Crisis and resilience - A blog by Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana | WWF

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Crisis and resilience - A blog by Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana

On April 27, civil society sounded the alarm about the intensification of environmental crimes in protected areas during the national health emergency - a message reinforced by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development on its social networks.

Opinion of Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana in Express de Madagascar,

Past crises, whether political, climatic or other, have always had a negative impact on natural resources and in particular on protected areas - the last bulwarks protecting the country's unique animals and plants. Thus, political crises such as those of 2002 and 2009, prolonged periods of drought and some major cyclones have resulted, among other things, in increased deforestation.
 
How? When a crisis disrupts the economy, it is the most vulnerable groups who bear the brunt of it. Landlocked local communities living around protected areas and whose economic activities depend on natural resources are particularly vulnerable. When production falls due to climatic hazards, or when roadblocks no longer allow the sale of products or when tourists no longer come, these communities quickly find themselves with no other alternative than to draw on forests, reefs, mangroves and lakes for the food, fuel and medicines they need every day. In addition, in times of crisis, vigilance can be relaxed, leaving the door open to more organized crimes such as illegal logging, large-scale turtle collections, and many others.
 
Admittedly - and thank God - COVID-19 has so far not affected the populations in the remote areas around the protected areas, but its economic impacts are, alas, there. Recent surveys of these communities show that they are already experiencing a drop in income because they can no longer sell their agricultural or fishing products because of the difficulty of travel or because tourists no longer come; basic necessities are in short supply or sold at double or even triple prices. Those who can borrow are already in debt and others are bartering, seeds for the next agricultural season are consumed or the number and quantity of daily meals are reduced. The signs of an environmental crisis are there. When there is no other option, forests, mangroves and reefs will be the victims - and so the vicious circle goes, since the degradation of these natural resources will only worsen this situation of vulnerability in the future.
 
Why? A question of resilience - in ecology, "the ability of an ecosystem or group of individuals to recover from a disturbance such as a cyclone (or pandemic)" and in psychology, "the ability of an individual to bounce back from trauma, a crisis". To increase this resilience, it is now urgent to cover these immediate needs generated by the current health crisis. But it will also be necessary to act against the structural causes of the vulnerability of these populations through targeted investments to help them escape from this logic of subsistence which only maintains poverty and the degradation of our natural resources. Such measures should be part of the post-COVID-19 mitigation and recovery plans currently being developed - so that the recovery is inclusive and sustainable and does not lead to another spiral of degradation of the resources on which the country's economy depends. Only by addressing the root causes of the problem will we solve it. Crackdowns and zero-tolerance policies are commendable efforts to limit the environmental impacts of this crisis, but they alone will only serve to delay the inevitable.
 
Healthy nature is a guarantee of economic, social and even health resilience - since it is now scientifically proven that environmental degradation is a factor facilitating the emergence of new pathogens in humans. We are currently going through a health crisis; can it wake us up and make us avoid future ones?