Course:FRST370/Projects/Community-Based Management of Mangrove Forests on the Mozambique channel coast of Madagascar

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This case studies examines the management of mangrove forests on the Mozambique coast of Madagascar with a focus on community-based involvement. The west coast of Madagascar boasts the largest and most intact vast stretches of mangrove forests in the Western Indian Ocean region. Mangrove swamps are important habitat for wildlife and are a vital breeding ground for numerous species in Madagascar and around the world. Mangroves face threats by the communities that exist within/nearby by means of clearing timber, urban expansion and erosion in the highlands. This case study will examine the outcome of the transfer of management rights from the Government to each community and how it aids in empowering them with the legal responsibility for their natural resources; mangroves.


Mangroves are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and occupy water zones along tropical and subtropical coasts. Mangrove ecosystems are widely recognized for their habitat functions for fish of commercial value as well as for effective sediment trapping, nutrient recycling and protection of shorelines from erosion. Mangrove forests provide essential ecological and societal goods, as well as services to local communities. Mangrove forests provide a great number of goods such as fuelwood, timber and food for many coastal communities while boasting the national economy.

Located off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is home to the 4th largest extent of mangroves in Africa[1].In recent years, mangroves have been declining at an alarming rate, with a global reduction of approximately 25% since 1980 [2]. Mangrove forests of Madagascar are declining, although at a much slower rate than the global average [3]. The forests are declining largely due to conversion to other land uses and forest degradation. These communities are faced with the great challenges of this millennium: striking a balance between economic development in harmony with their environment and traditions.

Tenure arrangements

The Majority of local people live directly from the land and rely on their natural environment. Ownership is recognized at the community level as individuals in the communities have always managed their lands by traditional means. This is as a result of the difficulty and high cost associated with land tenure. All non-privatized land is officially owned by the state, although customary entitlements to land presides in most areas.

There are two types of land tenure regimes in Madagascar, a customary and a state system.

Customary System

The customary land tenure systems are generally comprised of holdings and commons. Holdings consist of agricultural land, individual trees and irrigation canals whereas commons include pastureland, water resources and selected forest lands.

State System

The state land tenure system is governed by written laws and regulations. Communities are given clearly defined rules and procedures to aid in resolving civil conflicts that arise as a result of disagreements over access and the management of resources.

In some areas of Madagascar, both land tenure systems, customary and state system are applied[4]. In recent years, there has been activity by the government to move towards creating local security measures such as security teams to supervise adherence to land tenure laws.

Administrative arrangements

Community Based Mangrove Management (CBMM)

Community-Based Mangrove Management (CBMM) has been advocated by both academia and governing agencies as an alternative for sustainable management of ecologically important mangrove forests which are declining at an alarming rate nationally[2]. Community-Based Mangrove Management strives to encourage local communities’ involvement in accomplishing the vital activities of resource identification and implementation of sustainable management practices[2]. CBMM is integrated to the broader concept of community forestry which focuses on the decentralization of rights from the governing bodies to local communities.

Secured Local Management of Natural Resources (GELOSE)

Decentralization and the participation of locals have been key features of government environmental policy since the early 1990’s. In Madagascar, the policy of Secured Local Management of Natural Resources, known as the GELOSE act has created a framework from the transfer of rights from the central government to local communities[5]. It was implemented in response to two issues facing biodiversity conservation policy. The GELOSE policy provides contractual transfer of management responsibility for forests and other renewable resources from the central government to the local communities that reside in proximity to these resources.

The state’s inability to effectively control and supervise access to these protected areas led to a situation of informal multi-governance of biodiversity and of de facto open access to natural resources in protected areas[5].  The result of open access to mangrove forests contributed to the degradation of said resource due to overexploitation and a lack of management.

One of the major features of the GELOSE policy is the manner in which it interlinks the legal system managed by the Forestry Administration and the customary system that governs the uses of resources within the communities of Madagascar[5]. This policy is designed to delegate rights over natural resources to local communities. Its goal is to present new autonomy to these communities in their uses of natural resources, to give them incentives to collect information about the state of the resources and send these reports to the appropriate administration.

