Partnership in practice: making conservation work at Bezà Mahafaly, southwest Madagascar

  • AF Richard
  • J Ratsirarson


Bezà Mahafaly has been the site of a partnership for conservation since 1975, long before the idea of community - based conservation became widely accepted in Madagascar or elsewhere in the world. Today, the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve protects 4,600 ha of riverine, transitional and spiny forest with a rich endemic fauna. This paper provides a summary of the thirty - seven year history of the initiative, focusing on three issues: our evolving interpretation of the term ‘community’, the integral role of politics and economics in developing the partnership, and the linkage between local, regional and national influences that were experienced in some contexts as constraints and in others as opportunities. We draw five conclusions that we hope will be of interest to those engaged in similar activities in Madagascar and elsewhere: (i) the importance of relationships and trust, and the length of time it takes to build both; (ii) the inherent fragility of community - based collaborations, which depend heavily on particular individuals and the pressures on people’s lives; (iii) the importance of sustained financial inputs and challenge of diversifying these inputs; (iv) the need for mechanisms to distribute costs and benefits that are accepted as fair, and for methods to track that distribution; and (v) the central roles of improvisation and opportunism in the face of high levels of uncertainty, and the unanticipated key role played by a village-based environmental monitoring team.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1662-2510