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Identified as one of the highest biodiversity conservation priorities in the world, Madagascar is home to approximately five percent of the world's species. The world's fourth largest island, lying about 400 km east of the African continent, hosts a spectacular variety of flora and fauna--more than 80% of them found nowhere else in the world. Some estimates show the island has 8,000 endemic species of flowering plants and of the taxonomic groups which include reptiles and amphibians, over 95% of them are endemic. Many attribute the country's unique and rare biodiversity to its geographic isolation, due to the separation of the island from the African continent, which occurred some 100- 200 million years ago. This isolation has allowed the island to maintain unique populations of plant and animals which evolved in isolation from mainland Africa.

A hectare of forest lost in Madagascar has a greater negative impact on global biodiversity than a hectare of forest lost virtually anywhere else on earth. Despite this stunning fact, Madagascar 's forests are dwindling. The area covered with primary forest has declined from about 25% of total surface in 1950 to less than 15% today (these figures vary). It is estimated that forest cover may disappear within 25 years if current practices go unchanged. The Government of Madagascar, with the support of the international donor community, has been working hard towards implementing a national environmental action plan to decrease the rate of forest loss while trying to implement sustainable development, which includes economic growth initiatives.

In Madagascar, the US Forest Service works with support from USAID Madagascar to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests to promote various aspects of sustainable forest management. The US Forest Service works in collaboration with the USAID-funded “Jariala” project, an institutional support program implemented by the International Resources Group.

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Strategic Zoning of Malagasy Forests
At the 2003 World Parks Congress, held in Durban, South Africa, the President of Madagascar announced a plan to triple the size of the nation's protected areas within the next five years. Madagascar, a globally important hotspot for biodiversity conservation, is home to more than 10,000 endemic species of flora and fauna. However, Madagascar is known to have one of the most rapid deforestation rates in the world, largely caused by unsustainable forest use practices carried out by a rapidly growing population. Additionally, many Malagasy farmers depend directly on forest products for their livelihoods or indirectly on the environmental services forests provide. Therefore activities promoting a range of sustainable forest management practices, both within and beyond the protected areas network, are of significant importance. To simultaneously conserve biodiversity and provide tangible results for the nation's people, improved forest management will necessitate conserving high-biodiversity value forests, increasing opportunities for sustainable use of forest products, and working to mitigate deforestation and ensuing erosion and habitat loss.

Due to the extensive experience of the US Forest Service with multiple-use planning, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Madagascar has engaged the US Forest Service in providing technical support to the Malagasy Directorate of Water and Forests (DGEF) with their forest zoning efforts. In May 2003 a Forest Service wildlife ecologist and a regional planner traveled to Antananarivo, Madagascar 's capital, and to the southern coastal city of Tolagnaro ( Ft. Dauphin ), where they met with national and district-level government officials, employees of the National park Management Association, and the DGEF Zoning Team. The Forest Service team was able to provide the zoning team and DGEF officials with recommendations to help guide their strategic zoning process. Follow up missions were sent in December 2003 and September 2004 to hold a workshop on strategic zoning principles and practices with the DGEF Zoning Team and to develop and refine a zoning guide based on a theoretical example and a simulation using actual data from the field site of Moramanga, and to develop an action plan for detailing the next steps of the zoning process. As the forest zoning process moves ahead, Forest Service will continue to support the integration of strategic planning and sustainable use considerations, guided by the Ministry's long-term vision for the forests of Madagascar : conservation and contribution of forest resources to sustainable development. Priorities for 2006 include support to the development of different zoning scenarios in regional forest zoning plans.

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Development of an Information Management System
A third area of Forest Service/DGEF collaboration focuses on the creation of an information management policy and system for data collected, maintained and used by the DGEF. Forest Service Natural Resource Information Systems specialists are working with DGEF to develop a decentralized Information Management System that will facilitate good governance and good management of Madagascar 's forests. Key elements of this activity will be developing information tools to promote more-informed decision making and modernization of information management hardware and software.

