Through its Natural Resource Management program, GDN fosters connections between researchers from ecologically threatened countries in Africa and worldwide experts to develop local capacity for valuing natural capital and building evidence for environmentally sustainable policy choices.
Working with three teams from Madagascar, Mauritius, and Morocco, the program mobilized local knowledge and cross-disciplinary researchers to produce high-quality data in the field of natural capital accounting, and to provide policymakers with useful findings to better manage natural resources. The studies shed light on pressing environmental concerns including threats to biodiversity in Madagascar, water scarcity in Mauritius, and coastal degradation in Morocco. Each team benefited from the opportunity to learn about Natural Capital Accounting as they developed their work, received mentoring and peer reviews, and also participated in a policy dialogue organized by GDN in Paris, in 2015.
Solofo Rakotondraompiana, the lead researcher for the project in Madagascar, pointed out that the most important impact of the study has been to show that the implementation of natural capital accounting is feasible with a few resources. His study found, for instance, that 27% of Raphia Palm trees were cut down and transformed into meadows for rice fields and houses over the course of a decade in Antrema, Madagascar – an indication of the changes in biodiversity.
The low-cost and feasibility of the studies are important for policymakers to know as they consider scaling up the approach. Harison Randiarimanana, Special Advisor for Economic Affairs of the President of the Republic of Madagascar praised the study for its high relevance in a country where GDP relies heavily on natural resources.
Rakotondraompiana is thankful to GDN for the communications skills provided – in addition to the US$ 20,000 research grant and the technical and mentoring support – because it enabled him to communicate effectively, the results of the study. “I want to convince the authorities (to begin) land-cover mapping,” he says, which is the first step to natural capital accounting. He has been invited by the Ministry of Environment and the Indian Ocean Commission to explain how this accounting system can be implemented not only in Madagascar, but also in the neighboring archipelago nation, Comoros.
Similar initiatives on natural capital accounting in two additional ecologically fragile countries Morocco and Mauritius were part of the program. Findings helped to raise awareness on local environment issues through research dissemination as well as a policy dialogue in Paris. Not least, the program contributed to strengthening the capacities of African researchers and practitioners attending a summer school in Montreal in August 2016.
According to an independent program evaluation, GDN’s natural resource management program has been very successful, especially in addressing research training in developing countries – a significant gap in the natural capital accounting value chain. Local development knowledge, subject awareness and professional visibility were increased and each study delivered output relevant for policymaking.
“Natural Resource Management – Natural Wealth Accounting” supported by the French Development Agency and the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development, September 2014 – November 2016.