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Fighting against the trafficking of natural resources: everyone should get involved

In recent months or even years, trafficking in renewable natural resources, particularly rosewood, seems to have calmed down. However, from time to time, we see articles in the media that report on trafficking of all kinds. For example, in December 2021, 868 turtles were seized in Beloha Androy and two people were arrested. Recently, we saw a case related to the interception of a taxi-brousse illegally transporting a cargo of rosewood on the RN2. In these 2 examples, the gendarmerie has done its job and the defendants are under arrest by the justice. In the case of the turtles in Beloha, it turns out that informants provided information that led to the arrest of the suspects. I congratulate all those who contributed to these results, especially those who provided the information and the national gendarmerie. Unfortunately, the pressures and threats on biodiversity do not stop. 
There is a quote that we all know "Where there is a will there is a way". We often forget that there is a continuation to this sentence and it has often been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte "When you want you can, when you can you must". It is the second part of the sentence that is interesting and constitutes a questioning that average people are currently asking themselves. The political will to eradicate trafficking and squandering of all kinds of natural resources in Madagascar has been heard from the leaders who have succeeded each other. Now, there is zero tolerance. This is all very well, but isn't this the right time to actually put this political will into practice? We will say that the government is doing what it can, but is it already tangible and palpable?
I recently read an opinion letter that I saw on this same newspaper: Recognizing the vital role of communities because of their knowledge of the environment and their traditional practices. I agree with this article because if we want to fight against the trafficking of natural resources, we should adopt and implement a holistic approach. This means that everyone can contribute their share of bricks to build our common house as the Catholics would say. It could also mean a better coordination of everyone's participation.
I return to the recent case of the 868 turtles. The seizure of these turtles and the arrest of the 2 suspects were made thanks to information provided by local informants. I had the opportunity to speak with one of these informants, based in southern Madagascar, in late 2021. He said that he had done this work voluntarily, without salary or any other resources, out of conscience and personal conviction in order to protect the unique wealth of his region for the future generation. Indeed, if the people who live near these resources do not participate in its protection, who will? However, this volunteer says he is not safe because denouncing a malicious act, especially a crime, is risky because he is in a "tany lavitra andriana" (area far from the authorities). I do not dare to speak about the recent gold trafficking where we often speak of "big fish" who are certainly highly placed people. What could a simple citizen do when faced with people in high places? However, I tell you loud and clear: without any sharing of information, no investigation, no arrest, no trial in court, therefore total impunity! Is this what we really want?
However, I am convinced that we, as simple citizens, can go forward and change history. There is a lot of talk about the need to change the mentality, but it is often said that the example comes from above. I mentioned earlier that the political will is already there. Why not get together? Mobilizing all the forces and the various actors and coordinating their efforts does not necessarily require a lot of funding from donors. The actors are already there. I am talking about the local communities, civil society, the various administrative services and entities (STD, CTD, national gendarmerie and police, BIANCO, courts, etc.) and the private sector. What more can you ask for? I would tend to say that it is the coordination that is perhaps lacking. We also talk about motivation. Isn't recognizing the value of our national wealth already a real motivation? If all the biodiversity of Madagascar disappeared in a few years, would it be a pride for us Malagasy? Of course not! And then, we also hear that the means, notably financial and material, are lacking. To go and arrest someone, you need a car and fuel. However, I have already seen law enforcement officers accompanied by the local population walking 75 km to bring dahalo to court. I salute their courage. Don't also say that all judges are corrupt. No, I have seen court decisions that conform to national laws and are completely independent. One will say that this may be rare but it does exist. Yes, there may be a serious integrity problem somewhere, but I'm telling you that there is a real opportunity to move forward and involve everyone from the small peasant to the high ranking official. I don't want to talk about a poor country because the reality is that we really don't know how to make the most of our national wealth, everything is captured by a handful of rich and opportunistic people, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.
To conclude, I recognize that the coordination and information exchange mechanisms may need to be improved, but I can tell you that the actors are already there and ready to participate in eradicating trafficking. They already know their roles and missions and even if they are not sufficiently equipped they can contribute, even if it is only to denounce environmental crimes.
Simon Rafanomezantsoa,
Expert in biodiversity conservation