Affected Stakeholders

The Malagasy People

Malagasy Farmers & Local People

Individuals residing in communities on the Mozambique channel coast of Madagascar rely heavily on the land for their livelihood. Residents who are directly affected by changes in mangrove management are generally those who live near mangrove forests. The proximity to these forests allows them to depend on these ecosystems as a place to extract and produce food.  The majority of the contribution to local income from mangroves are as a result of the capture and sale of species such as fish and crustaceans.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

The Malagasy Government

The government of Madagascar's primary interests are to protect Malagasy natural resources. The government holds a large amount of power administered through various departments and is responsible for the creation of a variety of policies including Community-Based Mangrove Management (CBMM) and Secured Local Management of Natural Resources (GELOSE). Despite the implementation of conservation policies since the 1980’s, the government still poorly manages the mangrove protected area due to limited stakeholder participation, ineffective conservation programs and failure to increase awareness among local community. The Malagasy Government has made strides to help communities acquire local forest management rights in attempt to reduce the void in management of mangroves. The Malagasy Government has made strides to help communities acquire local forest management rights in attempt to reduce the void in management of mangroves.

Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations

Since the liberalization of the economy and increased strengthened ties to the West in the early 1990's, there has been a steady increase of presence of a variety of foreign aid programs. Environmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund(WWF) have dealt with the degradation of Mangrove forests in Madagascar among other resource projects[6]. The WWF has become involved with the loss of habitat and species extinction through educational programs and improvements to the management of protected areas. Their objective is to help mitigate threats that lead to the degradation of mangrove forests as well as to support those affected including communities, affected species and supporting technical support to protect them against climate change[6].



Benefits associated to Community-Based Management

Local communities traditionally managed, harvested and fished mangroves as a means to support their livelihoods. However, during the colonial and post-colonial periods, mangrove forests became under direct control of state governments[2]. This change in control of the mangroves gave way to commercial logging and large-scale shrimp farming. Consequently, local communities lost access to local mangroves and resources. As a result of the alienation from the forests, communities began to view mangroves as only a means of extra income. Destructive behaviour arose in local communities as uncontrolled logging, unselective crustacean and fish farming devastated the sensitive ecosystem[2]. The introduction of policies such as Community-Based Mangrove Management (CBMM) and Secured Local Management of Natural Resources (GELOSE) aided in reducing the destruction and degradation of mangrove forests in Madagascar.

Issues and Challenges in Community-Based Management Implementation

Though the GELOSE contract may seem to benefit local communities in relations of gaining rights, the GELOSE policy has not met its target in terms of numbers of contracts signed in its first four years of implementation[7]. This means that not all communities have been afforded the ability to have greater control over mangrove forests and other resources near the communities. More user-friendly and manageable policies for transferring resources management to local communities have been implemented since the GELOSE policy. However, they fail to secure the land and resembles the community-based management plans that have been enforced by forestry administrations(Malagasy Government) and Non-Governmental Organizations[5].

Long-term Preservation of mangrove forests

A discussion of the aims and intentions of the community forestry project and your assessment of relative successes or failures. You should also include a discussion of critical issues or conflicts in this community and how they are being managed


Decentralization of rights from a centralized government to local communities aided in recognizing communities as an important ally in the race to protect the mangrove forests in Madagascar. The transfer of power allowed more local level decisions and management. In a decentralized system, resource allocation should be more efficient because it is suited to local conditions should favour policy implementation as a result of it having a lower information cost[5]. In this case, it seems that decentralization can increase government responsiveness by allowing public actions to adapt to the preference of local communities. Local communities generally have better knowledge of local situations and local decisions makers feel a greater sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions.

Before the introduction of Community-Based Mangrove Management (CBMM) and Secured Local Management of Natural Resources (GELOSE), the mangrove forests were degrading at an alarming rate. This would suggest that that movement towards community-based management was beneficial in protecting the resource.


