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Harivelo, R.Z.M.;  Harifidy, R.Z. Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Madagascar. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 22 June 2024).
Harivelo RZM,  Harifidy RZ. Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Madagascar. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2024.
Harivelo, Rakotoarimanana Zy Misa, Rakotoarimanana Zy Harifidy. "Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Madagascar" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 22, 2024).
Harivelo, R.Z.M., & Harifidy, R.Z. (2022, December 07). Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Madagascar. In Encyclopedia.
Harivelo, Rakotoarimanana Zy Misa and Rakotoarimanana Zy Harifidy. "Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Madagascar." Encyclopedia. Web. 07 December, 2022.
Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in Madagascar

Located on the East coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world’s fourth-biggest island; Madagascar is host to 12,000 species of vascular plants (96% endemic). Over 90% of all its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth, and 5% of all of the earth’s biodiversity is found in Madagascar. A place where environmental degradation problems have created severe erosion and water quality problems. Despite its biological and cultural diversity, Madagascar is among the poorest countries in the world, with approximately 78% of the population living in extreme poverty with an average income of less than USD 2 per day, and more than three-quarters of the population in rural areas engaged in natural resources dependent livelihood activities. 

environmental protection sustainable development strategy legal framework Madagascar

1. Legal Framework of the Environmental Considerations in Madagascar

In 1990, the Environmental Charter was formulated. Considering the situation in the current world, the Charter was revised as “Charte de l’Environnement Malagasy” (Law No. 2015-003) in 2015 [1]. The Charter is the basic law on environmental considerations in Madagascar. Article 20 states that both Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are key actions to guarantee the implementation of good environmental governance by all stakeholders. The Charter requires an EIA for all investment projects, which have been implemented through successive decrees and regulations on the compatibility of investments with the environment known as Mise En Compatibilité des Investissements Avec l’Environnement “MECIE” (the current version being Decree 2004-167) [2]. Under the Decree, proponents of a project must show how it will meet environmental standards.
The MECIE decree was enacted by Decree No. 99-954 of December 15, 1999, amended by Decree no. 2004-167 of 3 February 2004, relating to the implementation compatibility of investments with the environment (MECIE). It was considered a success beyond just implementing the EIA because it recorded all rules related to the exploitation of the ecosystem in Madagascar and was founded on the notion of sustainable development, recognizing the needs of the present while safeguarding the needs of future generations [3]. Both private and public sectors have to use the MECIE in cooperation with institutions that are settled especially for the management of the ecosystem, such as the National Office of the Environment (ONE) and the National Authority for Water and Sanitation (ANDEA). In order to improve its application, some measures were designed to increase the speed of the EIA process and reduce costs while ensuring minimum acceptable quality standards, and establishment of a one-stop-shop in the National Environmental Office (ONE) for evaluation of EIAs and issuance of environmental permits [4].
Madagascar is a party to numerous international environmental conventions, treaties, and agreements. However, the integration of the obligations conferred upon Madagascar by these treaties’ legislative framework has not been fully achieved [5]

Environmental Action Plan

In Madagascar, the adoption of the Malagasy Environment Charter on 21 December 1990 (Law 90-033) enabled the establishment of the Malagasy National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) [6]. The adoption of the NEAP is based on the efforts to achieve the goals set by the Stockholm conference in 1972 [7]. Madagascar’s NEAP, one of the first in Africa [8], was the principal environmental program in Madagascar that advocates the development of rural and urban areas considering the environmental factor and their protection as a means of ensuring sustainable development [9]. The main purpose of the NEAP is to protect the environment while focusing on sustainable development. The NEAP is made up of three environmental programs whose succession reveals the relationship between environmental policy and rural development policy:
  • The first environmental program (1991–1996) was characterized by a centralized approach to the management of the environment and natural resources: zoning of protected areas based on scientific criteria without consultation with local actors and stigmatization of agriculture as the main source of resource degradation;
  • The second environmental program (1997–2002) aims to optimize the management of natural resources for human development needs. The general framework for the implementation of environmental policy in its second phase is mainly focused on the intensification of more concrete actions on the ground;
  • The third environmental program (2003–2008) focuses on conserving and enhancing the size and quality of natural resources to enable sustainable economic growth and a better quality of life. The objectives of the program are the adoption by the populations of sustainable management methods for renewable natural resources and biodiversity conservation, ensuring the sustainability of the management of environmental natural resources at the national level.
The MECIE decree requiring environmental impact assessment in Madagascar is considered by some to be one of the big successes of the NEAP. However, after 25 years, the environmental crisis in Madagascar is far more acute than it was at the outset of the first phase of NEAP [10].

