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The role of community-based coastal conservation and development initiatives in building social-ecological resilience to climate change: experiences from southern Madagascar

Kame Westerman
Kirsten L.L. Oleson
Alasdair Harris


Climate change impacts fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest, most marginalised communities, particularly those highly dependent on direct use of natural resources, such as subsistence fishing communities. Vulnerability to climate change includes social and ecological factors; therefore efforts to reduce vulnerability and build resilience must target both. In Madagascar, generalised initiatives developed at the national level address vulnerability, adding to a variety of international initiatives. Yet for most coastal communities, such high-level planning inevitably remains hazy and indeterminate, with little meaningful implementation on the ground. Therefore, local measures to build resilience are critical to ensuring that resource-dependent communities are able to cope with the immediate effects of climate change, in addition to building long-term adaptability. We examine an integrated population-health-environment (PHE) program in Madagascar, comprising a locally managed marine area (LMMA) and socioeconomic development activities, to illustrate how such initiatives can contribute to building resilience and adaptive capacity. We argue that such an approach can constitute a practical process to build immediate and long lasting resilience.  Such community-based approaches should therefore play a key role in adaptation efforts within the western Indian Ocean region, where many coastal communities live in poverty on the front line of a rapidly changing climate.