USAID country Profile: Property Rights and Resource Governance: Madagascar
Madagascar's unique wildlife and biodiversity resources have attracted both increasing numbers of tourists and significant donor investments over the last three decades. The Government of Madagascar committed itself in 1988 to a new focus on environmental management and, in 2003, to the goal of tripling protected areas from 1.6 million hectares to 6 million hectares by 2012. A new park management system was introduced in 2006. In addition to protecting Madagascar's ecosystems and biodiversity, the new system enabled local communities to benefit from conservation activities through revenue sharing and requirements that local guides be employed. Agriculture, however, dominates the overall use of the island's land and water resources and provides the livelihoods for more than 60% of Madagascar's population of 20 million. The country is unique among African nations in having more than 40% of its cropland under irrigated rice production. Rain fed agriculture, including livestock production, is also important; cattle reportedly serve as a key source of wealth for a majority of farm households, though the importance of cattle is diminishing due, in part, to a lack of adequate pastureland. Average productivity in the agricultural sector is low, access to quality land is a challenge, and rural poverty rates are relatively high. In 2005, the US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) negotiated one of its first Compacts with Madagascar, identifying improvement of land administration and tenure security as one of three key areas of action. A coup d''tat in March 2009 led to suspension of the MCC Compact as well as other donor support. Contributing to the change of government was an agreement made in November 2008 by the then-president with Daewoo, a South Korean company, to lease 1.3 million hectares of land, equivalent to half of Madagascar's arable land area. Not only did the area reportedly committed for the lease include a biodiversity forested region targeted for conversion to palm oil, the deal would also have converted rain fed lands used for livestock grazing into maize production. This arrangement, along with other issues, fueled the violent protests that led to the coup. Madagascar has yet to hold elections following the coup d''tat, and many donors have not re-engaged with Madagascar or have limited their funding to humanitarian interventions. This period of suspension has placed Madagascar in a difficult position, with little non-humanitarian aid being provided and a great loss of momentum on economic and environmental reforms. Reports of illegal logging activity indicate that the political crisis and lack of enforcement of conservation policies have opened the door to irreversible resource loss.