation International’s financial contribution has

been disbursed, enabling the start of field activities such as the establishment of

nurseries, the identification of plots for reforestation and the training of field partners

in new agricultural techniques. Seven local partners are involved (6 nongovernmental

organizations 217 plus the Mantadia National Park), but a project manager remains to

The most visited national park in Madagascar, managed by ANGAP. 10 000 hectares.
A small reserve (810 hectares) that shelters a population of Indri indri, the largest lemur in
Madagascar and a threatened species.
Mitsinjo (an NGO based in Andasibe), Ecophi (an association of experts and consultants of the
Ambohitsaina Faculty of Sciences), MATE (Man and the Environment, an NGO that runs a project in
Ambavaniasy, between Andasibe and Beforona), SAF-FJKM (the development and relief agency of the
Church of Jesus-Christ in Madagascar), NAT (a German NGO), AGA (Association of the Andasibe

Photograph 25: Vegetation in Ambavaniasy. This area is targeted by the
reforestation component of the VMCRCC project. The dominant land use is tavy,
which results in a landscape dominated by young fallows. Cassava is visible in the
foreground and forest patches subsist in the background. The landscape is expected to
be transformed into a mosaic of agroforestry gardens, sustainable gardens and restored

be recruited to insure the link between the coordination unit and these seven partners.

Decentralized collectivities and state services are also involved.

Contracts with farmers have not been signed yet but negotiations to prepare

these contracts are ongoing. It has been proposed that farmers lend part of their land

for reforestation, on a voluntary basis, for the thirty year period of the project. In some

cases, they own this land legally, in other cases, their “ownership” is a use-right

granted by traditional authorities but recognized as legitimate by the state and the

project. In the first case, it may be possible that farmers would be financially

compensated for lending their land, but the matter is not clear and still in discussion.

In the second case, they would not be directly compensated but would benefit from

three advantages:

• The legal recognition of their land ownership through the granting of

land certificates by the communes, 218

• Priority access to job opportunities provided by the project (mostly for

the plantation of trees)

• Support for the development of new farming systems through the

implementation of component 3.

Concerning the benefit from carbon sales, it will be captured by the Malagasy

government and will serve to finance reforestation operations (including the salaries of

beneficiary farmers hired by the project to plant the trees).

The key question that arises from this model is whether the advantages

proposed by the project will compensate for the disadvantage of losing agricultural

land through reforestation. As the main new resource (the profit generated by carbon

sale) is captured by the Malagasy government, the fate of farmers will depend on the

Land certificates are not exactly land title, but according to the new land law passed in 2006
(Gouvernement de Madagascar 2006), they provide the same rights.

capacity of new land use to compensate the loss of usufruct on reforested land. If the

alternatives compensate for this loss, there will be a win-win situation and both rural

development and conservation objectives will be achieved. If they do not, the

VMCRCC project could impoverish already vulnerable communities, leading to out-

migration and a significant risk of leakage. In other words, sustainable forestry is in

the hand of successful agricultural development.

Unfortunately, the capital of knowledge and experience that will be used to

design agricultural support may be the one accumulated by the LDI and PTE projects,

which does not encourage optimism. In the next section, I will analyze the available

documents about this project and will synthesize the results of discussions I had in

February 2007 with people working in several organizations involved in it. 219 Section

4.3. will analyze the transmission of technical knowledge, while Section 4.4 will

address economic aspects.

These analyses are quite speculative as the VMCRCC project did not start

many activities, but so are the hypotheses that served for its conception. In the case of

projects adopting new strategies, there is no other choice than adopting uncertain

hypotheses. Uncertainty can be significantly lowered only once these activities are


4.3. The transmission of fashionable alternatives

Several observations indicate that the alternatives proposed to farmers by the

LDI and PTE projects will be transmitted to the VMCRCC project.

I met with representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests, Conservation
International, Man and the Environment (a partner NGO working in Ambavaniasy, about 10 kilometers
from Beforona), and Mitsinjo (a partner NGO working in Andasibe).

First, the preliminary PDD 220 explicitly refers to technologies developed in

Beforona as sound alternatives that farmers could implement. 221 Interviews with staff

from the MINENVEF and from CI confirmed that this perspective prevails. Much

hope is put on agroforestry technologies and on cover crops and zero tillage, despite

the fact that these techniques have yet to be proven to be adapted to the region. Field

partners, however, did not share this optimism. Staff from the NGO Mitsinjo

contended that zero tillage would result in lower yields the first year, equal yields the

second year and hopefully higher yields the third or fourth year, in comparison with

tavy. Moreover, more inputs would be necessary, such as cover crop seeds and

chemical herbicides to eliminate the weeds that compete with the cover crops.

Fruit gardens, fallow gardens and sustainable gardens are other systems

expected to play a significant role. Unfortunately, no information is available

concerning these techniques except in a few training documents of the CTHT, 222

which insist on the necessity of using compost and applying mulch, and on the web

site of the “Restore the Earth Project” (no date) of the nongovernmental organization

“Trees for Life.” The information provided on this site may be out of date but is the

only one available. The site presents the project “Catalysing Rainforest Restoration in

Madagascar: Andasibe-Mantadia Corridor project,” which supported the preparation

of the VMCRCC project. According to this site, sustainable development would be

achieved mainly by the creation of “savoka gardens” (fallow gardens), which would

consist of

Project design document form for afforestattion and reforestation project activities (CDM-AR-PDD)
version 02 (no date). This document is a working draft and its content may change significantly in the
future. However, I exploit it in this article because despite the fact that it is a draft version, the project’s
implementation has already started on the ground, and because this draft PDD is the only institutional
document available for analyzing the strategies that are driving this implementation.
See Section F1, social risks, of the PDD. This document is a draft with no pagination.
Centre Technique Horticole de Toamasina. In French: Horticulture Technical Center of Toamasina.
This center is a public organization which has been supported by aid from the French in the past and is
dedicated to the development of fruit and vegetable cultivation.

a mixture of local native forest plants and exotic fruit and vegetable plants.
The aim… [would be] to transform land that would otherwise be colonized
(due to abandonment after rice harvest) by alien invasive plants of no use
to people or the rest of native biodiversity, into productive, soil-restoring
land for a five year fallow period. (Restore the Earth Project no date, no
The NGO also proposes to establish “permanent community gardens,” which

would associate “plants which yield produce over the longer-term (e.g., fuel wood,

timber, fruit)” (Restore the Earth Project, no date). Both types of gardens would
contain a high proportion of native forest trees and shrubs, acting as a
buffer between the corridors and areas of mono-cultures, as well as
providing resources which would otherwise be obtained from intact
forest.”(Restore the Earth Project no date, no pagination)
We can suppose that “fallow gardens” and “permanent community gardens”

will constitute the 928 hectares of “sustainable garden” that are visualized on Map 13

(page 296), whereas the fruit gardens would constitute the 334 hectares area. The

alternatives developed in Beforona may rather be dedicated to intensification on the

part of the land that will not be directly targeted by the project, and the financing for

these alternatives remains unclear. If this pattern was confirmed, the target area would

consist of a mosaic of reforested land, fruit tree gardens, fallow gardens and

sustainable gardens, all having a significant ligneous component. This perspective

matches with the importance given to agroforestry by most actors involved in the

VMCRCC project and is consistent with the fact that, initially, the carbon stored in

sustainable gardens and fallow gardens was expected to be sold on the global market

as well. The project eventually abandoned this idea in order to give more flexibility to

farmers, which appears to be a wise choice. However, to create a mostly forested

landscape linking the northern and southern fragments of the corridor remains one of

its main objectives.

Farmers will, however, not be obliged to lend their land to the project. But as

they say, “we have no choice, because tavy is forbidden now, so we must at least try to

get these advantages” (a farmer in Ambavaniasy, 2007). These words may reveal a

supplementary explanation for the unexpected outcomes of the workshop held in

Moramanga during the fire repression campaign of 2002/2003 and the issuing of the

provincial order that forbids tavy in 2003 (Section 3).

4.4. Overlooking the economy

There is no doubt that the technologies proposed by the project will achieve

great ecological performances, but their economic performances (their capacity to

sustain livelihoods) are doubtful. No data seems to be available concerning the

profitability of fruit gardens, fallow gardens and community or sustainability gardens,

nor about the marketability of their products. Bananas and ginger are the main cash

crops in the area but little is said about the importance that will be given to them in the

gardens. The technologies proposed by the VMCRCC can only be assessed on the

basis of previous experience in Beforona, which does not allow optimism as we saw in

Section 2. In sum, the VMCRCC inherited the belief that fires and erosion are the

main enemies, which led to the implicit assumption that maximizing biomass

production is the main criterion to select appropriate alternatives. In consequence, it

developed a blind faith in agroforestry and agrobiological technologies that led to

overlook more essential criteria such as profitability.

This blind faith is confirmed by the draft version of the Project Design

Document, which indicates that “no socio-economic negative impacts are expected

from this project” (Draft Project Design Document no date, no pagination). The

PDD’s section about cost analysis further asserts that “as the project activity is

reforestation without any generation of financial or economic benefits other than CDM

related income, simple cost analysis… should be applied” (Draft Project Design

Document no date, no pagination). Considering that the project plans to convert about

5000 hectares of agricultural land into forest or agroforestry systems whose

profitability is doubtful, these assertions are highly disputable.

The draft PDD reveals other received wisdoms that can explain the

overlooking of economic aspects:

There are potential economic risks to members of communities within the
project area, especially in the form of “the unknown.” A number of the
project activities will be entirely the responsibility of the people in terms of
undertaking the development of savoka [fallow] gardens, sustainable
gardens, etc. The amount they do, what they do and their time input will be
their choice, but it will involve some input of time to activities which are
relatively new to them and the benefits of which they will only know for
certain through experience. (Draft Project Design Document no date, no
Economic uncertainty is evoked in this paragraph but the problem of “the

unknown” is explained by the potential wrong choices made by farmers, while the

possibility that the project would make the wrong choice itself is not even mentioned.