2. Poverty and Environmental Degradation

According to the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Madagascar is among the countries with the worst environmental health. Madagascar ranks 167 out of 180 countries and 44 in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a score of 28.0 [11]. Poverty and the environment are inextricably linked. Poverty causes environmental degradation, and environmental degradation exacerbates poverty rates. Other authors also questioned the vicious circle between poverty and environmental degradation. They found that poverty is both cause and effect of environmental degradation. Population growth, the shift from rural to urban investment, the growth of urban centers, and internal resource exploitation all lead to repeated cycles of increased poverty and environmental degradation [12]. According to the Bruntland Commission report, poverty is a major cause of environmental problems [13]. In addition, some studies have confirmed that economic development depends on the environment [14][15][16][17][18]. Human activities are the main reasons for environmental degradation, and the poor are often referred to as the primary actors in it [19][20]. Poor people are often impoverished by a declining resource base and, in turn, often forced by their circumstances to degrade the environment further [13][21][22][23].
Whether it is in the form of air and water pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, or the extraction of natural resources itself, the fact is that developing countries are currently accounting for the remarkable depletion of natural resources [24]. Poor people are forced to use excessive environmental resources to survive. Indeed, the degradation of their environment makes their survival even more difficult and further impoverishes them [13]. It has been proved by recent famines in Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the poor are often characterized by their vulnerability to not only economic fluctuations but also to environmental degradation and change. They suffer the first consequences of environmental degradation. They do not have the slightest safety net, which is generally the case in developing countries and especially because they generally derive their subsistence from natural resources. Moreover, environmental degradation accentuates inequalities between the rich and the poor.
Nevertheless, there is a growing view that the poor are not necessarily the main agents responsible for resource degradation: quite often, the rich play a much greater part in this process [25][26]. Since the poor do not have the resources, or the means, to cause environmental degradation [27]. It is often not the poorest who hunt wildlife [28][29]; the powerful and wealthy only degrade the environment if there are institutional or market failures or engage in the illegal exploitation of precious wood [30][31]
Previous studies found that the high population density and rising demand for natural resources were the main cause of environmental degradation in the South (developing countries) [32]. By 2050, the population growth in Africa will be 108% of the present value [33], the industrial water demand will be 800% of the present value, and the home water demand will be 300% [34] of the present value. From 1993 to 2018, the Malagasy population was predicted to be 25,674,196 people, with an average population density of 43.3 people per km2 and an annual growth rate of 3.01% [35]. The majority of the population (80.7%) resides in rural areas, while 52% live in the Central Highlands and coastal zones. Figure 1 below illustrates the future population in Madagascar.
Figure 1. Madagascar population from 1990 to 2030. Data source: UN DESA Population Division World Population Prospects (2019) and World Urbanization Prospects (2018).
Water scarcity and pollution are two main concerns that contribute to the poverty-environmental degradation nexus. Water scarcity is mostly driven by climate change, excessive groundwater pumping, irrigation system development, and industrial water demand [36]. Human waste is one of the leading causes of water pollution in Madagascar, followed by industrial waste dumping and fertilizer or pesticide runoff from the agricultural sector. One of the major impacts of environmental degradation is associated with health effects, food sources, and drought [37].
In Madagascar, environmental preservation is hostage to economic development. Economic development is hostage to bad governance [38]. There are several reasons for directing the policies in the wrong way. Madagascar ranks 155th of 180 countries listed in the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2018 and 142nd in 2021 [39]. As the potential to reap personal benefits from the environmental sector are considerable (logging permits, significant donor funds), the environment ministry is among the most coveted, and many of its ministers are known to have benefited from illegal activities. Corruption undermines environmental programs at all levels, and its insidious impacts reverberate throughout the system. Logging, mining, and even slash-and-burn agriculture permits are freely distributed in ecologically