Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, a field demonstration model



  • Conservation International


  • 31/10/2011

  • REGION :

  • Eastern Africa


  • Madagascar (Antananarivo)


  • The Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ) is a new protected area that encompasses one of the largest remaining blocks of rainforest in Madagascar. The vision for CAZ is a landscape-level conservation area that includes multiple zones and land designations. Conservation International’s (CI) aim at CAZ is to conserve the existing, intact natural capital (i.e. the principle) so that the delivery of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water provision, and pollination (i.e. the interest) continues to flow for the benefit of people. We refer to this as a landscape-scale green economy approach. The central idea of a green economy is that natural capital is managed in a way to sustain flows of ecosystem services to benefit people, furthering economic development and, at the same time, conserving nature. This concept presents an opportunity for action as it provides information, arguments, and decision making tools that can be put into place, tested, and refined. CI/Madagascar’s work at CAZ is already demonstrating the success of a green economy approach to conservation and development. By focusing on conserving healthy ecosystems that provide the ecosystem services upon which people depend, we are safeguarding the natural capital that is needed for economic activity. CI works with societies to secure ecosystem services that flow from natural systems to meet both current and future needs. The key to securing ecosystem services for the benefit of people is to demonstrate success in specific places and then scale-up those successes for broad-level impact.


  • Madagascar, integrated natural resource management, protected area governance


  • Dr. Daniela is Director of the Field Programs Support team for Conservation International (CI).Prior to this, she spent three years as the Natural Resources Management advisor with CI-Madagascar where her primary responsibilities included advising on community-based activities, social safeguards, local governance issues and ecotourism. Before joining CI, Daniela worked in the Environment/Rural Development office at the USAID mission in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Daniela holds a PhD in Natural Resources from Cornell University


The Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor (CAZ) has long been regarded as one of Madagascar’s top conservation priorities and numerous studies have catalogued its rich biodiversity. To date over 2,043 species of plants have been identified (85% are endemic), with representatives from 5 endemic families. Fifteen species of lemurs and 30 other species of mammals are known from CAZ as well as 129 species of amphibians and 89 bird species. CAZ’s flagship species include several species of threatened lemur such as Indri indri, Varecia Variegata variegata, and Propithecus diadema.

CAZ covers 381,000 hectares of pristine rainforest and provides important ecosystem services for the surrounding area (Figure 1). Water provision and erosion control are particularly important for the agricultural plains on both the east and west sides of the corridor and for the two hydroelectric plants that supply electricity for Madagascar’s two largest cities. Local culture is also deeply rooted in the forest, where residents gather medicinal plants and have sacred sites such as tombs. The local culture has contributed to the preservation of these essential ecosystems through sustainable practices and utilizing traditional knowledge. The culture has become intertwined with nature, and their codependent relationship is vital to both humans and the rich biodiversity that exits.

The corridor is under threat, however. Major pressures include slash-and-burn agriculture and mining. If these pressures are not alleviated, CAZ will soon disappear, taking with it not only the incredible biodiversity it houses, but also the essential ecosystem services it provides to countless rural families in the area.

Thanks to the Government of Madagascar’s commitment to triple the surface area of protected areas throughout Madagascar, CAZ is well on its way to becoming one of the largest protected areas in the country. Having received temporary protected status on December 31, 2005, CAZ partners (CI/Madagascar, regional government authorities, local NGOs, community associations, and other stakeholders) are working to finalize the protected area creation process and to ensure that CAZ is conserved in perpetuity.

The CAZ protected area includes three pre-existing parks and reserves run by Madagascar National Parks: Zahamena National Park, Mantadia National Park and the Mangerivola Reserve (Table 1). Before the creation of CAZ, efforts to conserve the corridor’s natural resources were localized and lacked a clear overall strategy. The new protected area has provided a framework to develop a clear vision for the conservation of the whole corridor and to scale up successful pilot initiatives.

Figure 1. Map of the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Protected Area


From the outset, science has been at the foundation of establishing the CAZ protected area. CI/Madagascar has conducted, supported, and compiled research at CAZ for over a decade in an effort to inform good policy and management decisions. This research has included species-level work to understand specific needs of restricted-range or threatened species, landscape-level work using remote sensing to monitor forest cover change and land-use change, and modeling to predict future carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation.

The result of this research is a picture of CAZ’s incredible richness in terms of biodiversity, its importance for providing ecosystem services, and its vulnerability if unsustainable practices continue unabated. One of the more compelling pieces of research we have generated is the map of deforestation over time at CAZ.