Another section, about social risks, makes explicit that the project considers that

tradition is the main potential cause of wrong choices:

The primary social risk to the project was considered to be the possibility
that local people will refuse to change their historical use of tavy [slash-
and-burn cultivation] as their main form of agriculture. Because tavy has
been used for generations as the main form of rice production for a large
number of the local population, major efforts needed to be made to
convince people that it is no longer feasible. (Draft Project Design
Document no date, no pagination)
It is certainly true that a threshold can be reached where tavy is not anymore

feasible. But farmers are already aware of this and what should be cause of concern

now is the feasibility of the proposed alternatives. Other sections of the document

reveal an insufficient understanding of agrarian dynamics, the excessive optimism

about economic impact and the influence of received wisdoms. The authors contend,

referring to reforestation, that

the income to be generated will be higher than actual of rice cultivation
since rice net benefit is decreasing each year due to shorter tavy-savoka

cycles, therefore, less productivity of the land and the consequently need to
move further into the forest looking for clearing new productive lands.
(Draft Project Design Document no date, no pagination).
Several aspects are overlooked here. First, production will not necessarily

decrease forever because local farmers will not necessarily practice slash-and-burn

cultivation forever, as we saw in the previous chapters. Second, the benefits of

reforestation will be perceived at national levels (by the Malagasy state that will

receive payments from carbon sale) and at the global level (by a reduction of global

warming) whereas the costs will be born by local farmers (by restrictions to access to

land). In these conditions, it is doubtful whether the “income generated” will actually

be higher. It is right that farmers will indirectly receive part of the profits generated by

carbon sequestration in the form of salary for planting trees. But this will just last a

few years and will be a legitimate payment for their work. It is right also that farmers

will be authorized to harvest products in the reforested area. But the main usufruct of

the trees (the revenues of carbon sale) will not be directed to them. Leakages (forest

clearing by impoverished farmers) would be the consequence of this unequal

distribution of profit, not of the balance between the overall costs and benefits of the


In sum, analyses of available documentation and interviews with staff revealed

that the VMCRCC project inherited the received wisdom that dominate the

conservation and rural development projects that operated in the area. This may lead

to the same result: the proposition of unprofitable or unsuitable alternatives to slash-

and-burn cultivation while the alternatives implemented by farmers are not supported

(Photograph 26). As a result, the project will probably fail to alleviate poverty and to

reduce pressure on ecosystems. But in this case, and to the contrary of what happened

in Beforona, farmers will lose part of their agricultural land, due to the reforestation

component of the project.

Photograph 26: Land improvement in Ambavaniasy. Despite the absence of
bottom land, paddy fields are a possible alternative to tavy. But significant labor
investment is necessary if this option is to play a significant role.

4.5. The consequences

The consequences of such inefficient actions would be the impoverishment of

farmers and carbon leakage. Fires would be ignited as a means of resistance (farmers

would sabotage or burn the plantations established by the project). Migration to

remote forests not under conservation status would be the last alternative for the most

vulnerable households. The reforestation program of the Fanalamanga, in the Mangoro

region (60,000 hectares, mostly pine trees) allows these effects to be anticipated. 223

When the plantation was established, the local farmers lost part of their land, mostly

pasture land where they raised cattle. Some households benefited from job

opportunities from the Fanalamanga and may have improved their livelihood. But

when the Fanalamanga entered into bankruptcy, they unsuccessfully claimed their land

and ignited fires in pine plantations to support their claim. Other households did not

get job opportunities and had to decrease their herds, with negative consequences on

their economy. Some moved to the forest frontier where more land was “available”

because it was still covered with primary forest. We can meet some of these people

farther east, in the commune of Fierenana for example, where they use forest to

provide forage to cattle. According to informants in Moramanga, other households

would have moved south, to Beparasy. These migrations may have contributed to the

advancement of the agricultural frontier to the detriment of the primary forest, whereas

the importance of this contribution remains to be estimated. It is true, however, that

the VMCRCC reforestation covers a smaller area (3020 hectares) and concerns “only”

a few hundred or thousand households. 224 But the project is regarded as a pilot for
larger scale operations in the future.

The following information was gathered during a consulting work done in 2002 for the Food
Security Program of the ADRA NGO.
No precise account is available, but it seems that the seven local partners work with a few hundred
households each, some of them having all their land in the project area, and some of them having only
part of their land in it.

A political consequence can also be anticipated: the reinforcement of wrong

beliefs that lead to inappropriate strategies, such as the rejection of fires and the taste

for high yields. We will see in Chapter 7 that farmers are empiric and not reluctant to

change, as soon as they can see that new techniques are profitable and suitable to

them. But the beliefs of conservation and rural development organizations are more

solid. Projects are under less pressure than farmers to achieve results because it is not

their own survival that matters. Moreover, projects depend on donors whose staff

cannot invest significant time to assess realities on the ground. The projects’ annual

reports are supposed to be the medium that allow donors to be in contact with realities

but are often biased by their second function, which is to justify more funding.

Moreover, lack of impacts rarely puts projects at risk of being stopped. So, if projects

are usually not blamed for their failure, farmers often are. The consequence is that

false beliefs are reinforced. Efforts will be increased to convince farmers that they

need to adopt new technologies with higher yields, that they have to stop using fires,

and that they must adopt zero tillage and mulching technologies, produce compost,

plant fruit trees and develop other cash crops for their own good. Coercive

conservation policies or “participatory top down” will escalate in the name of

biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Strong misleading beliefs will

engender the closure to new forms of knowledge. Farmers will pay the price not only

of conservation efforts, but also of our reluctance to face our own ignorance of

realities. But all this may have already happened indeed, and the tavy repression

campaigns of 2002 and 2003 may be the expression of it.

4.6. Some solutions?

Critical analyses alone are useless and I must now propose strategies to reduce

the risks of negative socio-economic impacts and leakage of the VMCRCC project, in

the light of previous chapters.

First, obviously, the agrarian system needs to be understood. Future evolution

can be anticipated by comparing the region with other areas of the world where similar

systems are encountered. As we saw already, the work of Ester Boserup (1965)

provides a powerful guideline that helps to understand agrarian system dynamics. It

shows that annual cropping, followed by multiple cropping, perennial crops, crop

rotation, the integration of livestock husbandry with agriculture and the use of manure

are the natural evolution of extensive systems when the frequency of cultivation

increases. Green manure, mulching and the association of trees with annual crops

occur only at later stages of intensification, when the pressure on land reduces the area

available for grazing animals and for planting trees. The Outcomes of Messerli (2003)

and Nambena (2004), as well as Chapter 5, confirmed this dynamic.

Second, support must not focus on technical aspects. Intensification needs

investment to purchase labor force, tools, inputs, and to avert risks. If farmers do not

receive economic support, which can be in the form of credit or subsidies, only the

most competitive will intensify, yet very slowly, and the others will move to the forest

in the search for new land, provoking leakage.

Third, farmers have to be supported in the development of their own

alternatives. Other technologies can also be proposed but it would be highly risky to

invest all efforts in the “unknown.” Endogenous alternatives (irrigated rice, home

gardens, rotation on plowed land burned at least the first year) have the advantage to

be there already and do not necessitate high investment. Acquiring a pig to raise and

better agricultural tools (a hoe, not even a plow), which only represent about 15 USD,

can already make a significant difference. Small cement dams can also have a very

significant and short-term impact, and energy can be subsidized in the form of food for

work operations.

These strategies will be presented in Chapter 7. Some have been tested already

in the Ambodilaingo fokontany. But in the specific case of the VMCRCC project, the

central point is the need to implement a rigorous cost-benefit analysis at farmers’

level, in order to compare the profitability of the new systems with the ancient ones.

This analysis is essential because as soon as trees are planted on their land, farmers

will have no other choice than to successfully intensify, whereas in ordinary projects

such as LDI or PTE, they can reject unprofitable alternatives and continue their usual

land use.

In order to achieve this analysis, the number of targeted households, the area of

land they own, the part of the land that will be reforested, the part that will be

dedicated to community garden, fallow gardens and other alternatives, and the labor

productivity of each of these systems must be calculated. The level of investments that

are required and the availability of such investments, either at farmer level or from

external sources must be accounted for too. However, these analyses may not be

sufficient because no reality can be exhaustively measured. The complexity of farming

systems may have no limit when quantification is undertaken. For example, labor

productivity cannot be evaluated just in terms of added value produced per day of

work because some farmers cannot pay labor force and only use family labor. In this

case, days of work are not all equal, which obliges assessment of the opportunity cost

of labor. The effects of the risk factor, of the investment capacity, of credit

opportunities, of remoteness, of increasing pressure on forest land, of social

differentiation, of competition and of culture and habits, which are by far less

significant than commonly believed but nevertheless do exist, are also difficult to


In the face of this complexity, another option would be to limit the analysis to

qualitative aspects and to adopt an adaptive management approach (Lee 1993; Lee

1999; Johnson 1999) where agroforestry, mulching, and fire suppression would not be

proposed a priori. The VMCRCC project would become an experiment, which it is

already indeed as it is the first attempt to implement this approach in Madagascar. But

it would become a cautiously run experiment. Several qualitative comprehensive

analyses have been made already: in this dissertation and in many other works about

the area, such as Messerli’s (2003) and Nambena’s (2004) dissertations. They could

serve as a basis for designing this adaptive management approach.

Fifth, part of the carbon profit will have to be directed straight to beneficiary

farmers to compensate for the loss of agricultural land. Only by doing so can the

project be legitimate in the long-term because farmers will see the reforested land as

their own, which it will actually be as they will be delivered land title. If the trees do

not provide them with significant income, they will see this land as an area for future

extension of their farmland, for their children if not for themselves. Rather than

encouraging farmers “to do nothing,” 225 the subsidies would be consistent with the

support for intensification because it would increase the investment capacity of


The implementation of this approach would confront the belief that poor

farmers are not able to manage cash. It is true that households have obligations of

social redistribution that can divert their income from productive investment. But

Messerli (2003) showed that farmers do invest part of their earnings in productive

activities. Chapter 7 will confirm this outcome. Moreover, social redistribution can be

This is one of the arguments of the detractors of payment for environmental services.

viewed as a sort of social security system. In a context of vulnerability, social

redistribution may be a rational factor of economic efficiency because it allows

sharing risks. When a farmer receives financial support from his family, this can help

him to avoid a decapitalization of assets (for example the sale of land), to maintain

productive capacity (by buying rice to have more strength to work on the land).

Modern states catch and redistribute up to 45% of Gross National Product. When the

state is weak and taxes absent, it may be rational that individuals take the initiative of

implementing this redistribution themselves.

Observations in other areas further show that farmers invest their money in

agricultural intensification when they have a significant source of cash. The Tanala

farmers from the Ikongo region invested the earnings from coffee sales in the creation

of terraces for irrigated rice cultivation, when the price of coffee was high in the early

nineties. 226 In the same manner, the Zafimaniry people from the Ambositra district

travel to western Madagascar to work as loggers during the off-season and invest their

earnings to pay labor to improve their land (Rabetsimamanga 2005). Concerning the

farmers of the Mananara region, they invest part of the profits generated by clover

cultivation in the creation of irrigated terraces (Locatelli 2000).

In order to assess how much profit farmers could obtain from carbon “grown”

on their land, I propose a hypothesis of five hectares of reforested land per household.

According to the draft PDD, the reforestation of one hectare would remove 390 tons of

CO2 from the atmosphere after 30 years.227 If CO2 is sold five USD per ton228 and the
money (390 x 5 x 5 = 9,750 USD) deposited in a bank account with a 6% interest rate,

Results from enquiries I made in the Ikongo region in 2002.
Draft PDD, Section D4. No pagination. A total of one 179 998 tons of CO2 would be removed from
the atmosphere after 30 years, by the reforestation of 3020 hectares.
According to IETA (2006), the price of certified emission reductions issued under the clean
development mechanism ranged from about 2.5 to 24 USD / Ton CO2equivalent. Five USD per ton
appears to be a reasonable hypothesis for the future if Clean Development Mechanism projects become
less risky, which could be achieved by a more appropriate benefit sharing.

reforestation would generate 585 USD per year per household. If farmers received half

of this money 229 (292 USD), it would compensate for the abandonment of slash-and-

burn agriculture on these five hectares. 230 A quick estimation, based on the hypothesis

of an average rice yield of about 800 kilograms/hectare on tavy with fallow period,

shows that the value of crops grown on these five hectares (one hectare being

cultivated every year, with a five year fallow period) would be about 300 USD per

year. 231 But as farmers would continue to practice agriculture on the rest of their land

and dedicate the soils with less potential to reforestation, the real opportunity cost of

not cultivating the five reforested hectares would actually be lower. It would be equal

to the difference of yield that would result from the reduction of agriculture land, and

this difference could be null or even negative if the 292 USD perceived annually was

invested for intensification on the remaining land (for digging irrigation canals, buying

cattle for the production of manure, or buying agricultural tools). Minten (2003)

estimated that a majority of farmers would abandon tavy if they received 85USD per

year per household as a compensation (in the form of rice). This survey was conducted

in the Maroantsetra region, which is less poor than Beforona due to the presence of

more profitable cash crops, such as vanilla. The abandonment concerned all types of

tavy, not only tavy in forest.

