New Hope for Madagascar?
Posted by Richard Conniff on March 4, 2014
I recently posted here about signs of improvement in the political shambles that has passed for government in Madagascar over the past five years. My article was mainly about an emergency plan to save the island’s charismatic lemurs from extinction.
Conservation International’s Russ Mittermeier visited last month with the new president of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, and today he published this optimistic report.
Here’s an excerpt:
Rajaonarimampianina expressed his commitment to end the rosewood trade. He was also well aware of the importance of lemurs and other endemic species as major economic resources for the country, was very interested in ecotourism as a major potential foreign exchange earner, and clearly understood the value of Madagascar’s protected areas as essential sources of ecosystem services for human well-being. He also came across as a very clear strategist — a quality I have never seen before in Malagasy heads of state.
Several weeks ago, Rajaonarimampianina was the star at the meeting of African heads of state in Ethiopia. All of them professed their support of his administration (while also noting their dismay at having to learn how to pronounce his 19-letter name).
We in the international community need to provide as much support and positive feedback to the new president as possible. Donor agencies such as the critically important USAID have already begun discussions with him, and conservation organizations, beginning with CI, have already started to express our support. A recent article that several of us wrote for the journal Science on our 2013 Lemur Conservation Strategy also noted the importance of his new administration.
But things won’t be easy. The former president, Rajoelina, is still trying to exert control and place some of his people in the new government, and things could still go awry.
We need to make it clear to everyone in Madagascar that the world is on the president’s side, and that any efforts to reverse the results of a democratic election will not be well received. And those of us who are committed to Madagascar’s unique natural capital must ramp up our existing efforts. Then perhaps I can dust off my 2008 paper on the success story of Madagascar — and add a new chapter.