Forest Landscape Restoration work in Madagascar @ WWF Madagascar


Working closely with communities, who previously were a key driver of deforestation and degradation in the area, has not only decreased pressures on the forest, but led to active involvement of the community in restoration activities. The project also worked closely with government at all levels to create a common vision for the landscape.

Community-based organisations and partner associations were created to train people in alternative agriculture techniques. Locally-run nurseries are now growing native species and contribute to forest landscape restoration in the area. Local associations and people have fully taken over the FLR initiative since January 2018.

Key environmental and social benefits

  • As a result of the project 95,063 ha were protected (Marolambo National Park), 51,743 ha are now managed by a community-based organisation and an area of 6,786 ha was placed under active or passive restoration.
  • The communities´ income has diversified and alternative income generation reduced pressure on the forest
  • Reduction of deforestation and degradation in the affected area.
  • Local communities are more aware of the link between forest restoration and water availability as well as erosion control and health.
  • Communities are actively participating in restoration activities.
  • Increased literacy

Lessons and success factors

  • People are part of the solution
  • Governance at all levels needs to buy in
  •  A long term planning horizon is needed

The region in Madagascar WWF worked in was very complex with different needs of people in the landscape. As communities were key drivers of degradation and deforestation via slash and burn agriculture, we had to take a long term approach to build relationships and trust and to get community buy-in towards adopting alternative income opportunities and sustainable agriculture approaches. This included offering training, building capacity and raising awareness. The project gave the communities a joint vision and positive alternative to their previous way of living and working in the landscape. Achieving that buy in village by village takes time. Communities have to take real ownership of the solution. We got the community involved in restoration activities. The project area was large, with a Protected Area at the core, surrounded by many villages. Without a social component and cooperation, the chance for deforestation and degradation to continue would have been high. For any project that deals with restoration and community engagement, giving it time is of big importance to ensure sustainability and long term effects.

Lessons in a snapshot

  • Solid knowledge of the socio-cultural, political and ecological features of a landscape is important to design and implement FLR interventions that are suited to local conditions.
  • Forest landscape restoration has both an ecological and a social dimension. The social dimension is fundamental to long term success.
  • Take time to build relationships and trust - be present in the landscape. Ensure community takes real ownership
  • Strengthening local governance structures enables more stakeholders to take decisions which are necessary for the long-term success of FLR. It leads to real engagement of landscape stakeholders.
  • Integrate your activities within a landscape-scale plan.
  • It was important to obtain political support on national level on priorities and to agree on where restoration would be useful and where protected areas could established
  • It is important to create a win-win situation. Establishing a linkage between biodiversity protection and the development of income alternatives with the villages. Regional and local government buy in is very important in this. If not all levels agree then there is a danger for a “paper park”
  • National parks have limited resources. Restoration outside a national park can work well and can happen at low cost with the help of the community. Build capacity to support Forest Landscape Restoration
  • Restoring forested landscapes is a long-term process and much flexibility over the course of such an endeavour is needed. Funding of such projects requires long term thinking
  • Periodic reappraisal is paramount. Social monitoring is important
  • Build an exit strategy into your project design (or indicators to properly decide when exit is possible)

Overcoming challenges

  • A key challenge was that income generation by local communities in that landscape was linked to deforestation and degradation. The project had to build relationships and trust with the communities to slowly move them towards alternative income opportunities that reduced the pressure on the landscape. This required capacity building, technical support and sustainable financing mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the introduced agriculture activities.
  • There was also a lack of awareness by local communities on the link between forests and climate change, as well as between restoration and water availability, erosion control and health.
  • There were unclear land status and tenure issues to resolve initially (including to obtain management rights for communities).
  • It was very important to establish a common vision for the landscape with the communities and the government.