Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


The management of natural resources in developing countries is of utmost importance as both high levels of biodiversity and local livelihoods often hang in the balance. The debate in conservation spheres often centers on 'fortress' versus 'community-based' conservation approaches, one emphasizing nature preservation and the other emphasizing the needs and empowerment of local communities in resource management. This study evaluates the management approach of a rainforest in northeast Madagascar, asking: how effectively does the COMATSA Sud protected area management system both preserve critical forest cover and provide for the local community? This research employs a mixed-methods approach, using interviews and focus groups with local residents in the study area combined with a random forest remote sensing analysis of Planet imagery to classify the landscape and analyze forest cover. Results suggest that the system is not successful in supporting community livelihoods or preserving forest cover due to a misalignment between the theoretical management model and the reality on the ground. Furthermore, while the management system does not provide economic benefits to the local community, the forest serves as an important safety net when economic difficulties arise. Results also show that the community is open to a more comprehensive management scheme conditional on the incorporation of complementary livelihood support into the system. These findings suggest ways forward for community-based conservation, emphasizing the importance of reforming older institutions to align with contemporary landscapes and local communities’ needs.



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