Madagascar Environmental Issues

By Bruno Salomon Ramamonjisoa

Madagascar is a landmass with an abundance of biodiversity and a high percentage of endemic plant and animal life. Eighty-five percent of flowers, 39 percent of birds, 91 percent of reptiles, 99 percent of amphibians, and 100 percent of lemurs are native to the island. Despite its richness in natural resources, Madagascar faces many problems with the management of these resources, and with its development more generally. Since the 1960s the gross domestic product per capita has decreased significantly, from $460 to less than $272 in 2014. Despite the establishment of a structural adjustment program in 1988 and an environmental protection program in 1990, basic living conditions have not improved, 76.5 percent of the population is still below the poverty line, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources such as forest and mineral products continues even in protected zones. In spite of the plans implemented by so many different national and international actors, the conditions of the people and the environment in Madagascar have not changed.

There are a variety of political and economic factors that preclude Madagascar from properly managing its natural resources. The country lacks a national elite capable of inventing and implementing a development plan that would address the specific challenges Madagascar faces. This crucial problem has been experienced by many other countries classified as underdeveloped, and they’ve managed to resolve it by forming teams of experts tasked with formulating national development plans. Without this structure in place, states can rationalize their inability to accumulate financial resources and to distribute them. In Madagascar, the state has been unable to imagine a development model that responds to the daily life of its citizens and connects to their culture and their traditions. This has led to the emergence of various social and corporate groups that, in the absence of official leadership, play a prominent role in decisions pertaining to the utilization of natural resources.

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