A history of conservation politics in Madagascar
In this article, I argue that reconciling conservation and livelihoods in Madagascar requires an examination of the historical processes and political-economic systems through which the strong foreign influence on conservation has formed. I begin by documenting how a group of scientists and policy-makers came together in the 1970s and 1980s to mobilize global attention to the importance of protecting Madagascar’s flora and fauna. I illustrate how their influence materialized not only through formal political negotiations and bureaucratic practice but also via informal collaborations across multiple geographic and institutional sites. Then, I examine how the critical historical conjuncture of the mid-1980s—with its emphasis on biodiversity, sustainable development and neoliberalism—prompted a reconfiguration in power relations among public, private, and nonprofit actors. This reconfiguration provided the political-economic context for the transformation of a scientific campaign into a well-funded foreign aid agenda, encompassed in the Madagascar National Environmental Action Plan. I illustrate how, although numerous actors advocated for integrated conservation and development approaches throughout Madagascar’s environmental history, the political, scientific, and financial strength behind the international conservation lobby often overpowered the push for more comprehensive or integrated development approaches. Finally, I conclude by arguing that effective and equitable conservation in Madagascar will require transforming the power relations that have both created Madagascar’s environmental crisis and efforts to redress it.