This unexpected result (that growing carbon can generate more value than

growing rice) has to be confirmed by a more precise measurement using rigorous

The rest could be directed to the government, could serve to finance monitoring, or could stay on the
bank account to increase the capital over time. Farmers would plant the trees for free because in this
case the usufruct would be for them.
We saw in Chapter 2 that the opportunity cost of protected areas ranges from about 10 to 60.
USD/year for households living around protected areas (Ferraro 2002; Shyamsundar 1997). But in this
case, agricultural land is reforested which results in higher opportunity cost.
800 kilograms x 0.3 USD = 240 USD. To this must be added the value of maize, beans and other
minor crops associated with rice on tavy. 300 USD may be a gross estimation of the total value of these
crops and more precise calculation must be done.

economic evaluation tools, but it reminds us of the huge economic and productivity

gap that exists between the agricultures of developed and developing countries. 232

There is however an important potential pitfall in this approach. The payment

would not compensate for the nondevelopment of future agricultural land use, unless

carbon prices increased in the future. For the part of their land affected by

reforestation, farmers would be dependent on other sources of income, such as profits

they could receive from other forest products. Bio-prospecting contracts and the

sustainable extraction of forest products could provide these supplementary incomes.

Moreover, the carbon contract will be terminated after the 30 year period of the project

and the carbon could then be sold again, allowing for increase in the capital and the

annual income generated by it.

In sum, payment for planting trees and maintaining them in place could serve

as a basis for a new form of development based on the sustainable extraction of forest

products, rather than on agriculture, and carbon would just be one product among

others. Local communities would “develop” in the sense that they would receive

increasing revenue from reforested land. If, in spite of these opportunities, the revenue

generated by forest products was still inferior to what would be obtained by converting

land to agriculture, it would mean that agriculture would still have an externality (the

loss of the last primary forests) that would have to be suppressed by asking the

international community to continue to pay for the difference. Or, from the local

community perspective, the compensation (the subsidy) will have to be permanently

adjusted to the opportunity cost of not clearing the reforested land. This aspect of the

bargain could be perceived as a danger by organizations committed to the

Mazoyer and Roudart (2001) showed that this productivity gap is now about one for one thousand,
meaning that a well equipped farmer in the developed world produces a thousand fold what a tavy
farmer produces in Madagascar (he can yield ten tons per hectare on a 100 hectare farm, whereas the
Malagasy tavy farmer can manually cultivate about one hectare only, and yields about one ton per

conservation of ecosystems. But this fear may reveal that through compensation

communities would be genuinely empowered, which could facilitate their genuine

participation in resource management. Chapter 11 and 15 will provide more arguments

in favor of this strategy.

4.7. Conclusion

In conclusion, the VMCRCC project reveals a global political economy issue

and illustrates a pattern that may prevail in most land use-change and reforestation

carbon sequestration projects. Planting trees has always been a way to appropriate land

and it is well known that reforestation projects often result in land tenure conflicts.

The supplementary value of trees provided by carbon may still increase this tension,

unless part of the profit generated by carbon is directed to the traditional users of the

land. It is not only the ethic of conservation that is in play here, it is also its potential

success or failure. In the global competition for the appropriation of resources, states

have the power to rule and international organizations have the power to shape

knowledge. But the main power is in the hands of farmers: they will decide the fate of

the forest, by clearing it or not, by burning it or not, in the remote areas to which they

will flee if not in the reforestation sites themselves.

In this political economy framework, carbon, in addition to biodiversity, may

actually have become a key “actor.” Carbon may have been the main cause of the

importance given to fireless alternatives and fire repression policies adopted by the

LDI and PTE projects. Even erosion is not as important as assumed in the region to

justify fireless techniques, as shown by Brand et al. (1997). But the logic of

conservation policies and development projects may now be on the verge of passing to

a second stage, initiated by the VMCRCC project, where avoiding carbon release to

the atmosphere is no longer regarded as sufficient. Carbon must now also be

sequestered. Being given this new momentum, carbon policies may become still more

detrimental to farmers because in addition to “justifying” fire repression, carbon will

now occupy their land.

There is a paradox in this situation. Carbon sequestration is actually a

profitable alternative to slash-and-burn cultivation. But because of this profitability, it

favors the appropriation of land usufruct by actors that are not the historical

beneficiaries of this usufruct. The lesson from this paradox is that markets provide

potential solutions, through new opportunities for revenue, but also contribute to

marginalization of those who are less prepared to seize its opportunities. On the verge

of markets, primary ecosystems are the last pieces of land not integrated into the

global economy, and slash-and-burn farmers living on this forest frontier are among

the less prepared people to seize market opportunities. Forest clearing and the poverty

of slash-and-burn farmers may be two interdependent “externalities” that need to be

internalized simultaneously, through appropriate market regulation mechanisms, if we

are to solve the problem of deforestation. A way to do so is to channel the profits from

carbon sales straight to those having traditional use rights on the forests. If not, we

may lose both the last primary forests and their people.

My demonstration may not be complete yet due to its speculative character, as

I explained in the introduction of this section. But there is unfortunately only one way

to be more demonstrative: to implement and experiment on behalf of assumptions.

This is actually what the Malagasy government, Conservation International and its

partners are doing. The experiment is the VMCRCC project itself. The problem is that

it is not recognized as being an experiment, although it is based on a series of weak

assumptions. It is now necessary to question these weak assumptions in order to

address uncertainties, adopt an adaptive management approach and remain open to

new practices and debate. The alternative is that the project continues to its end as if

based on established certainties. Both the Malagasy forests and its people would lose

if the institutions that carry the project played that game.

5. Conclusion

This analysis of the activities conducted by projects in Beforona appears to

verify the hypothesis of this dissertation: there may be a mismatch between realities

and the representation of these realities by the projects that address them. This

mismatch results from a series of wrong beliefs, which we could also call received

wisdoms, myths or dogmas. The LDI, PTE and VMCRCC projects did not necessarily

create these received wisdoms. They rather strengthened them, meaning that it is not

the organizations that run projects that need to be put into question. It is rather a larger

framework within which these organizations operate. This larger framework will be

studied in Part IV, but as a transition to this fourth part and in order to synthesize the

outcomes of Part III, I will review here these received wisdoms. They will be put in-

between quotation marks in order to show that they have an “author,” although this

author is a quite abstract entity, as we will see in Chapter 9.

“Farmers will implement slash-and-burn cultivation forever.” As a result,

“there is a Malthusian vicious circle of land degradation and poverty: land

productivity will decrease forever, leading to catastrophic soil degradation and to a

deep agrarian crisis.” This can happen but is far from being the rule. Slash-and-burn is

not the only land use in the area and most households are committed to giving

increasing importance to other systems, which are irrigated rice, rotation on plowed

land and home gardens, as shown by Chapter 5 and by the works of Messerli (2003)

and Nambena (2004). Lack of investment capacity, risks, and difficult access to

market are the main constraints to the development of these new land uses. Culture

and tradition can slow change but farmers are eager to adopt new techniques as soon

as they experience that these techniques are more profitable and economically

suitable. Chapter 7 will confirm this point. Boserup (1965) showed how pressure on

land can be an incentive to develop new land uses (Chapter 5). According to her

model, population increase does not lead to a dead end but is rather a precondition for

a new step of agricultural development. More population means more labor force

available to farm the land, reshape the landscape, plant trees, and improve soils. What

matters is to implement wise policies that will help farmers to engage in this dynamic

and not be trapped into poverty.

“Yield is the main determinant of agricultural production.” I showed that yield

it is the main criteria used by the LDI and PTE projects to assess their results. But

farmers’ economic strategies are rather the maximization of production in relation to

the rarest resource. When much land is available and agriculture in a phase of

conquest (in a transition from extensive to intensive systems), labor, and not land, is

the limiting resource and labor productivity, and not yield, is the main criterion to

assess profitability. In case of vulnerability, risk minimization is also an essential

strategy. The case of Ambodilaingo (Chapters 5), the perception of LDI’s alternatives

by farmers (Chapter 6) and Messerli’s (2003) outcomes verified this hypothesis and

showed that farmers in Beforona are committed to increasing labor productivity, not

yield, because this will determine how much they will produce and eat in the end.

“Technology is the key to agricultural development.” Most projects invest

much effort to the development of new technologies, such as high yielding rice,

agroforestry, fireless technologies, improved fallow, zero tillage and cover crops.

They allocate much of their resources to the technical training of farmers. LDI and

PTE were no exception. But one of the most frequent complaints by farmers, as we

saw in Chapter 6, is that they cannot apply the technologies they have been trained for,

because they lack the necessary resources (investment issue) or do not have time

(labor productivity issue). Support should thus be centered more on economic aspects

(credit and subsidies).

“Integration to market will help the poor.” Again, this is often not the case due

to a strong competition for access to market niches that can be quickly filled, and due

to low prices that allow only the most competitive (those with better land, easier

access to market, more investment capacity, more capacity to support risks and greater

opportunities to get external support) to make a profit. The degradation of the terms of

trade is also a concern. Coffee used to be an important cash crop in the area but is

almost abandoned now due to its low price (Chapter 3). Profit from ginger cultivation

is also decreasing. Farmers from remote villages abandoned this crop because “big

producers along the road lowered the price” (a farmer in Ambodilaingo 2002)

(Chapter 5). Markets are also uncertain, especially with regard to minor crops such as

fruits and vegetables which are also the most profitable. In Andasibe for example,

avocados, “can provide 20 USD of revenue per tree and per year… if we find someone

to buy the fruits!” (a staff member of the NGO Mitsinjo 2007). These risks result in a

reluctance of the poorest to invest in marketable crops. In a remote place like

Ambodilaingo, support to food crops, especially rice cultivation, may be the priority.

