Madagascar - Tapping Into Biodiversity for Sustainable Growth

Madagascar’s unrivaled biodiversity is undoubtedly its biggest asset. Nearly all (90 percent) of the plant and animal species found on the island are endemic. This rich and unique mix of flora and fauna generates significant foreign exchange earnings, with up to 130,000 tourists visiting the country's 6.9 million hectares of protected areas eacy year. Other natural resources are also important at the level of the national economy. Fisheries already contribute more than 2 percent of GDP and the growing large-scale mining sector is expected to contribute 15 percent of GDP in coming years.

A lesser known, yet vitally important, role of the country’s terrestrial forests and coastal and marine natural resources is found in the wide range of ecosystem services that they provide for Malagasy local communities—these services include timber, food, water, fuel, and construction materials that are essential for the livelihoods of around 16 million people.

We know that natural capital represents roughly half of Madagascar’s wealth. But there is no systematic accounting of the economic or biophysical values of the country’s natural assets. The country urgently needs economic information about its natural capital to improve its decision-making. Such information would help policymakers manage their resources sustainably.

Making WAVES in Madagascar

The WAVES project in Madagascar will help the country strengthen its capacity to manage its natural capital and promote sustainable development. Plans to meet this objective include:

  • Improving the availability of data on the physical and monetary values of ecosystem services and natural capital in the mining, water resources, and protected areas/forests sectors.
  • Facilitating the development of complementary macroeconomic indicators that reflect selected ecosystem services and natural capital values.

Data generated by the WAVES project will help to inform dialogue and decision making related to priority macroeconomic and natural resource issues. It would help find answers to some of the most pressing questions such as how to tap into the economic benefits of protected areas; how best to distribute and use mining revenues to support development; and how to manage conflicting demands on water resources.

The story so far

The WAVES Partnership has garnered strong support at the highest levels of Government. After joining WAVES, the Government brought together high-level technical experts to come up with policy priorities that could be supported by the program. Two technical case studies were commissioned to generate information on the forestry and fisheries sectors, with the aim of testing different methodological approaches and identifying clear entry points for future WAVES support.

In early 2012, a National Steering Committee was established under the leadership of the Ministry of Economy and Industry and Conservation International, a leading environmental non-profit organization working in Madagascar.

In June 2012, the government joined the World Bank’s 50:50 Call to Action for the implementation of natural capital accounting and endorsed the Gaborone Declaration and Communiqué that arose from the Summit for Sustainability in Africa.
In August 2012, the Steering Committee agreed upon a work plan that includes developing accounts in the sectors of mining, water resources, and forestry/protected areas. The work plan also contains significant support for capacity building and awareness raising activities.

A Feasibility Study was finalized in September 2012. Comprehensive consultations with Government, civil society and development partners were carried out during the preparation of the study.

An international environmental accounting specialist, (Robert Smith, formerly of Statistics Canada,) is providing technical support and training for the Steering Committee and national counterparts for accounts development in these sectors. Smith has been working with counterparts to identify links between desired policy outcomes and priority natural capital accounts, and will be developing roadmaps to guide technical and policy activities over the next several years. This will be followed by data collection and initial account preparation in the mining sector, and scoping of data collection activities for the forestry and water resources sectors.

There will be regular meetings of the Steering Committee and the technical working groups to oversee activities and ensure the outcomes are communicated widely to decision-makers and the population at large.