, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 233–242 | Cite as

The political ecology of biodiversity conservation on the Malagasy Highlands

  • Michael J. Simsik


During the past two decades biodiversity conservation has become the major focus of international interventions by donor organizations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) working in Madagascar. Despite these efforts, biodiversity losses continue unabated and the conservation activities undertaken to date appear ineffective. This paper summarizes the findings of a research study conducted on the central highlands of Madagascar that sought to examine possible reasons for the continued erosion of biodiversity in the country. A political ecology research framework is used to identify different social actor groups vying for access to natural resources and the extent to which their actions influence biodiversity on the island. The application of this framework reveals three major findings: (1) the existence of tensions between groups of social actors vying for access to and use of natural resources; (2) the characteristics and role of power differs greatly by actor group and it is the maldistribution of power, and its manifestations of use, that have detrimental effects on regional biodiversity; and (3) there are numerous aspects of the `conventional wisdom' that have permeated the thinking of staff from extralocal actor groups (especially NGOs, donors, and government agencies) and are largely false. Such `wisdom,' perpetrated by discourse and media, lacks understanding of local livelihood patters and local needs. However, endowed with political power and financial influence, this wisdom dominates local knowledge and ultimately leads to the conception and realization of conservation projects that fail to achieve their stated objectives. The behaviors of all of the actors in this situation perpetuate the status quo, including current patterns of biodiversity elimination.

biodiversity conservation Madagascar political ecology 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Simsik
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Agriculture and Life SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaU.S.A.

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