“Fires are demonic.” This is certainly the most radical dogma adopted by

projects that operate in the area (Chapter 6). The implicit assumption that fires are

demonic led to considering all fires equal, which they are not despite the fact they

obviously all have a destructive effect on vegetation and soils. The main difference

between fires is that some are associated with management practices (pasture fires and

slash-and-burn agriculture fires) while others are not (accidental fires, political fires,

fires associated with land tenure conflicts). The first are less destructive because the

management objectives determine a bottom line under which degradation has no

reason to occur (Photograph 21 page 205). It is not worth it, for a farmer, to burn a

piece of land if it will not yield sufficient rice to compensate the work invested. Thus

slash-and-burn fires never degrade the land more than what is compatible with rice

cultivation. Farmers do not burn land if doing so would favor invasion by Imperata

cylindrica and they do not cultivate land invaded by this species, unless they have no

choice. For this reason, Imperata invasion would be reversible if fires were ignited

only for tavy. In the same way, pasture fires (which are not frequent in the region)

have to be compatible with the maintenance of forages. What should have been

targeted by antifire policies are the uncontrolled fires that continue land degradation

after the bottom-line determined by tavy fires is attained, and fires in primary forest,

which threaten the last significant biodiversity reservoir. If this strategy was adopted,

most households would be ready to collaborate with state authorities, at least in the

case of wild fires which they also perceive as a plague. On the other hand, the

repression of all types of fires, aside from its unethical character, leads to hostility and


“Erosion is demonic.” The logic behind this assertion is similar to the one

concerning fires. It is true that erosion degrade soils in Beforona and has led to

catastrophic events in many areas of Madagascar. But demonization impedes

addressing the diversity and complexity of the situations in which erosion occurs. In

the case of Beforona, landslides can occur here and there and measures can be taken to

prevent them (Brand et al. 1997), but lavaka 233 is not a significant feature of the
landscape. In spite of this, projects in Beforona continue to invest significant research

efforts in the development of agroforestry technologies and to promote mulching,

whose effect against landslide is more than doubtful (Brand et al. 1997). Besides,

farmers develop their own anti-erosion systems, which are based on the assumption

that water has to be evacuated through drainage ditches (Photographs 7 to 10, page

A particularly destructive form of erosion very frequent in Madagascar (Chapter 1).

156 to 159), rather than stopped and infiltrated by hedgerows planted along contour

lines. Their practices are certainly imperfect but match better with the outcomes of

Brand et al. (1997) (Chapter 3).

“Farmers are backward and reluctant to change.” This statement is also widespread in

the literature about rural development. But certain forms of reluctance exist in all

societies. It is true that for many Malagasy farmers, it would have been more rational

to develop alternative land uses earlier, before they got trapped into poverty and had

their investment capacity reduced to zero. But in the same manner, it would have been

more rational for Western countries to develop alternative energies and reduce green

house gases emissions earlier. Human induced global warming was first discovered in

1957 (Revelle 1957) and widely recognized by the scientific community in the late

eighties. In spite of this, significant decisions are still far from being taken. For

Malagasy farmers, as for Western societies, there are factors of inertia which have to

be addressed properly and levered rather than just used as an argument for blame.

Focusing on blame, to the contrary, leads to oversimplified explanations and to the

overlooking of realistic solutions.

“Culture and traditions explain land uses.” Again, empirical observations show

that this is not true. The main Malagasy ethnic groups classically regarded as slash-

and-burn cultivators (the Tanala and Betsimisaraka) have developed a specific culture

associated with this land use (for example, the ceremonies associated with the clearing

of new forest land). But Rakotoarijaona (2005) showed that the ancestors of “tavy”

farmers in Ambodilaingo are a mix of Betsimisaraka and Bezanozano people (Chapter

5). The Bezanozano group is close to the Merina of the highland, for whom irrigated

rice cultivation is the main land use. But Bezanozano farmers in Ambodilaingo

adopted slash-and-burn because this land use is more suitable to the area. Kottak

(1971), Astuti (1995) and Bloch (1995) described similar dynamics of cultural change

and adaptation in the case of Tanala, Vezo and Zafimaniry people. In short, culture

may be a consequence of land use rather than the contrary. In most regions of the

world where demographic density is low, rain is important, soils low in fertility,

access to markets problematic and slopes steep, people practice slash-and-burn

agriculture. When one of these criteria changes (for example population density) land

use also changes and with it culture and traditions. Rather than changing culture, the

challenge may be to accelerate this existing change, and economic support may be the

key to this.

As I said earlier, received wisdoms are not the consequence of choices made by people

or institutions. They operate from a higher level. They are present in the very

substance of the systems of ideas and practices within which people and projects

operate. This substance, which I will call discourse, will be studied in Part IV.

There is, however, an institutional mechanism that favors the persistence of

received wisdoms or that impedes the reality to “jump” into the face of actors and

debunk misinterpretations. This mechanism was described, empirically, by LDI’s and

PTE’s staff. I called it the chain of actors (Figure 14). It is significant that almost all

LDI, PTE and VMCRCC staff I interviewed shared with me the opinion that the

techniques proposed to farmers were not adapted to their socio-economic situation.

LDI and PTE’s staff explained that when they had opportunities to work closely with

farmers (some were living in villages and spent most of their time there), they came to

understand clearly farmers’ expectations and needs and that these expectations

conflicted with those of the project. Through discussions with staff at a higher level

(regional office), I realized that exactly the same frustration existed at their level. And

while working later in Antananarivo, I suspected (not specifically in the case of LDI

and PTE) that this frustration existed there also, due to the dependence of

Antananarivo’s offices vis-à-vis decisions taken in Washington, D.C. The closer the

+ Donors in their home _

Donors in host country

Experts in donors’ country

Decision Knowledge of
power Project coordinator local realities

Experts in host country

Local coordinator

Local staff
_ +

Figure 14. The chain of actors.

actors are located to beneficiaries, the less authority they have to take decisions, as

illustrated in Figure 14. In other words, two types of knowledge confront with each

other: one that is experienced on the ground and one that uses very few inputs from

the ground. The next chapters will provide more insights for understanding these

different forms of knowledge. But I raise this issue here because it means that received

wisdoms, although they are hegemonic and shape the discourses and practices of rural

development organizations, could be weakened by appropriate institutional

arrangement. The solution may be to break the chain of actors, to bring the centers of

decisions back on the ground, inside the reality. The social experiment conducted by

Zanaky ny Ala, which I will present now, was aimed at testing this possibility.



1. Introduction

This chapter presents an experiment that has been conducted in Beforona in the

form of a pilot rural development project, on the basis of previous chapters’ outcomes.

Some activities have been designed but not implemented due to the lack of time and

funding. They will however be presented as well. From a more practical perspective,

this chapter can be read as a series of recommendations for implementing more

efficient rural development activities aimed at addressing the issues of deforestation

and slash-and-burn cultivation.

Section 2 will present the NGO in charge of implementing this experiment.

Section 3 will describe the activities that were carried out by this NGO, while Section

4 will present activities that were planned but eventually not implemented. Section 5

will describe what the NGO did not intend to do, which may better reveal its

philosophy than the list of its activities. Section 6 will review the mistakes made by

the NGO, before I will conclude (Section 7).

2. Presentation of the nongovernmental organization Zanaky ny Ala

Zanaky ny Ala 234 was created in 2003, by my initiative and with strong
involvement of my assistant and translator, who became the coordinator of the project

that will be presented here. Zanaky ny Ala further recruited nine field agents in 2004.

Five were master’s program students from the University of Antananarivo and four

were recruited in Beforona. The students belonged to the department of Geography,

History and Economy. Their role was to manage the logistics of the project and to

In English: Children of the Forest.

support community organization. They also dedicated time to collecting data for their

master’s thesis. The staff recruited in Beforona assisted them. I was not myself a

member of Zanaky ny Ala but was involved as a benevolent technical adviser, helping

to design strategies and activities, to prepare technical documents and to raise funding.

The first funding came from private donations.235 They were complemented in

2003 by a grant from the Food and Agriculture Organization236 and, in 2004 and 2005,

by food donations by the World Food Program, which allowed implementation of a

“watershed management” pilot project. 237 Most activities were implemented in the

fokontany of Ambodilaingo, but other fokontany (Sahanonoka, Ambatoharanana and

Beforona) also received support. A partnership with the Food Security Program of the

nongovernmental organization ADRA, 238 funded by USAID, was established but

lasted only the first year. 239

Zanaky ny Ala was an NGO in its infancy, which had advantages and

disadvantages. It was open to nonconventional approaches. The staff had no previous

experience but was highly motivated and the functioning costs were limited. Two

thirds of the budget was directly invested into the activities of communities, in the

form of food distribution (food for work), equipment (construction of dams), and

In total, the NGO received about 10,000 USD from private donators for the implementation of this
An 8,560 USD grant from the Telefood Fund (contract TFD-1/MAG/003) was received on October
8, 2003. In theory, Telefood funds can be granted only to farmers’ organizations. In practice, NGOs
often serve as an intermediary to manage the funds (as did Zanaky ny Ala), due to the illiteracy and low
formal education level of most beneficiaries.
The name of the TELEFOOD FAO project (8,500 USD) is “ Projet Pilote d’aménagement de bassins
versant en alternative à la pratique de l’agriculture sur brûlis ” (Watershed management pilot project for
the development of alternatives to slash-and-burn cultivation). To the contrary of what this name could
lead one to expect, the project did not employ an integrated watershed management approach, for
reasons I will explain later. Concerning World Food Program support, Zanaky ny Ala received a first
grant of about 60 tons in 2004, and a second grant of about 40 tons in 2005, to implement food for work
activities. A third grant has been received in 2006 (amount unknown) to implement a new project in a
neighboring commune (Ampasimbe). I was not anymore involved with Zanaky ny Ala at that time.
Adventist Development and Relief Agency.
The differences in the approaches of Zanaky ny Ala and ADRA resulted in difficulties for the
establishment of a partnership protocol.

inputs (agricultural tools and seedlings). Zanaky ny Ala had no office in Antananarivo

and no vehicle. The staff used public transportation and had its office in Beforona. 240

It spent most of its time in Ambodilaingo and in other fokontany, where it shared roof

and meals with the villagers. Expertise was provided by me and some operations

failed while others succeeded. The work was sometimes done with amateurism and the

logistics were complicated due to the absence of communication means.

The main objectives were to achieve agricultural intensification and to reduce

the dependency on natural resources by putting into practice the conclusions of my

PhD research, at the scale of the Ambodilaingo village. Zanaky ny Ala adopted an

Action-Research philosophy, stressing the reciprocal benefits that research and social

action can get from each other (Greenwood, 1998). Two main activities were

implemented: the creation or rehabilitation of irrigation schemes and the support to

technical innovation by the organization or agricultural contests. The first activity was

an answer to the lack of investment capacity of slash-and-burn farmers while the

second addressed the issue of risks, by taking in charge farmers’ technical innovation.

Natural resources management objectives were not addressed directly, but indirectly,

by supporting agriculture intensification. The challenge was to increase agricultural

production in order to reduce the dependence on tavy and the pressure on primary

ecosystems. Consistent with this, we never made any judgment about the fact that

farmers practiced tavy and cleared forests. We believed that by answering to their

immediate problems, we would encourage them to later go to a second step and

respond to longer term issues. Short-term impact on agricultural production was also

viewed as a necessary step to create mutual confidence, before initiating more

challenging activities.

For a cost of five USD per month.

Reforestation and support for perennial crops were included in the project

proposal in order to answer better to the expectations of potential donors. These

activities have not been implemented in the end, due to the difficulty of involving

farmers in activities whose benefits occur in the medium or long-term, and due to the

short duration of the project (one year, eventually extended to 18 months). Moreover,

the challenge was to reduce the pressure on primary ecosystems and reforestation

would have increased this pressure.

