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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Community-based monitoring and management of Madagascar’s National Park protected areas

PI: Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa,, Madagascar National Parks
U.S. Partner: Brett Scheffers, University of Florida
Project dates: December 2017 - November 2020

Project Overview:

6-134_Jan-Mar 2018
Photo courtesy of PI Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa
Madagascar National Parks (MNP) has a mandate to manage and conserve its protected area network of more than 2 million hectares of land; therefore, MNP needs efficient ways to collect data that informs its management practices. However, the data collected so far are disparate and are do not cover the diversity of ecosystems under the park system’s purview, a problem that might be rectified by tapping into the biodiversity knowledge of local communities and MNP rangers. Thus, this PEER project focuses on improving and streamlining MNP’s data collection process via integration of local communities. Protected area managers need scientific data and indicators to inform conservation decisions. The project addresses this critical issue by providing local communities the opportunity to participate in the conservation of their local protected areas. Integrating a community-based approach for monitoring biodiversity and regional climate patterns provides major biodiversity payoffs in creating a local economy tied to biodiversity monitoring, which creates value for biodiversity outside of traditional natural resource extraction and use. This project will test whether local communities can collect data and take leadership and ownership over the management of their local protected areas. This effort begins with the protected area network but by building capacity at the community level in monitoring protected areas (Hay Tao), the researchers will facilitate management of resources that spill outside the bounds of the of national parks (Mikajy). Proper land management is not an intrinsically intuitive process and skills must be taught to communities. At the end of the project, the team will assess the ability of the local community to effectively and accurately monitor biodiversity and ecological parameters across our sites, which will be done by contrasting results from their expert team with those of the community-based team.

In carrying out the project, the team will leverage the CLPs, local community groups created by the MNP system with members who are elected or designated by the community to protect the forest. CLP members collect information on environmental pressures and biodiversity, and in this project they will be engaged on a trial basis to monitor and survey biodiversity in the protected areas. At the end of the project, the CLP members will have had an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and community linkages. Training for CLP members will be carried out by the PI and two other students, with additional support provided thanks to collaborations with professors at the University of Antananarivo, University of Florida, and University of Hamburg. During the project, equipment and materials will also be provided by these universities and by the MNP. Ultimately, the research team expects that data collection by local community members using different approaches and protocols will be developed and applied in the MNP to improve overall management of protected areas.

Project updates

During April -June, the team worked on preparing identification guides, which consist of a compilation of  lists of species of each taxonomic group (Lemurs, Carnivores, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians) inventoried either by researchers (foreign or national) or by the protected areas’ rangers. The six study sites (Andohahela, Ranomafana, Andringitra, Isalo, Beza Mahafaly and Tsimanampetsotsa) have their unique fauna species; therefore, the MNP team prepared and validated six different identification guides for each site for training local communities and for data collection.  
Preparation of the training plan has been ongoing focusing on how to convey to the local community methods of identifying species in each taxonomic group.  Details of each training session including theoretical and practical training as well as exercises have also been prepared and stakeholders identified. According to the project PI, a judicious method and strategy on their team’s part is necessary for the training to be successful considering local community’s limited level of understanding of the topic.   
Future plans:
During the next 3-6 months, community-based biodiversity training workshops at each site will be conducted. During this time initial socio-economic data of each protected area will be assessed. This will  be the first instance of biodiversity data collection which will allow the team to assess community-based data collection capacity. Training on meteorological data collection will also be included in this training.  After two months, a second collection of data on biodiversity along with meteorological and socio-economic surveys will be conducted. Initial  data analysis will be done at the end of the sixth month period.

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