Supported by the USAID mission to Madagascar, a Forest Service Regional Information Coordinator and a Forest Service Natural Resource Information Systems Specialist traveled to Madagascar in September 2003 to work with DGEF, providing recommendations on implementing a comprehensive information system, setting up the technical infrastructure to support such a, and implementing and supporting an information system organizationally. This activity was followed up in 2005 with US Forest Service support to the development of an information management plan, the provision of training to DGEF information system managers on information processing techniques, and an equipment needs analysis. Support in 2006 will focus on the development of focused databases integrated with established spatial constructs.


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Development of Operational Plans for Existing Pine Plantations
In their efforts to alleviate poverty while conserving the biodiversity of Madagascar, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (MEEF) has prioritized the promotion of environmentally sound enterprises to enable income generation from natural resources in an environmentally sound manner, thus contributing to ecosystem conservation. Towards this end, the government of Madagascar is seeking to improve the management of a 60,000 ha pine plantation, known as the Fanalamanga Plantation. in the Eastern part of the country, in order to produce multiple use timber (wood pulp, industrial wood, and saw timber) and other wood-derived products and by-products (rosin, turpentine gum, etc). Thus, this would contribute to the preservation of the Mantadia-Zahamena forest corridor. In order to ensure better management and development of these 60,000 ha of pine tree forest, a decision has been made to support the restructuring efforts of the Fanalamanga plantation.

The US Forest Service, through funding from USAID, has provided technical support to MEEF in efforts to create restructuring, operational and business plans for the plantation. In August 2004, three US Forest Service technical specialists traveled to Eastern Madagascar to evaluate current and past plantation management practices, from technical, social, and environmental perspectives and to provide recommendations for management actions to improve the quality of the resource. The team also described existing wood processing infrastructure, existing and potential wood products from this resource, and equipment needs to improve or begin production of various wood products. A follow-up mission in 2006 will address the development of a business plan for the Government of Madagascar to successfully contract out management of this resource to a private or para-statal company, as well as developing reforestation investment strategies for Madagascar.

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Reforming Law Enforcement within the Forest Sector in Madagascar
One of the contributing causes of forest and habitat loss in Madagascar is illegal logging. Due to a lack of staffing, equipment, and at times a lack of political will, the Directorate General of Water and Forests (DGEF) is currently unable to enforce existing laws regulating the use of forest resources, and in many parts of Madagascar, access to forest resources is completely unregulated. Existing permit holders over-harvest within the limits of their timber sale area, and many loggers cut trees within natural forests with no permits at all. The inability to control illegal logging surpasses the lack of financial and human resources; existing forestry law enforcement and control systems are inadequate to respond to illegal felling of valuable hardwoods in natural forests and monitor the movement of timber from the stump to export or processing sites.

It is clear that there is a need to review existing forestry law enforcement (LE) procedures and capitalize on the political will at the highest levels of government to develop more efficient forest control practices and obtain the support of the Ministry and other law enforcement agencies in Madagascar to implement them. To that end, in July 2005, a US Forest Service team of Law Enforcement experts traveled to Madagascar to

  • Study the current forest law enforcement system to gain an understanding of forest policy, law enforcement practices, actors and jurisdictions, and current practices,
  • Evaluate the current system with the aim of building on strengths and determining where changes must be made, and
  • Develop different scenarios for a modified law enforcement system

The evaluation identified certain strengths in the current system, including a defined structure that had functioned effectively in the past, motivated community and private sector partners, annual plans for forest law enforcement activities developed by certain CIREEFs, a central database publishing law enforcement data, and the existence of a 2001 forest law enforcement strategy, that while never implemented, addresses the major challenges facing effective law enforcement. However, the current system suffers from many problems, including a significant shortage of human, material, and financial resources, outdated regulations, an insufficient set of incentives for forestry agents, limited communication, non-functional field-level control of the harvesting and movement of forest products (chain of custody), weak judicial pursuit of offenders, unsupported partners, insufficient training, and virtually no regular implementation of enforcement activities. In this operating environment, there are few to no disincentives for illegal harvesting of forest resources, and there is not a level playing field for loggers who do want to respect existing regulations.

