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Convention on Biological Diversity, what commitments for Madagascar?
As I write these lines, delegations from a hundred countries, representatives of NGOs and private civil society are meeting in Geneva to refine the proposed texts to be submitted to the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the 15th Conference of the Parties of this convention scheduled to take place in Kunmin, China, in late April-early May of this year, but postponed to a later date because of the uncertainty related to the pandemic of COVID-19
An interesting element to highlight in the numerous publications on the loss of biodiversity is the globalization of the material and food production system with links not always visible at first sight. The Amazon - considered as the lung of the world - loses 1.7 million hectares every year to satisfy the demand for meat or soya thousands of kilometers away.
In Madagascar, already in the 1980s, researchers linked the loss of the Mikea forest in the north of Toliary to the production of corn for pig feed in Reunion. A 2004 study (Lasry et al., 2004) showed that deforestation in this area increased from 590 ha per year before 1986 to 3490 ha per year from 1999 to 1981. A similar phenomenon not far away is the decimation of dry forest in the Menabe Antimena protected area (Menabe region) to replace groundnut and maize cultivation. At the height of the expansion of cultivation areas between 2014 and 2018, Menabe Antimena lost 50 hectares per day and about 5,300 hectares per year. The peanuts are exported to an Asian country and the corn is used in the local brewery. In both cases, migrants are often cited as the focus of these illegal activities. However, it is well known that internal migration has always existed according to the traditions and cultures of ethnic groups and the economic opportunities offered by the destination region. The recurrent droughts of recent years have accentuated the phenomenon and pushed more farmers and herders to move.
The solution does not lie in curbing migration - which is a fundamental right of the Malagasy people - but in better managing it through appropriate measures such as registration in the area of arrival, definition of settlement areas, accompaniment on agricultural techniques, etc. With the climate change that is real and intensifying, if measures are not taken quickly to settle potential migrants in their area of departure while channeling this flow towards planned and sustainable production, the natural forests of western Madagascar will disappear again. And with them the priceless wealth of unique plants and animals that these forests harbor. Solutions on the demand side exist but require clear inter-sectoral collaboration between, for example, the ministries in charge of agriculture, livestock, trade, industry, foreign affairs, etc.: the establishment of a system of traceability of the origin of products, collaboration with recipient countries or national brewing companies to refuse commodities illegally produced in protected areas.
In conclusion, and referring to our introduction on the post-2020 global framework, we need to see how to translate our commitments on the goal of reducing biodiversity loss into concrete terms and not just general formulations. This article provides some ideas on the maize sector. Other sectors impacting biodiversity exist and could form the basis of Madagascar's commitments as well: vanilla as a cause of rainforest deforestation, artisanal gold mining as a source of destruction and degradation of forests and waterways...