sensitive zones [38]. A previous study confirmed that the deforestation problem in Western Madagascar is more a governance problem in a context of an unregulated economy than an economic development problem [40]. If the environment is hazardous, it will have a negative impact on the residents. Additionally, environmental protection is a fight against poverty. Madagascar’s journey out of poverty is a long one, but good environmental management practices can benefit everyone and help make poverty reduction efforts more sustainable. The relationship between poverty and environmental degradation must be analyzed to generate significant results for formulating policies to alleviate the condition of poverty and preserve the environment; it is interesting that the condition of poverty is defined comprehensively as a phenomenon of multiple dimensions [41]. In order to achieve this goal, first, it is necessary to provide everyone the opportunity to have sustainable livelihoods and then apply policies and strategies that promote appropriate levels of funding and emphasize policies of integrated human development. For all deprived regions, strategies and integrated programs for the rational and sustainable management of the environment should be developed and emphasized in national development plans and budgets.
The increasing demand for land and natural resources in Madagascar is due to rapid population growth, while environmental degradation is mainly caused by deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, and unsustainable exploitation of wildlife, which depletes biodiversity resources and makes many areas less productive for other uses. Lately, forest fires and slash-and-burn (See Figure 2 as an example) are on the rise in Madagascar, which poses a major concern for the economic and social development of the country. Slash-and-burn, known as “Tavy”, is a method of cultivation in which forests are burned and cleared for planting [42]. However, forest clearance is illegal in Madagascar (Décret n° 87–143, 20 April 1987). The land is only fertile for a couple of years before the nutrients are used up. After the planted area’s fertility declines below the necessary level, it is left to fallow for an extended period before the process is repeated [43]. Slash-and-burn agriculture was reported as the main cause of deforestation in Madagascar [44]. Slash-and-burn was demonstrated to have an impact on the quality of runoff waters in a Mediterranean environment (Croatia). The water quality parameters were more affected shortly after burning, while runoff and erosion were more dependent on precipitation patterns [45]. Slash-and-burn was found to lower gross soil nitrogen (N) transformation rates and slower turnover of the soil inorganic N pool in the karst regions of southwestern China [46].
Figure 2. Slash-and-burn agriculture in Bongolava Region, Madagascar. (Photo credit: Zy Misa Harivelo, 20 September 2022).
Researchers stated that the rate of forest destruction in the western, central-eastern part of the island is accelerating [47]. According to the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, 1054 fire spots were found throughout Madagascar on 9 October 2022. The island‘s biodiversity was threatened because protected areas and natural national parks were also affected [48]. A previous study reported an increased burning inside protected areas of 76–248% during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 [49]. Six natural parks, namely Ankaraba forest near Tampoketsa, Baie de Bali Soalala, Ankarafantsika, plantations in Marohogo, and Zombitse Vohimbasia, were reported burning by local newspaper Dépêche TARATRA, Madagascar-Tribune, Madagascar Matin, and Tsidika on October 2022. In addition, other places were also seen on fire on October 2022, such as in Andranobongobe Tsarazaza Village Mandimby Laimbolo Commune Sahanivotry Mandonda, Reforestation Site Antanamifafy Ankorefo Boeny Region, Betavolo Fokontany Mandraka, Rural Commune of Ambatolaona, Manjakandriana district (RN2), Rural Commune of Maroambaka Mandritsara, Ambohitantely Ankazobe, North area of Manakara Airport, Antsatramidola and Ambilombe District of Mandritsara, Menagisy Brickaville, Fokontany Bealanana III Sofia region and closed to Ivato airport (Source: BNGRC and Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development). Questions have been raised about the main cause of wildfires and forest fires in Madagascar on October 2022. Is it related to political or social issues that the country has faced during this COVID-19 pandemic? Or is it intentional? A result of poverty? Lack of education? Civil society organizations, tourism actors, and Facebook users are calling on all officials in each category to find a solution to this problem.
It was reported that the poor rural people are the ones who are intensely distorting the island’s landscapes to meet their basic daily needs, leading to the highest overall impact on the country’s ecosystems and biodiversity. Environmental education in Madagascar is entirely dependent on the efforts of each citizen and the government first, then the international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) [50].