Others activities were deemed essential by Zanaky ny Ala but had not been

included in the proposal for several reasons. First, the Telefood fund that has been

granted by FAO had to be exclusively dedicated to finance equipment and inputs.

Second, a 12 or 18 month period and the 8,500 USD Telefood grant were not

sufficient to implement these activities. These other activities included building a road

for opening the southern part of the commune to markets the entitlement of bottom

lands, the construction of community granaries, the sustainable extraction of forest

products and support to education and healthcare.

3. Implemented activities

3.1. Irrigation of bottom land

Seven cement dams were constructed between 2003 and 2005: four in the

fokontany of Ambodilaingo (Marofody, Ambia, Andriamanavana and Savia), one in

the fokontany of Sahanonoka, one in the fokontany of Ambatoharanana (Hiaranana)

and one in the fokontany of Beforona (Ankorakabe). The Marofody, Amby and

Andriamanavana dams were constructed in partnership with the ADRA-FSP project,

financed by USAID. ADRA provided rice and beans for food for work activities and

engineering expertise to design the dams. Aside from the construction of the dam and

canals, no other support has been provided to the beneficiaries. Support for social

organization and extension of new techniques were not implemented because they

were deemed too costly in relation to their potential impact, because we preferred to

let farmers find their own modes of organization and because several projects already

provided technical support in the area (LDI, PTE and SAF-FJKM 241 ).

A mason team was hired for constructing the dams under the supervision of

ADRA-FSP engineers or of technicians directly hired by Zanaky ny Ala. Stone

workers were hired to prepare the rubble stones and gravel, directly on the site where

the dam was built or on the closest place where appropriate rocks were available. The

rest of the work (transportation of cement from the road, excavation of sand in the

rivers, digging of irrigation canals) was done by beneficiary farmers using a food for

work approach (Photograph 27). This subsidy in the form of food was justified by the

strong food insecurity of most households (Chapter 5). About 70 tons of food was

provided in total by the World Food Program, through the ADRA-FSP project in the

beginning and by direct contracts with Zanaky ny Ala later on. The Zanaky ny Ala

staff ensured the general coordination and organization of the work. The traditional

leaders (Photograph 28) were strongly involved in the design of irrigation canals and

in organizing and controlling the work.

The food for work approach raised several problems. The amount of food

distributed per day of work was too high: the value of the food distributed was equal

to a salary, and sometimes even higher, which is not consistent with the economic

logic of a subsidy system. The risk was that households could do work having no

interest for them beyond the salary they received. Many nonbeneficiary farmers

indeed came to work with Zanaky ny Ala just to have a well paid job. On the other

hand, several canals ended in not being functional. If farmers had not been “paid” to

A large Malagasy NGO linked to the protestant church.

Photograph 27: Villagers from Ambodilaingo digging an irrigation canal. This
activity received support from Zanaky ny Ala (food for work and engineering).

Photograph 28: Irrigation canal and Rayamendreny in Ambodilaingo. This canal

(Savia site) was dug with support from Zanaky ny Ala (food for work and
engineering). In order to be functional, it still needs about 100 meters of masonry
work. Revegetation has not been achieved yet. The three persons are, from foreground
to background, the Tangalamena (traditional chief), the former Vavanjaka (his
spokesperson) and a rayamandreny (a member of the village council).

dig them, they would have born the mistakes of the NGO unless they anticipated the

failure and refused to do the job.

Eventually, the seven dams were built and irrigations canals were dug. Three

sites are currently functional (Marofody, Hiaranana and Ankorakabe), two sites are

partly functional (Ambia and Sahanonoka) and two are a failure (Savia and

Andriamanavana). The three functional sites were assessed in 2007 and the results are

presented here.

3.1.1. The Marofody dam

The Marofody dam, built in partnership with the NGO ADRA, 242 can irrigate

about seven hectares of paddy fields. Paddy fields had been created on this site in the

past but later abandoned because of cyclone damage. The land was totally in fallow

and dedicated to tavy before the creation of the dam.

One household created his paddy field the first year after the construction of

the dam (Photograph 29). There were six paddy fields the second year and 14 the third

year, among a total of 15 beneficiaries. The Photographs 30, 31 and 32 show the

evolution of the bottom land from 2005 to 2007. Rice production averages 500

kilograms 243 per household in the main season plus 150 kilograms in the off-season.

All households continued to cultivate rice on tavy (producing about 800 kilograms in

average). They plan to increase the paddy field area over the years. By joining their

tavy and paddy field harvests, they hope to produce sufficient rice for the whole year.

Some envision abandoning cassava slash-and-burn cultivation.

In sum, the impact of the dam is not sufficient for the abandonment of tavy but

is sufficient to decrease the pressure on primary forests. The increasing mobilization

Food Security Program of the Adventist Development Relief Agency (FSP-ADRA), financed by
White rice (after hulling).

Photograph 29: A “tavy” farmer in Ambodilaingo, with her paddy field in the
background. This young woman and her husband were the first household, among
15, to create paddy fields in the Marofody bottom land, where Zanaky ny Ala and
ADRA built a dam. The second year, they were followed by 6 more households. The
third year, all households but one had started to create paddy fields. This household
used to rely on tavy and on income from wood transformation before the creation of
this paddy field.

Photographs 30, 31 and 32: The Marofody bottom land in Ambodilaingo, in July
2005 (upper), April 2006 and February 2007 (lower). A dam has been built by
Zanaky ny Ala, but no support was provided after completion of the work. This
confirmed that farmers invest in improvements as soon as irrigation schemes are
functional. In 2007, 14 households out of 15 beneficiaries had created a paddy field in
the site. The canal is properly maintained and has been repaired after big rains, but no
cyclone has stricken the site yet. The next cyclone will be the next test to the validity
of the approach. The beneficiaries continue to practice tavy because they need both
systems to produce sufficient rice. Some households expect to be self-sufficient in rice
once improvements are completed. It seems however that tavy surface is diminishing
and that the farmers’ concern is now to concentrate efforts on the site, which verifies
Messerli’s thesis (chapter 6). The dam cost about 2500 USD including the payment of
labor force using a food for work approach. This cost could be significantly lowered
by scaling up the project.

of labor in paddy fields may in the end decrease tavy areas. The perspective to

abandon cassava slash-and-burn systems is a first sign of this evolution. Farmers could

also be more and more interested in the development of intensive systems around the

bottom land, following the logic analyzed by Messerli (2003) and reviewed in Chapter

6. Several households established their principal dwelling and built a new granary

close to their paddy fields, which is a first sign announcing this process.

The main problems encountered are the damage caused by rats which

discouraged most households from growing off-season rice, and the lack of food, tools

and money. Only one household hired labor force (he spent five USD in total).

Organization for managing the water and maintaining the canal is not perfect but

seems to improve over time. The older farmer has been appointed “President” and

canal damages have been repaired. Each household is in charge of the part of the canal

adjacent to his field. Some land tenure conflicts occurred but were solved. All families

belong to the same lineage and the distribution of land is relatively egalitarian. As one

explained, “we try to provide a little piece of land for each family” (a farmer in

Ambodilaingo, 2006). More households than what was initially estimated eventually

got a piece of land in the perimeter.

3.1.2. The Hiaranana dam

On this second site (Photograph 33), rice was cultivated in the perimeter before

the construction of the dam. Precise information about the situation at that time is not

available but all farmers interviewed explained that the main impact is the possibility

to grow off-season rice, which was not possible before. The dam further decreases the

risk of water shortage (Photograph 34). At present, among 16 beneficiary households,

four do not cultivate irrigated rice regularly and 12 obtain an average of 450 kilograms

of rice in the main season and 375 kilograms off-season. Five households still practice

Photograph 33: Paddy fields irrigated by the Hiaranana dam, built with support
from Zanaky ny Ala. The cost of this dam was about 3500 USD, more than half to pay
the farmer’s labor (food for work). About 15 households can utilize the irrigation

Photograph 34: Paddy fields suffering from water shortage in Ambatoharanana.

This picture was not taken at the Hiaranana site, but illustrates the consequences of
poor water control in the area.

tavy (7 before the construction of the dam), obtaining about 500 kilograms on average.

One householder clearly said that he abandoned tavy because he produces off-season

rice now. The dam would, however, not be the only reason for this abandonment.

Other causes act in synergy. Ambatoharanana is located five kilometers from the road

and benefits from significant market opportunities, in contrast to Ambodilaingo. These

revenues are an advantage for land improvements. They are partly invested to pay

labor force: nine of the 16 households spent 17 USD in average to hire laborers. This

confirms that when farmers have the capacity to invest, they do so. From this

statement, one could expect that farmers could also afford to buy cement (about 10

USD / 50 kilograms bag) and to pay a mason in case of damage by cyclone or big rain.

Concerning the maintenance of the canal, no major problem seems to happen.

Crumbling occurred after the 2007 big rains but the canal has been repaired

collectively. The main constraints to increased production are the lack of equipment,

the damage caused by rats and the lack of water. The area that can be irrigated would

be too large with respect to the size of the dam and canal. Water management could

certainly be improved to remedy this problem.

3.1.3. The Ankorakabe dam

Concerning the Ankorakabe dam (Photograph 35 and 36), located in Beforona,

less than one kilometer from the road, the situation is similar to Hiaranana. All 17

beneficiaries cultivate irrigated rice, with production averaging 450 kilograms in the

main season and 250 kilograms in the off-season. Only six households still practice

tavy. Unfortunately, no data is available for the period before the construction of the

dam. The problems are also similar to the case of Hiaranana: lack of water, lack of

tools and damage caused by rats. The lack of collaboration between beneficiaries for

Photograph 35: The Ankorakabe dam, in Beforona, built with support from
Zanaky ny Ala. This is the biggest dam built by the NGO. The capacity of the
beneficiaries (17 households) to maintain it in the long term is still questionable.

Photograph 36: The Ankorakabe canal, with irrigated paddy fields in the
background. Beneficiary farmers proved to be capable of maintaining this canal
during big rains. The scheme has not been stricken by cyclones yet.

the maintenance is also mentioned but the main damages, after the big rain of 2007,

have been repaired.

3.1.4. The other dams

Concerning the four other dams, three of them (Ambia, Andriamanavana and

Sahanonoka) led to the creation of new irrigated rice fields in spite of low water flow

(Photograph 37 ). Improvements on the canal should be made to increase the irrigation

potential of these dams. Some canal sections crumble frequently (Photograph 38) and

can create landslide in case of cyclone. The last site (Savia) is not functional at all and

needs about 100 meters of masonry canal (Photograph 28, page 330). These dams are

regarded as partial or total failures and no enquiry to the beneficiaries has been done

yet. The problems result from a bad choice concerning the site for the dams and the

pathway for the canal. However, the dams may be saved if there is more investment in

masonry on certain sections of the canals. These failures do not put into question the

approach itself but point out the insufficient experience of the NGO to implement the

approach and the difficulty of finding skilled hydrologists.

