Securing biodiversity & livelihoods in Madagascar
Global agreements like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Achi Biodiversity Targets (ABTs) aim to secure human well-being and to protect biodiversity, but little progress has been made in reaching these aims. The key role of biodiversity in securing human well-being is rarely considered a priority – instead short-term economic profits benefiting a few are prioritized. Particularly where local livelihoods rely on resources of protected areas for immediate survival, top-down enforced biodiversity conservation often increases social inequality, hunger and poverty and thus regularly fails. Identifying key knowledge gaps helps to adjust political priority setting and investment strategies to better assess conservation threats and improve natural resource management. Since acting usually occurs at local or regional scale, we focused on a priority conservation area in one of the world’s poorest countries – the dry deciduous forests of western Madagascar. We aimed to identify key knowledge gaps in this area which need to be filled to better protect biodiversity and simultaneously ensure well-being of the local poor. We consulted 51 predominantly Malagasy experts using questionnaires. These questionnaires listed 71 knowledge gaps we collated from the literature which the experts were asked to rank by importance. Experts were encouraged to list additional knowledge gaps. Averaging the scores of all experts, we identified the top 10 knowledge gaps. Two political knowledge gaps addressing the need to determine strategies which improve law enforcement and reduce corruption ranked highest, followed by an ecological one concerning appropriate restoration and a socio-economic one regarding economic benefits locals gain from biodiversity. The general knowledge gap perceived as most important addressed strategies for long-term funding. Only one additional knowledge gap was identified: the role of climate change-driven human migration from southwestern to central western Madagascar on socio-economic problems and its impacts on natural resources We linked the identified top 10 knowledge gaps as well as the additional knowledge gap suggested by experts to the SDGs, ABTs and 2°C-target of the Paris Climate Agreement, and discussed why these gaps were considered a priority. This research highlights important ecological, socio-economic and political research priorities and provides guidelines for policy makers and funding organizations.