The principal recommendation of the mission was to create an independent law enforcement unit (UIC) that is attached directly to one of the highest levels of the MinEnvEF (to reduce interference) and takes charge of all forest LE activities. This UIC, proposed in the 2001 strategy, would standardize LE practices, be funded through a separate budget, and ensure that properly equipped and trained agents are in the field to ensure compliance with forest laws. The US Forest Service recommends that the unit be under the direct supervision of the DGEF or the Minister, with an independent, inter-ministerial board to oversee its performance and ensure accountability.

Additional support in 2006 will focus on:

  • Implementation of the UIC
  • Development of a handbook of LE procedures
  • Development of Training Programs for Malagasy Forest Service employees in LE

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Restoration of Natural Forest Areas
In light of ongoing forest loss and general rural poverty, the Government of Madagascar and its various conservation and development partners have made, (1) conservation of biologically-rich areas and (2) use of forest resources in a sustainable fashion, joint priorities for forest management in Madagascar. This multiple-use approach includes efforts to restore forests to areas that are either adjacent high biodiversity conservation priorities or of particular use to neighboring communities. Indeed, to be successful, forest restoration efforts need to be both ecologically sound and integrated into the context of community-based conservation efforts. To that end, various conservation and research organizations have all undertaken efforts to support forest restoration in Madagascar. While the methodologies are different, the common goals of expanding forest cover and restoring Madagascar ’s natural forests are shared by these methodologies. However, an analysis of the different proposed restoration methodologies has yet to take place, and USAID has requested US Forest Service to perform such an analysis, so that it may have a better understanding of the various approaches, and how it can potentially support them.

During this mission, the US Forest Service found that few (to none) of these conceptually based restoration models have any “on the ground” demonstrations. This apparently is a common phenomenon throughout the world as “actual” restoration poses an enormous cost (in terms of money and time) to society. Maybe this is because in theory, if restoration projects are assessed by a cost-benefit approach, they should have a beneficial return value in terms of increases in biodiversity and ecological and economic services, however, this return can only be measured in the future. An additional finding was that restoration ecology and restoration of degraded landscapes in Madagascar is a relatively new concept. While conservation for biodiversity remains the number one priority, many agencies (government and non-government) are currently tasked with restoration – yet most struggle with putting a plan into action. The US Forest Service therefore aims to continue to provide technical assistance in the field of restoration ecology in Madagascar. Annual meetings with all of the interested partners and agencies tasked with restoration such as the restoration round-table held in June would help keep all of the agencies in touch as well as an opportunity for networking and collaboration.


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Development of a New Timber Permitting System
In response to concerns that the existing timber permitting system in Madagascar was not ensuring transparent management of financial resources, not ensuring sustainable harvests of forest products, and not maximizing potential economic returns, the DGEF enacted a moratorium on issuing permits for commercial logging activities. The DGEF then requested Forest Service technical assistance in developing a new timber permitting system to address these concerns. USAID / Madagascar has provided the Forest Service with funding to perform this work.

In September 2003, two Forest Service Timber Sales specialists traveled to Madagascar to meet with DGEF officials and provide assistance with the development of a transparent permitting system for timber harvesting in Madagascar. The Forest Service team met with numerous stakeholders in Antananarivo and in the regional city of Moramanga, including DGEF district chiefs, private sector logging companies, and local NGOs. Based on these consultations, the Forest Service team provided recommendations to the DGEF on how to rapidly implement a transparent permitting system.

In March of 2004, four Forest Service timber mensuration, appraisal, and sale contract specialists returned to Madagascar to assist in developing simple and cost-effective timber measurement and appraisal procedures for forest products for use in valuing forest products permits. This trip included a 3-day training session on these procedures with representatives of the eight major district offices of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Forests. This team was followed by a two-person Forest Service team which focused on recommendations on determining acceptable timber prices, on procedures for issuing competitive permits, and for monitoring harvest operations; necessary procedures for a successful and transparent permitting system. No additional technical assistance is currently planned on this subject.

Please see USFS trip reports on FRAME:

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