A major issues is the high rate of dependancy on outsides sources of funding to stimulate interest in mangrove protection and rehabilitation in local communities. This may present itself as an issue long-term as it may be problematic in terms of community associations remaining intact and functional. Having a limited budget will reduce multi-levels of governing bodies to be able to give the support needed to protect and rehabilitate the mangroves.



  • Education is often the first step in fostering an attitude of caring and protection. In terms of mangroves forests in Madagascar, communities must be helped to see the long term effects of not caring for local forests. Providing education on the importance of sustainability and management would greatly benefit local communities in helping to preserve and rehabilitate local mangroves.
  • Providing education to local fisherman regarding sustainable fishing practices would reduce issues of over fishing.

Improvement Management Implementation

  • Strengthening existing Institutions
    • Focus resources and funds on the improvement of existing, functioning institutions/policies rather than spreading resources and funds over a broader selection of institutions/policies[7]
  • Provide well-defined property rights
  • Improvements to GELOSE policy
    • Improve on goal reaching. Commit to signing all contracts to ensure that more communities are able to participate in community-based management practices. Falling short will discourage community and reduce the moral and drive to protect mangrove forests
  • Improve Institutional Framework
    • Providing a more defined institutional framework will aid in determining who has the authority to decide what projects with be implemented[5]. Improved organization will further improve management practices by allowing decisions to be made in a timely manner.

Government Outreach

  • Improve the relationship between the Malagasy Government and the Malagasy people by incorporating traditional local knowledge of management practices and scientific knowledge management practices into conservation planning
  • Compensate local communities for the restricted of access to resources[8]
    • Areas in which local mangrove forests are being used for commercial purposes, the government could compensate local communities
    • Employ local community members when conduction commercial activity in local forest

Climate Change

  • A critical challenge for coastal communities and conservation practitioners is to develop conservation and management strategies for mangroves that will work in the face of climate change over a long period of time[9].
    • The Malagasy government and Malagasy people need to focus simultaneously on rehabilitation initiatives as well as long-term sustainability driven management


  1. Jones, T., Ratsimba, H., Ravaoarinorotsihoarana, L., Cripps, G., & Bey, A. (2014). Ecological       Variability and Carbon Stock Estimates of Mangrove Ecosystems in Northwestern     Madagascar. Forests, 5(1), 177–205. doi:10.3390/f5010177
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Datta, D., Chattopadhyay, R., Guha, P. (2012). Community-Based Mangrove Management: A       Review on Status and Sustainability. Journal of Environmental Management, 107, 84–95.   
  3. Giri, C., Muhlhausen, J. (2008). Mangrove Forest Distributions and Dynamics in Madagascar       (1975–2005). Science Applications International Corporation, 8((4)), 2104–2117.
  4. Widman, M. (2014). Land Tenure Insecurity and Formalizing Land Rights in Madagascar: A Gender Perspective on the Certification Program. Feminist Economics, 20(1), 130–154.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Antona, M., Biénabe, E., Salles, J., Péchard, G., Aubert, S., & Ratsimbarison, R. (2004). Rights    transfers in Madagascar biodiversity policies: Achievements and       significance. Environment and Development Economics, 9(6), 825-847.       doi:10.1017/S1355770X04001640
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Madagascar". World Wildlife Fund. 2018. Retrieved November 28 2018. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Pollini, J., & Lassoie, J. P. (2011). Trapping Farmer Communities Within Global Environmental    Regimes: The Case of the GELOSE Legislation in Madagascar. Society & Natural           Resources, 24(8), 814–830.
  8. Sommerville, M., Jones, J. P., Rahajaharison, M., & Milner-Gulland, E. J. (2010). The role of        fairness and benefit distribution in community-based Payment for Environmental       Services interventions: A case study from Menabe, Madagascar. Ecological Economics, 69(6), 1262-1271.
  9. Spalding M, McIvor A, Tonneijck FH, Tol S and van Eijk P (2014) Mangroves for coastal defence. Guidelines for coastal managers & policy makers. Published by Wetlands International and The Nature Conservancy. 42 p

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