3.1.5. Technical Supports

Concerning rice cultivation techniques, no support has been provided as said

earlier. Consistent with Messerli’s (2003) outcomes, we considered that the main

obstacle to the development of irrigated rice cultivation was water availability and

management. Water is still not sufficient for many farmers of the Hiaranana and

Ankorakabe dams, as we saw. To remedy this point is a prerequisite before the

extension of more intensive techniques. Moreover, the traditional techniques

implemented at present already result in significant economic improvement and

extension efforts have already taken place in the region for decades. Extension efforts

Photograph 37: Farmers’ improvements in the Andriamanavana site. The light
green vegetation is rice. These fields are not irrigated and terraced yet. Farmers first
do tavy during one or two seasons in order to eliminate most stumps and perennial
root systems. Then they create terraces and plow the land. This site is not in a bottom
land and shows that the potential for irrigated rice cultivation is higher than expected
if considering bottom-lands only. The fact that farmers concentrated their tavy on the
site reveals that they planned to make improvements, despite the fact that the
Andriamanavana dam was not functional (and is still not).

Photograph 38: Failed irrigation canal in Ambodilaingo. The lower canal was
poorly designed and abandoned due to landslides. The second is now functional,
except in its upper section where rocks bar it. It catches the water from a small
secondary stream (see picture 41).

are still ongoing, mostly through the ERI and SAF-FJKM projects. If more profitable

varieties and techniques were available, farmers would end in adopting them. We

actually observed that farmers tried new varieties in their fields, on their own


3.1.6. Socio-organization

Concerning social organization, no support was provided beyond the

construction of the dam and the digging of the canal as mentioned earlier.

Beneficiaries organized according to modalities they defined themselves. Basically,

the work of Zanaky ny Ala consisted in creating the infrastructure. Farmers were

abandoned after this, due to the termination of the project. The main initiatives they

took were to forbid the passage of zebu on the canal, to ban tavy on the watershed

above the canal (this has been done only on one site) and to mobilize collectively to

repair important damage (after big rains). The termination of the project may indeed

have been an advantage because the farmers understood they should expect no more

support. They decided to continue the work by themselves.

3.1.7. Cost-efficiency

Concerning the profitability of the investments, each dam cost from 1000 to

2000 USD for the material, plus the food provided by the World Food Program, which

represents about 2500 USD per dam. As a gross estimate, we can consider that each

dam cost about 4000 USD for 15 beneficiary households, which represents an

investment of 266 USD per household. This represents about five years of the

subsidies that could be raised by storing carbon on one hectare (Chapter 6). Moreover,

the price could indeed have been much lower if canals were dug in appropriate

locations 244 and if beneficiaries had provided part of the work for free.

This cost can be amortized in about three years 245 by the additional rice

production. This is just a gross estimation as there can be many sources of error in data

collection. A real cost-benefit analysis, with precise measurements of production

before and after the dam and assessment of direct and indirect negative and positive

impacts, at a farming system scale, should be done to assess the real profitability of the

operation. However, the fact that the amortization would take two or six years does

not make much difference. The dams have been designed to last several decades or

more if appropriate maintenance is done. My brief calculations just serve to show that

the profitability of the operation is obvious if farmers actually do the maintenance, but

is not if no maintenance is done. It was clear from the beginning that the challenge,

beyond the construction, was to ensure long-term maintenance. This experiment,

conducted on these seven sites, is not finished yet and the key test will be the passage

of the next cyclone. To achieve long-term sustainability, other measures that go

beyond what could be implemented on an 18 months project are necessary. For

example, a communal tax on irrigated land could be raised to pay a communal mason

that would maintain the sites. Zanaky ny Ala showed that dams are cheap and that

farmers quickly make optimal use of them, but a larger infrastructure policy that

addresses long term maintenance issues must also be put in place to validate the


In a certain site, a first canal was dug, then abandoned and replaced by a second canal, doubling the
The additional rice production is about 500 kilograms in the case of Marofody, and about 300
kilograms in the case of Hiaranana and Ankorakabe, these 300 kilograms are of similar value to the 500
kilograms of Marofody farmers, due to higher rice price in the off-season. 500 kilograms of rice x 0.3
USD /kilograms x 10 households in average = 1500 USD/year worth of additional rice production
(4500 USD after three years, assuming a constant production).

For a complete assessment of the operation, indirect impact should be also

measured. It seems that households that are not beneficiaries from the dam, observing

the creation of new paddy fields by their neighbors, decided to create irrigation

schemes on their own (Photograph 39). But the repression of forest clearing is also an

incentive and the effect of both factors cannot be easily separated.

Due to the relatively high cost of the dams and the failure of certain sites,

Zanaky ny Ala started a new strategy after the construction of these seven dams.

Smaller dams were constructed in locations where the more ambitious initial project

had failed (Photograph 40), and food for work activities were implemented to support

the extension of irrigated rice fields independently of dam construction. Contracts

were establish with groups of farmers. A certain amount of food was given for digging

canals, building a traditional dam (with wood, rock and mud) and creating terraces.

Data are not yet available concerning these achievements but informal interviews in

Beforona indicate that their impact was significant with regard to the cost. In some

cases, however, food was used to pay the labor force of big landowners, revealing a

risk of clientelist drift in favor of the rural elite.

3.1.8. Conclusion

In conclusion, the construction of dams had a significant impact on household

economy, but this impact has to be consolidated by achieving the long-term

maintenance of irrigated schemes. In the case of Marofody, tavy is still practiced and

paddy fields provide additional production (about 500 kilograms) that helps to achieve

food security. In the case of Hiaranana and Ankorakabe, the off-season cultivation

allows an additional production of about 300 kilograms. Off-season harvest is lower

than first season harvest but has the advantage of occurring during the food shortage

period, when rice can be twice as expensive. In sum, irrigated rice cultivation has a

Photograph 39: New paddy fields in construction in Ambodilaingo. The owner of
this land received no support from Zanaky ny Ala. According to villagers, the success
of the Marofody dam encouraged non-beneficiary farmers to create paddy fields on
their own. Plowing and terracing new fields requires significant labor investment. In
the background, we can see a paddy field newly created by a beneficiary of the
Andriamanavana dam.

Photograph 40: Canal built by villagers to irrigate paddy fields, in
Ambatoharana. This picture was taken in 2006. In 2007, nothing remained from this
canal due to big rains. Hundreds similar sites may exist in the municipality of
Beforona which could be improved by masonry for a very low cost.

Photograph 41: Masonry on a canal section in Ambodilaingo, built with support

from Zanaky ny Ala. Such masonry is very cheap to build (less than 50 USD) and
suffices to provide water to one or a few households. Hundreds of sites are probably
suitable for such improvements in Beforona. In the future, this type of improvement,
rather than bigger dams such as in Ankorakabe (photograph 35 page 361) should be
privileged. A team of communal masons could be constituted to build them.

significant impact on food security, but access to irrigated rice alone is not sufficient

to lead to the abandonment of tavy. Furthermore, uncertainty remains concerning the

long-term maintenance of the schemes, which encourages a focus on smaller schemes

in the future (Photograph 40 and 41 page 345). It would also be risky to focus

excessively on this one activity, which leads us to the second activity implemented by

Zanaky ny Ala: the agricultural contest.

3.2. The agricultural contest

This second activity has been designed to potentially involve a larger number

of farmers. The objective was still to encourage the development of alternative

systems to slash-and-burn cultivation. But in this case, neither big investment nor

collective management is necessary, the limited extent of bottom land is not a

constraint and everybody can implement the new practices, down the slopes if not in

bottom lands.

The techniques proposed were land plowing (tillage), crop rotation, and

organic fertilization. The choice results from the statement that in most regions of the

world where slash-and-burn practices are abandoned, they are replaced by polyculture

and crop rotation on plowed land and integration of agriculture with livestock

husbandry (Boserup 1965, see Chapter 5). Beforona actually is not an exception and

these techniques already exist in their infancy, mostly in the more densely populated

villages located close to the road. We saw, for example, that crop rotation and plowing

are starting to be applied for ginger cultivation (Chapter 3 and 6). Even rice is starting

to be planted in rotation with ginger on plowed land. The agricultural contest was

aimed at putting more households in contact with these new techniques and at

allowing vulnerable farmers to implement them without taking risks. Participants were

encouraged to plow and to use manure but were free to use the technique of their

choice, including burning the land. 246 In this way, there would be as many tested

techniques as participants. The role of the contest was just to accelerate an innovation

process carried out by farmers, by increasing communication and information

exchange between farmers and by taking risks in charge. The long-term objective was

to develop a crop rotation system, but this was rendered impossible by the lack of

funding after the first harvest.

About 220 persons from four villages (Ambodilaingo, Ambotanefitra,

Ampasintsiriry, and Ambohimiadana) participated in the contest. All persons old

enough to cultivate were authorized to participate. Sometimes, two persons from the

same household registered. The crops proposed to farmers were beans and vegetables

(zuchini and chinese cabbage). The support consisted in providing tools and seeds. In

a context of high vulnerability and poverty, farmers do not take the risk to invest time

and money in uncertain new practices (Chapter 5). So we gave a free hoe, a free

angady and about 100 grams of bean seeds and vegetable seeds to each participant.

This represented a 6 USD nonreimbursable grant per participant. Each farmer was

asked to cultivate these crops on two 12 square meter plots so that the investment in

time was negligible and he could continue his usual activities.

In order to favor comparison of results, the participants were asked to grow

their crops together on the same field, at the scale of one village (Photograph 42). At

first they were concerned about land tenure issues (the owner of the land was afraid

that the participants would appropriate it), but eventually found a flat piece of land on

a river bank. In some villages, farmers separated into a few groups.

To avoid fire the first year appeared to be difficult or impossible, due to the abundant, spiny,
ligneous and fast growing vegetation (mostly Rubus Mollucanus, Lantana camara and Aframomum
angustifolium) that covered the fallow land. But after a first plowing had occurred, it seemed that fire
could be avoided because the vegetation was dominated by annual herbs, due to the elimination of most
rhizomes and strong root systems by the tillage. Unfortunately, the contest did not last enough time to
verify this point.

Photograph 42: Vegetable cultivation for the agricultural contest. The fields are
grouped together on fertile bottom land, on a small river bank. The land belongs to one
or a few households who lend it to the participants. Photograph by Herimamonjy
Lovasoa Ratsimijanona.

Photograph 43: Participants in the agricultural contest. Beans grew well, but
production was highly variable from one participant to another. Farmers with low
harvest did not complain, but enjoyed receiving an angady and having an opportunity
to learn. Photograph by Herimamonjy Lovasoa Ratsimijanona.

The crops were to be sowed in July-August, which is the off-season. At that

time, rain falls in the form of drizzle and there is no significant risk of erosion on

plowed land. Harvest occurred in November, which is already the food shortage

period for many households. Beans could significantly help to provide income because

they can be sold at a good price (about 0.8 USD per kilogram) and amortize

transportation costs, in contrast to bananas, the main cash crop at present. 247

The main risk was the irregularity of rain fall during this period. Beans need a

relatively dry period for maturing and also for flowering. Vegetables suffer as well

from excessive rain, which favors diseases. Farmers were aware of these risks but

already had some experience with bean cultivation. They considered it worthwhile to

try the system.