More recently, we have been working to understand the ecosystem services CAZ provides. For instance, we estimate the forests at CAZ stock important amounts of carbon. One hectare deforestation in the CAZ results in an average of 270 tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere. In addition, CAZ protects the headwaters of eight large rivers and regulates water systems for local agriculture. These rivers supply approximately 325,000 residents with water directly. Through dams and aquifers, they also provide water to the residents of the the provincial capital, Toamasina.

Working with a robust set of partners at multiple levels, an important body of knowledge has been generated that underpins the overall approach CI/Madagascar is promoting in CAZ. It is through these important partnerships that CI/Madagascar has amassed widespread support for conservation in this area.

Figure 2. Hydrological regime at CAZ.

Developing a green economy

Conserving CAZ requires an innovative approach that involves developing mechanisms to capture the economic value of the forest and then distributing those benefits equitably. The area is just too large and complex for any other strategy to deliver conservation and development outcomes effectively and sustainably. CI has dubbed this the green economy approach.  This means understanding and planning for the forest’s future in the context of the many other land uses that surround it. It also means incorporating the various values the forest holds into its future management regime – timber products, non-timber products, aesthetic values, hydrological services, carbon sequestration, cultural and spiritual sites, etc. Finally, it means understanding the dynamics throughout the corridor and planning activities in the most strategic manner possible.  With limited resources, we must target our interventions in those areas that are most highly threatened.

Building successful partnerships is a cornerstone of the approach. To work effectively in three regions, over 20 communes, and countless villages, CI/Madagascar has partnered with local NGOs, other donor-funded projects, the private sector, and community associations. This tactic, which is the foundation of the model CI has adopted for Madagascar, has allowed us to expand our reach to the entire CAZ corridor.

The approach prioritizes human well-being and includes many targeted interventions to ensure that CAZ produces real benefits for those people who rely most directly on its resources. These interventions are grounded in the CAZ governance structure, which serves as the overarching mechanism for sharing management responsibilities and distributing benefits.


CI/Madagascar supported a series of meetings and discussions to determine the final governance structure of CAZ. Stakeholders at multiple levels participated, including local communities, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF), and various other partners. The decision was made to adopt a co-management governance type, with an emphasis on community-level participation and empowerment. Roles and responsibilities were defined, paying particular attention to the lowest levels of the structure.

CAZ’s co-management structure is divided into two main parts, a strategic orientation component and a management component (Figure 4). The MEF delegates responsibility to the Protected Area Manager, which, along with the Orientation and Monitoring Committee, serves to define strategic priorities for management.  The CAZ Manager and its staff including six sector managers, and the Local Management Unit managers ensure daily management functions and implementation.  Specific roles and responsibilities of each of these entities are described in Table 2.

The decision making body is the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It has the final decision making power for all questions related to the management of CAZ and approves the management plan for the protected area. Although the Ministry has final decision making power, decisions are informed by extensive consultation and negotiation with the other stakeholders involved. The Ministry can also act at any level of the protected area through its decentralized representatives at the regional/ local levels.

The Orientation and Monitoring Committee (OMC) serves as a deliberating and consultative body and is made up of 19 members. It provides guidance on the implementation of the management plan and the protected area policies.

The Protected Area Manager ensures the executive function of the entire protected area. Until a definitive Manager is identified, CI/Madagascar is serving in this role. The Manager is responsible for implementing management, compiling reports from the Sector and Local Management Unit (LMU) levels, and reporting to the MEF and OMC.

A total of six Sectors have been defined for CAZ (Figure 5). Each Sector supervises the management within the LMUs in its zone. The Sectors also liaise with authorities and partners within the zone. Activities within the Sector are coordinated by a Sector Coordinator employed by the Manager.

The Local Management Units are at the most local level within the management structure. Their role is to manage each LMU, including ensuring the implementation of the local management plans, establishing and enforcing local use rules (Dina), and submitting activity reports to their Sector Coordinator.

Figure 3. CAZ co-management governance structure

Figure 4. The six Sectors of the CAZ governance structure.

