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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)


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

PI: Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa, r.5tio@yahoo.fr, Madagascar National Parks
U.S. Partner: Brett Scheffers, University of Florida
Project dates: December 2017 - December 2022


Project Overview:

6-134_protected areas map6-134_Identification guide.jpg 
 6 protected areas chosen as study sites (left);   study guide to help local communities identify biodiversity (right). Photo credit: 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. 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 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.

The team will leverage local community groups (CLPs) 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.  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.

Study Sites

The study sites for this project are situated within the protected areas network managed by Madagascar National Parks. The PEER team intends to cover the diversity of ecosystems and wildlife present throughout Madagascar as well as a climate gradient  to assess possible impacts from the wettest to the driest regions in Madagascar. For this purpose, six protected areas are selected as study sites: two parks in the rain forest at the Ranomafana and Andringitra national parks,  two in the intermediate forest between the rain forest and dry forest at the Isalo and Andohahela national parks, and two parks in the dry forest at Tsimanampesotse national park and Beza Mahafaly special reserve and their surrounding areas.

Development impacts

Activities will encourage linkage between the local community and their surrounding environment and raise the awareness of the local community to understand ecosystem function and to promote diversified income activities by improving livelihoods and developing adaptation plans and to understand climate resilience. Local communities will be responsible for monitoring biodiversity, build connections and raise appreciation of biodiversity, and possibly build incentives to identify, monitor, and denounce wildlife crimes. At the end of the project, impact indicators will be developed. Data collection by local community with different approaches and protocols will be developed and applied within Madagascar National Parks to improve management of the protected areas
 
 6-134 practical training6-134 Lalatiana showing transects 
 Local community training. Photo credit: Lalatiana RandriamiharisoaUSAID and NAS site visit in Toliara, Madagascar in May 2019: local community shows transects in the area. Photo credit: Lina Stankute-Alexander
 
Project updates

During 2021 reporting period, the PEER team continued their focus on two key development impacts: (i) impact on the conservation of protected areas managed by Madagascar National Parks (MNP) and (ii) socio-economic impact of the 65 local communities working in the project. In terms of the conservation impacts, by the end of 2021, after data analysis, the project results showed an improvement in the quality of data collected on biodiversity, both by the local communities (CLP) and by the Park officials. This improvement, according to the PI. Dr. Ravaomanaline, has been largely due to access to the identification guides which were originally produced at the start of the project, and also by enhanced data collection in the field made by the PEER team and their trainees during the project. According to Lalatiana, the data collected is more reliable and can be used in the management of the protected area. The biodiversity monitoring method for this project has been adopted by each park for the overall monitoring of the entire park. The participating local communities go to the protected area to carry out ecological monitoring or collect data on biodiversity. Enhanced communities' biodiversity knowledge is also a positive impact of the project, as it has enabled the PEER team to collect more information about the health of each park that is being monitored. The monthly and ongoing rounds local communities conduct in the protected areas to collect biodiversity data also has led to a crackdown on unauthorized offenders iroaming in the protected areas, and this, according to Lalatianam may have reduced the number of trees illegally cut in the areas where these CLPs conducted their data collection. Thus, this project has been contributing to conservation of the six protected areas participating in this PEER project.

Second, in terms of the socio-economic impacts, the project PI reports, that CLPs who cannot write and read so far have made a significant effort to learn by themselves in order to be able to work as part of the PEER project, and now they are at least able to write their name. These CLPs have become allies of the park managers contributing to other conservation activities such as raising other communities' environmental awareness for protection of biodiversity within their families, friends and neighbors. They are convinced of the importance of the park and strongly contribute to its conservation. Since these CLPs have received compensation for their participatory work, their earnings became their monthly source of income, which has enabled them to improve their living conditions in the course of the past three years of the project. Some participating community members were able to increase their livestock (beef, sheep, goats) or poultry (duck, chickens, turkey) and further their agricultural activities, others were able to buy household supplies (furniture, pots, plates, bucket, bowl, etc.), while, others used the funds to send their children to school. This conservation work became a source of income enhancing their communities' lives.

During the reporting period, the local communities conducted exchange visits in each protected area.  Local communities of Tsimanampetsotsa hosted local communities of Isalo in Andohahela. Thus, in addition to the park of Tsimanampetsotsa, the Tsimanampetsotsa local community participants familiarized themselves with the Isalo park and the Andohahela park. In addition to enhancement of biodiversity knowledge of other parks, the exchanges also focused on cultural knowledge exchange. The differences between the dialects were one of the most highlighted points during all the discussions, as each protected area is located in a different region where different dialects are spoken. The way of life (agriculture, house, clothing, etc.) is also different and these exchanges enhanced the participants' knowledge. Most of the local participating community members never had the opportunity to travel before, which made this exchange visit enriching and strengthened collaboration between the CLPs and the MNP staff. The concept of women working as participating and paid community members (part of park committee) resulted in a heated discussion during the exchange. The fact that Andohahela National Park has eight female participants surprised other parks' CLPs where women are not allowed to participate, and yet, based on women's effective participation in this project, it is evident they are all as capable to work in conservation as men, and particularly, in terms of raising awareness which has been more effective than among men, according to the PI.   

The methods of collecting data on biodiversity will be references for the collection of data around each protected area concerned by the project. This method will also be integrated into ecological monitoring protocols of all 36 protected areas managed by MNP. The results of this study so far have shown that participating local communities can efficiently collect data and information for the park this furthering conservation efforts.
 
 
6-134_Andohahela site visit_Brent 6-134 Site visit group pic
May 2019:  Visit by the local USAID Mission representative Daniel Whyner, USAID regional advisor Brent Wells, and NAS program officer Lina Stankute-Alexander was conducted May 2019. The team visited MNP in Antananarivo to discuss project performance and challenges, followed by a site visit in South Madagascar in Andohahela National Park to meet the local community that is working on the project, to see the status of weather stations, and observe how the transects are set up.Site visit group photo (USAID and NAS representatives with PI Lalatiana and native community members participating in PEER project, May 2019). Photo credit: Lina Stankute-Alexander
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In September 2019, PI Lalatiana visited her U.S. Partner Prof. Brett Scheffers and David Klinges it in Florida in September 2019  for training on data collection and processing.  PEER PI Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa showing Madagascar biodiversity. Photo credit: Lalatiana Randriamiharisoa































































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