All the farmers who received the tools and seeds actually participated in the

contest. They all plowed the land and some of them applied manure. There was a wide

diversity of sowing density, with densely sowed beans that grew well but did not

produce any pods. Nobody complained about that, due to the small size of the plots.

Failures were rather the subject of jokes and everybody could see the results of the

most successful participants, learning about what to do the next time (Photograph 43

page 348). It was really unfortunate that crop rotation was not implemented because

this was actually the main challenge. Plowing fallow land represents a significant

labor investment that cannot be justified for just one year’s cultivation. When crops

are put in rotation, plowing becomes easier every year. If two harvests are done on the

plot the same year (for example, off-season beans or vegetable followed by rice or

maize associated with beans during the main season), plowing could be avoided or be

A standard charge (30 kilograms) is worth 30 USD. Transportation costs about 0.03 USD/kilograms
(about one USD in total). In comparison, 30 kilograms of banana is worth about 1.5 USD and its
transportation costs one USD. This shows that the value per kilogram is a much more important
criterion than the cropping system’s profitability per se for choosing cash crops in remote areas.

superficial during the main season. This would result in lower labor cost and lower

erosion. Beans, or other crops such as sweet potato or groundnut, could indeed end in

playing the same role as cover crops used in zero tillage technologies, with the

difference that they provide edible products. They may be less efficient than cover

crops such as Mucuna but this difference may not be problematic due to the still

relatively fertile soils encountered in Beforona, at least in the bottom land and on the

lower part of slopes which are, as we saw in Chapter 5 and 6, those paid attention by

farmers who want to intensify.

Rotation over several years could further favor vegetation with more forage

value than the perennial herbaceous plants typical of most fallows. Actually, this

effect was felt even after one cultivation cycle. A villager that owns cattle brought his

zebu to graze on the contest plot after the harvest. Land submitted to crop rotation

with short herbaceous fallow could thus be permanently used, either for cultivation or

for grazing. This would motivate farmers to enclose it, either to protect it from cattle

or to maintain cattle inside, during the fallow period. This would facilitate the

integration of agriculture with livestock husbandry, which is essential for sustaining

the fertility of this new land use in the long-term.

The participants of each village defined criteria to designate the winner and

created a committee of villagers for this designation. This allowed local knowledge to

be integrated in the appreciation of the best techniques. A large series of criteria, not

only the yield, could be taken into account, empirically if not arithmetically. The only

message sent to the farmers was that they had to designate the cropping system they

deemed more useful for their community. An inter-village committee also designated

the “best” village. I did not purchase the data about who won but the village that won

is Ambotanefitra. Unfortunately, no premium has been distributed so far due to lack of

funding. Most participants did not complain because they enjoyed the experience

anyway. Some kept part of their seed and renewed the experience the following year,

on their own land. We noticed an increased number of farmers sowing beans on

plowed land after the contest, but the relationship is not clear as this practice already

existed, though at a very limited scale (Chapter 5).

In sum, this experience allowed the testing of a new approach for agricultural

innovation. It showed that farmers are curious and want to try new techniques.

Unfortunately, the contest did not result in significant technical innovation because the

duration was too short to achieve the main objective: to test crop rotations that include

rice over several years of permanent cultivation.

Furthermore, taking in charge the risk may not be sufficient for future

development of bean cultivation. According to most farmers, the main constraint of

this crop is the lack of money to buy seeds. Even rice cultivation on tavy is

constrained by this problem. Poverty leads some families to eat all their stock and to

borrow seeds to sow the following year. A micro-credit system may be necessary to

remedy this problem. The next section will present the system we designed (but did

not implement) to provide this credit.

4. Activities planned but not implemented

In this section, I will describe activities that were designed by Zanaky ny Ala

but not implemented due to insufficient resources.

4.1. Micro-credit

We imagined a system that was supposed to replace the free distribution of

seeds after the agricultural contest, allowing farmers to cultivate beans at a larger

scale. The existing micro-credit systems are not adapted to the situation of

Ambodilaingo’s farmers as we saw in Chapter 6. Credit purchased at OTIV or granted

by the PSDR range from about 50 to 1000 USD per household. Most farmers in

Ambodilaingo are not used to managing such large amounts of money, even 50 USD,

and would have difficulty repaying. As food shortage lasts about six months, they

would be tempted to use part of the credit to buy rice. Some OTIV beneficiaries in

Beforona did this. In other words, the existing micro-credit systems are in fact macro-

credits if we consider the economic level of most slash-and-burn farmers living in

remote villages. Table 16 below gives a few examples of expenditures and investment

that illustrate the economy of Beforona.

Another problem with regard to access to credit is that it implies preparing a

sort of business plan with the support of project field technicians. In this way, projects

orientate the use of credits to certain techniques, mostly fireless technologies whose

profitability is doubtful (Chapter 6).

In order to remedy these difficulties, we imagined a system where anybody

could receive a loan for any purpose, just by showing his ID. Maximum loans would

amount to a few tens USD, which is insignificant with regard to our standard but

significant in the perception of farmers. Credit would be linked to productive activities

such as the purchase of seed but would be flexible. Rather than by the activity, the

amount of the loans would be determined according to two criteria: the number of

persons that offer their guarantee and the number of former times the same person

borrowed and paid back. The persons giving guarantee would also have to present

their ID and could get credit as well. One person alone borrowing for the first time

would receive very little (no more than one to two USD) but ten persons mutually

guaranteeing each other and having borrowed and reimbursed several times could

receive a significant amount (a few tens USD each). The system would educate people

to manage credit, not by training but by incentive. This system would match better

with the empirical approach of farmers with a low formal education level. If one

Table 16: Example of expenditures and investment in Ambodilaingo, in USD
(based on the 2007 exchange rate: 1 USD = 10,000 FMg)
Objective Amount in Comment
Investment to buy a 100, less after Investment done on very rare occasion,
young zebu cyclones when income has been earned by doing a
well paid job, or when zebu are particularly
cheap (after cyclones)
Investment to buy a 20 Investment possible for households that sell
pig product at market (ginger). Limited by a
traditional taboo but expanding, especially
in villages located close to the road. Only a
few households involved in Ambodilaingo
Investment in 5 Rarely done, probably because of the risks
vegetable or bean associated with bean cultivation and the lack
seed of cash.
Salary for wood 1.5 Some farmers specialized in this activity
transportation (for 2 and transport 2 or 3 boards per week. Seems
days of work) to be more profitable than agriculture on
degraded land if job is permanent.
Renewing basic 5-20 Rice is sold to purchase these products. The
items (clothes, etc…) price is very low and rice is re-bought at
before the national twice this price during the rice shortage
day period.
Buying a plow 25 Rarely done. The profitability of this tool is
unclear, except for the few people with large
paddy fields, or unless the plow would be
shared among several households.
Potential profit from 60 / ha / year See Chapter 6
carbon sale

person would not pay back, access to credit would be cut to the whole group. In this

way, the risk would be shared and solidarity would be encouraged. Reimbursement

could be done in kind (part of the harvest) or in money. In the case of credits granted

for productive activities with a short-term return, a high interest rate could be

practiced (15% per year). A farmer borrowing 10 USD to cultivate beans, for example,

would have to pay back 10.5 USD at harvest time (four months later).

The credit office could be opened in Beforona, one day per week in order to

minimize its cost (for example, on market day). It would be administrated by staff

from the NGO. A register (on paper and on an Excel spread sheet) could suffice for its

management. The risk of no reimbursement would be elevated, but the small size of

the first loans would minimize the cost of this risk. In the end, those who would

reimburse would have access to increasingly larger loans, which would encourage the

others to eventually reimburse the few USD they would owe.

For this system to work, monitoring would have to be minimal. Otherwise, the

management costs would be far above the amounts of the loans. The only mode of

regulation would be the sanction (no more loans) of the groups that do not reimburse.

Maybe all this just would not work, but the only way to get an answer is to try the


4.2. Construction of secondary roads

We saw in the previous chapters that National Road 2 has a significant

economic impact. Farmers who live less than ten kilometers away from it can market

their products (mostly ginger and bananas) and are clearly better off than those living

in remote areas. Building secondary roads for a better access to market is thus

essential. However, the demand in the market may be limited and increasing offers of

marketable products could result in lowering the prices.

Secondary roads also present some danger. They favor immigration of people

who could appropriate the most profitable lands. This phenomenon already exists in

Beforona, but not yet in Ambodilaingo. Farmers are aware of it and sometimes are

opposed to the idea of a road that would come to their village (Chapter 5). The forest

frontier would certainly be the destination they would privilege if their land would be

taken (Chapters 1 and 5). The answer to this pitfall resides in land entitlement, as I

will show later.

Roads further lead to increased pressure on primary ecosystems if they

facilitate access to them. National Road 2 resulted in cutting the corridor into two

pieces. On the other hand, roads facilitate control by state authorities. In a context of

efficient control, they may be beneficial. Otherwise, they may be detrimental. The

impact of most roads is however quite limited in space. Most migrants settle close to

the road, usually less than five kilometers away. But this attraction can be an

advantage. If the road is constructed at a reasonable distance from the forest, it can

motivate people to leave the forest edge. In Ambodilaingo, some farmers attempt to

move to villages closer to the road, or at least to get land there from a branch of their

family. Their concern is to be able to grow and sell cash crops. As we saw in Chapter

5, ginger and bananas are not profitable anymore beyond a distance of 15 kilometers

(Figure 8).

Based on these outcomes, I conclude that roads should be built parallel to the

forest corridor, about 20-25 kilometers east from it. This would provide access to

market for a significant territory, while discouraging farmers from moving farther

west and encouraging an opposite movement from the forest to the east. I showed in

Chapter 5 that water and biomass are the two main resources that farmers look for to

sustain their livelihood. Roads and the market opportunities they provide may be a

third option. But the condition to achieve this is to avoid the appropriation of the most

fertile land and the filling of market opportunities by migrants to the detriment of local

farmers, who would then move toward the forest instead.

A road not too distant from the forest would also facilitate forest control. Tavy

on the forest edge (on the escarpment) can be easily observed with binoculars at a

distance of 15 kilometers. In term of forest products extraction, a distant road could

encourage traditional harvesting (neither bulldozers nor other mechanical means)

which has the advantage of being less destructive and of distributing a larger part of

the added value to local communities.

4.3. Land entitlement

Land entitlement should be implemented to secure improved land from

appropriation by outsiders but also to encourage intensification. As land entitlement is

costly, it has to be limited to areas more susceptible to appropriation and

intensification: the bottom land that can be irrigated, the home gardens and the plowed

land. Still more reasonably, a titling of paddy fields alone could be a wise policy to

encourage improvements.