4. The Strategy of Environmental Protection for Sustainable Development

Madagascar’s major environmental problems include deforestation, water, and air pollution, climate change, agricultural fires, erosion and soil degradation, and overexploitation of living resources, including hunting and over-collection of species from the wild [51]. Sustainable development seemed to be impossible to achieve unless good environmental protections were in place.

4.1. Air Pollution Reduction Strategy

Ambient air pollution related to transport is mainly a problem in urban areas. Moving to cleaner fuels would bring significant improvements in air quality (AQ). The strategy is to identify all known point sources of air pollution (factories, power plants, brickmakers, etc.) as the basis for AQ projections and implement an early warning system on air quality based on AQ monitoring.

4.2. Water Pollution Strategy

The water pollution strategy needs to focus on the following:
  • Development of integrated water resources management to promote cleaner, more resource-friendly, and sustainable methods of extraction and recycling of water and by establishing economic measures that support the rational use of water resources;
  • Development of public–private partnerships for drinking water supply or improvement of the irrigation system.

4.3. Reducing and Managing Climate Change Risks

The climate change strategies include:
  • Strengthening the technical capacities of stakeholders and affected entities about the climate-smart approaches to generate benefits both for mitigation and adaptation while improving livelihoods and maintaining ecosystem services;
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the costs and effectiveness of the various climate-smart landscape measures to achieve adaptation, mitigation, and improved livelihoods for the scaling-up and replication of these measures in other regions;
  • Ensuring that financial resources are sustained beyond the closure of the project to support climate efforts in high-value landscapes in Madagascar through capital investments in a trust fund dedicated to climate change;
  • Integrating strategies and actions of national policies on climate change in the decentralized planning efforts at regional and local levels.

4.4. Green Economy

A green economy represents an opportunity for low-income countries such as Madagascar, where environmental goods and services are a major component of the livelihoods of poor rural communities and where the environment and its services protect them in the event of natural disasters and economic shocks. Judicious management of natural resources and ecosystems generates positive results in poverty reduction, such as the exploitation of non-timber products leading to job creation and increased income for the benefit of many people, especially in rural areas. In order to create favorable conditions for the development of the green economy, some actions are necessary, such as changes in fiscal policy, reforms, and reduction in environmental damage; targeting public investments in key ecological sectors; taking the environment into account in public procurement; improving environmental regulations and legislation by strengthening their application; training for stakeholders; and a close communication [52]. Citizens also must play a role in determining the success or failure of a global green economy. They must ensure that policies meet their intended aims of economic and environmental sustainability, as well as social equity, which requires broad support from empowered civil society actors and a well-informed and engaged public that includes voters, consumers, and shareholders.

4.5. Renewable Energy Sources

These strategies should aim to promote the use of solar power, hydraulic power, and biofuel. In the rural areas of Madagascar, this approach will contribute to the reduction in GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (use of wood for fuel, cooking, and lighting). Furthermore, the use of renewable energy will have positive impacts on health as households will not be exposed to smoke from wood and charcoal fires. Better access to electricity in rural areas promotes small agricultural transformation units, resulting in more employment and improved local health services or agricultural services.

4.6. Raising Public Awareness of the Environmental Issues

Awareness of environmental issues can be raised by promoting educational approaches to encourage pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., educating the public about the relationship between economic development and environmental degradation), institutionalizing public participation in environmental decision-making, and increasing the disclosure of environmental information to inform people about environmental conditions (e.g., local radio stations and broadcasting can be used to provide information about local environmental topics, management, or species protection).
Overall, the finding above indicates that ensuring sustainable utilization of environmental resources calls for a holistic approach to tackling the problem of poverty in such a way that avoidable damages to the environment could be averted. Indeed, no society can address the social phenomenon of sustainable development in isolation from the twin problems of poverty and environmental degradation. Poverty caused by environmental degradation is inextricably linked to the unsustainable use of natural resources. In order to remedy the situation, policymakers must prioritize environmental protection over poverty alleviation. It is necessary to determine if poverty is internal or external. If it is internal poverty, then environmental policy must be prioritized. However, if external poverty exists, poverty reduction programs must be developed.
Cross-sectoral policy adjustments are required to enable and catalyze Madagascar’s capacities instead of increasing dependence on external actors such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and donor countries, as well as to improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of the country’s rural poor [53]. The government should allocate sufficient funding for the smooth running of literacy programs and ensure that people acquire knowledge that will help them protect the environment.
In summary, these strategies will contribute to solving the environmental issues and to achieving the SDGs in Madagascar (See Figure 3).
Figure 3. Strategies for solving Madagascar’s environmental problems and achieving the SDGs (Source: Authors).


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