We imagined a process involving state domain services (in charge of land

entitlement) and leaving significant responsibilities to villagers. As a prerequisite to

the operation, farmers would identify land that they deem privately owned (for

example paddy fields), at the scale of households, not lineages. They would physically

mark the boundaries of the fields in these perimeters. They would establish a list of

plots with the owner’s name. The whole list would be validated (agreed and signed) by

both traditional and legal authorities of the fokontany. Potential conflicts would be

solved at this stage, by the community itself, with the incentive of being granted a title

for free if the process gets completed. After completion, the domain services staff

would be invited for the reconnaissance and for establishing a map or sketch of the

area, based on the delineation made by the community. Zanaky ny Ala would finance

this visit. The cost of the operation would be relatively low because much would have

been done by the community and because permanently cultivated fields are easily

accessible and have clear boundaries. The next step would be the granting of titles. At

this level, the intervention of the NGO would be minimal. A financial incentive would

be given through a contract with the domain services, in the form of a negotiated sum

of money per title effectively granted. An advance could be given to facilitate the

procedures for the first set of titles and the rest would be paid after delivery of the


Land not permanently cultivated could also be titled despite the fact that this

does not appear to be a priority. In this case, titles would be established in the name of

lineage elders. Such an entitlement would be cheaper and would be sufficient to avoid

the appropriation of land by outsiders. Under the authority of lineage elders, access of

each household to land would still be managed following traditional rules, allowing

more flexibility. As Boserup (1965) showed, the privatization of land is less marked in

less intensive systems as increase in the frequency of cropping is associated with a

move from collective to individual ownership. This logic is verified in the case of

Ambodilaingo (Chapter 5). When intensive and extensive systems coexist, private

ownership and community management coexist as well. The system we propose is

aimed at taking account of this diversity and at allowing a match between legal and

legitimate land tenure.

A new approach to land entitlement is currently under development in

Madagascar. According to the new land tenure law (Gouvernement de Madagascar

2006), land certificates can be delivered by communes. These certificates are not

exactly land titles but open to the same rights. Donor agencies support the creation of

communal land tenure offices in charge of delivering these certificates. The objective

is to reduce the cost of titling and to reform procedures, in accordance with the

decentralization policy. This approach is at present in an experimental phase at the

scale of pilot projects. Its impact will have to be carefully assessed before considering

it to be the appropriate answer to the inefficiency of the current system. Like the

VMCRCC project, it must be regarded as a large scale social experiment. Potential

pitfalls could be the power it would provide to mayors to satisfy their clientele, the

lack of capacities of remote communes to manage the system (skillful people are

mostly urban and are often reluctant to work in remote areas), the difficulty of

controlling abuses due to the large number of communes, and the temptation to

condition the granting of title to the implementation of land use planning policies that

would provoke new disturbances on local farming systems.

4.4. Community granary

Zanaky ny Ala envisioned community granaries as a way to reduce the rice

shortage period while taking advantage of the elevated price difference between

harvest and food shortage periods. Granaries would be built at the level of each

lineage or village. Farmers would provide the work and the NGO would provide

materials to build them. The concerned communities would appoint a manager. A

management system would be proposed but the community could modify, accept, or

refuse it.

The management system we elaborated was as follows: the villagers would sell

rice to the granary for 25% above the market price at harvest time and could buy it for

25% off during the food shortage period. The buying and selling periods would be

bounded. As the rice price usually doubles between the harvest and the food shortage

period, the difference between buying and selling prices would still allow a significant

benefit for the granary, while representing a virtual benefit for the farmers. In

comparison with the present situation, they would save money two times: by selling

rice at a higher price and by buying it six months later below market price. Overall,

farmers would still lose, but they would lose less than they currently do, which

represents significant progress. They would also save the cost of going to Beforona to

sell and to buy rice. A certain cynicism is necessary to accept the approach but farmers

should be allowed to pragmatically judge the system. Moreover, the profit gained by

the granary would remain inside the community. The key issue is how this money will

be used, a point that farmers have to define for themselves as well.

For simplification and to avoid conflicts, the maximum quantity of rice a

person could buy should be equal to what he sold the same year. Rice bags should be

tagged so farmers would actually re-buy the same rice they sold. But after a limited

storage duration that still has to be defined (for example, until the next agricultural

season), rice from the granary could be re-bought by anybody.

4.5. Community Based Natural Resource Management

Favoring watershed protection, especially where dams are built, is an activity

that could be started in the short-term. Farmers themselves took the initiative, by

creating a community rule that forbids tavy on the Ambia dam watershed.

But we had in mind a larger scale and longer term program: the creation of a

forest reserve that would be co-managed by an NGO and the community. We believed

that in the context of Ambodilaingo, where the education level is very low and where

a few opportunist persons could take advantage of this, 248 a passage though co-
management is necessary before legal transfer of resource management

responsibilities to local communities. Chapter 11, which analyses community based

Chapter 11 will address this issue in details.

natural resource management in Madagascar, will provide the justification for this


The legal framework for this co-management approach would be the

application of article 24 of the Malagasy forest law (Gouvernement de Madagascar

1997). An application decree of this article still needs to be issued to clarify the

modalities of delegation, but contracts have already been issued by the ministry of

environment on behalf of this article. Most of these contracts are between the state and

private operators aimed at developing ecotourism, but a few concern NGOs that have

been granted rights to manage forest resources with multiple purpose. Recently, the

Malagasy state started to develop a legal framework for creating conservation

concessions that may provide a legal frame for co-managed reserves (Chapter 2).

In order to respect the expectation of the Ambodilaingo community, the

reserve would be opened to logging. Some minimal rules, such as a minimum

diameter for extraction and annual quotas, would be defined by the co-managers.

Under these minimal rules, the community would organize as it wants, resolve

conflicts by itself and distribute the benefits in the way it would consider the wisest.

Conflicts would certainly occur but the community itself would have to solve them. It

could establish dinas, written by hand on paper or even orally transmitted. It would

just have to be made very clear that in case forests would be cleared and basic

management rules not respected, the sub-contracts would be broken. Both rights and

duties would be defined, for the state, the NGO and the community, allowing an

escape from coercive state ruling and radical conservation approaches, as well as from

the idealization of supposed harmonious relationships between communities and

natural resources. As we saw in Chapter 5, the forest is traditionally managed as a

reservoir land for the extension of agricultural land and a ban of forest clearing is

necessary if we are to achieve a transition to more intensive land uses before the whole

forest gets cut. Only a top-down ruling, designed in the name of global interests, can

lead to such a ban. This ban would have an important and social cost and would have a

low legitimacy. For this reason, the ban would need to be compensated and support to

agriculture intensification may not be sufficient for this compensation. I will come

back to this issue in Chapter 11 and 15. If the ban and this compensation were put into

place, the community would have to take its responsibility but would also be free to

find its own way to put this responsibility into practice. In other words, beyond the

delegation of legal forms of authority upon the resources, the community would be

granted confidence to achieve its duties.

With the support of the NGO, the biomass and the biodiversity could

contribute to development through the carbon market (Chapter 6) and bio-prospecting

contracts, in addition to the conventional uses (logging and nontimber forest products

extraction). In other words, the co-managed reserve would be a way to avoid the

appropriation, by the state or by other actors, of natural resources (products,

biodiversity, and carbon). The value of these products may significantly increase in

the future and may serve as a basis for a new form of development where biomass and

biodiversity would play a significant and increasing role, beside agriculture. The main

pitfall, however, is that the NGO that has been granted the contract could work for its

own good instead of genuinely helping the community to capture these benefits. A law

needs to be passed to guarantee that the benefits will actually be directed to


4.6. Health and education

Needs at this level are obviously huge but Zanaky ny Ala did not elaborate

health and education programs. Actions were limited to emergency support during the

influenza outbreak in 2002, just before the legal creation of the NGO. In case of

supplementary funding, it was also planned to equip a few schools with didactic items

(posters, books) and to grant scholarships to children from remote villages that would

complete primary education but could not afford to go to Beforona’s junior high


4.7. Others?

The list of activities could never stop, but the risk would be to dissolve key

actions in a mass of activities with low impact. In a context of huge needs and limited

intervention means, the essential has to be implemented, not the necessary. Activities

must also be designed in order to be replicable at regional or national scale in case of

success, which implies that they have to be cheap. Our approach included an

infrastructure policy (dams and roads), an intensification policy (the promotion of

tillage, crop rotation and organic fertilization through agricultural contests), a subsidy

policy (food for work activities), and a natural resources policy (co-management of

natural resources). If implementation costs were excessive, these activities would be

condemned to remain at the stage of pilot projects, whatever their impact.

It can further be noted that the activities implemented or planned by Zanaky ny

Ala are not new. In the vast area of development practices, it may be that everything

has been tried already. The novelty of Zanaky ny Ala was rather in the approach and

in what it did not do. First, the NGO employed inexperienced but highly motivated

young students instead of confirmed “development” specialists, in order to render

possible a cleansing of the misleading beliefs that dominate rural development

projects. Second, Zanaky ny Ala did not pay much attention to training, socio-

organization, monitoring and paperwork, and allocated about 70% of its budget to

direct support to farmers, in the form of food for work and materials purchase (cement

and other construction material, seeds and tools). Third, it selected just a few activities

judged as being the clue for successful development, instead of designing the perfect

project that would address all aspects of the reality. To complete the portrayal, I must

then say a few words about activities that were discarded and explain the reasons for


5. Activities not planned

Bee keeping was discarded because the market cannot absorb much honey and

because it does not fit well with the day to day economy that prevails in

Ambodilaingo. Significant investments are necessary to intensify bee keeping and

returns are uncertain and not immediate. The most interested farmers are often those

belonging to the rural elite and they could quickly fill the limited market opportunities

if they received support from projects. Fisheries and arboriculture were discarded for

about the same reasons.

Fowl and swine husbandry were discarded for three reasons. First, agricultural

surpluses (rice for fowl, cassava for pigs) are necessary to feed animals, whereas

farmers in Ambodilaingo do not produce such surpluses. Second, the risk factor is also

significant (diseases). Third, soils in bottom land are still quite fertile in

Ambodilaingo. Swine husbandry, however, would deserve to be supported if it helped

to achieve better food security. It already deserves support in the fokontany located

close to the road, which are economically better off. As we saw in Chapters 5 and 6,

the production of manure is essential for the future and is a much less costly way to

produce organic fertilizer than composting. An initial investment is necessary (which

can be provided by credit) but labor inputs are much lower and benefits are multiple.

Pig farming was actually intended to be supported later on, through the creation of the

micro-credit system.

Agroforestry and agrobiological technologies were discarded because farmers

never adopted them despite the fact they have been subject of extension efforts for

decades, because other projects are already committed to their diffusion and because

their profitability is disputable (Chapter 6).

SRI and SRA, as well as the diffusion of other intensive techniques that consist

in increasing yield, were discarded for similar reasons, because work productivity and

low risk are more important criteria than yield for most poor farmers, because a paddy

field that produces 1.5 tons per hectare is already a success and is already more

profitable than tavy on degraded land, and because innovation has to be created by

farmers themselves, which they will do if we provide them incentives and information

about the external world. The agricultural contest could be applied to rice

intensification and new rice varieties and techniques could then be proposed, but the

first step was to create new paddy fields.

Training was discarded because many farmers in the commune complain about

the too many trainings they received, which reveals the difficulty of conducting

training with the right content and led us to prefer social learning through shared

experience (through the agricultural contest).

Socio-organization was discarded because it was assumed that organization

would be more efficient if it was designed by the beneficiaries themselves, and that

changing the material basis of the production (by building dams) would create new

needs that would encourage social organization (for managing water and canal