In an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change, CI/Madagascar has been supporting the government in Madagascar to develop two forest carbon projects at CAZ. The Tetik’ Asa Mampody Savoka (“Return the Fallows to Forest” in Malagasy) reforestation initiative, or TAMS, is reforesting degraded agricultural land to restore a natural corridor between existing protected areas. In the past, natural forests have been cleared and lands degraded through unsustainable agricultural practices, including reduced fallow times between crop cycles, charcoal production from native and exotic tree species and legal and illegal forestry and mining activities. The initiative is designed to be certified under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to generate emissions reductions through the reforestation of both public and private lands. The government of Madagascar leads the initiative and is supported by CI/Madagascar, which has led the field work in identifying eligible lands for reforestation. The World Bank BioCarbon Fund included the project in its portfolio, while the government of Madagascar and CI are providing funds for implementation. Several nurseries have been created to reforest at least 600 hectares of degraded land; these nurseries are growing more than 120 native species, most of which have never before been propagated, adding to the science of restoration in the country. In addition over 200 jobs have been created by this initiative, providing direct stimulation of the local economy.

CAZ is also the site of a pilot REDD+ initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation ‘plus’ biodiversity conservation) that is supported by CI. The initiative has involved the creation of CAZ as a protected area with the intention of using sustainable financing, including carbon markets, to support its design and management. The goals of the forest carbon initiative are to reduce deforestation and enhance the capacity of the communities to manage natural resources, while protecting biodiversity and water resources important for downstream production. Revenues from the marketing of emissions reductions will help finance long-term protection and management of the CAZ. Portions of the protected area are placed under strict protection, while other areas are zoned for community resource management with support and oversight by the government. The initiative has received technical support from CI in the design of the activities aimed at reducing deforestation, calculation of the emissions baseline and the design of the management plan for the protected area. CAZ was the first REDD+ activity to receive the support of the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund, which has also provided technical support, notably by creating a mosaic deforestation methodology designed to be acceptable under the Voluntary Carbon Standards guidelines.

Small grants

Another vehicle CI/Madagascar has used to create economic opportunities for people conserving CAZ is by providing small grants to jump start income-generating projects. Known as the Node Small Grants Program, this initiative provides small grants to community-level associations to undertake activities that directly contribute to conservation outcomes.  The Node Program is innovative in that it achieves two major objectives simultaneously:  (1) supporting local conservation action, and (2) contributing to increased capacity of national NGOs to administer and manage grants at the local scale.  The first objective is achieved through the small grants themselves, and the important local-level conservation activities that are completed with these resources.  The grants are awarded to local associations. As CAZ’s governance structure becomes more robust, CI/Madagascar is prioritizing LMUs to receive this funding.

The second objective is achieved through the innovative mechanism CI/Madagascar is using to disburse funds.  Rather than having a centralized system of grant-making controlled by CI/Madagascar employees, we have partnered with Malagasy NGOs – the “Nodes” – working in district-level towns in CAZ to receive and review proposals, issue grants, and monitor activities. This mechanism provides these Malagasy NGOs with an opportunity to hone their grant management skills as well as build their expertise in supporting conservation. To date, CI/Madagascar has supported over 70 micro-projects around CAZ through this small grants program.


Tourism serves as a response to slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, logging, and other threats.  CI/Madagascar’s tourism program complements the other initiatives being implemented at CAZ insofar as it is a vehicle for stimulating economic activity contributing to a green economy. We aim to use tourism development to finance conservation through tourism concessions, by creating jobs linked to tourism activities, and developing constituencies through strong partnerships among protected area managers, the private sector, communities, the National Tourism Board, and the Tourism Department.

CI’s tourism program focuses on developing sustainable tourism that provides economic opportunities without resulting in negative environmental or social impacts. The approach includes tourism planning for CAZ. This involves collaborating with stakeholders at multiple levels, including tourism industry actors, to support the development of the tourism management and monitoring plan for CAZ.

The approach also involves increasing competitiveness of the tourism industry at CAZ. This effort uses a value chain approach to develop strong and competitive partnerships to better position CAZ as a destination, especially to those who adopt an ethic of responsible tourism. The value chain approach involves identifying constraints and opportunities, and defining parameters from which to improve the tourism industry. The result of this analysis is a strategy for tourism industry development that ensures community-based involvement and benefits within the nature-based tourism sector.  The strategic plan is shared and implemented in a participatory manner with actors including tour operators, hotels, transportation service providers, protected area managers, and local communities. Activities include training for local guides, building relationships between local service providers (e.g., hotels, restaurants, guides) and tour operators, and encouraging local tourism businesses to adopt good practices such as sourcing their foodstuffs locally.

Conservation agreements

Another component of CI/Madagascar’s approach to developing a green economy at CAZ is conservation agreements. These are agreements established between CI/Madagascar and local communities at CAZ with the support of governmental authorities. The purpose is to engage in a commitment to achieve conservation results while offsetting the foregone benefits from unsustainably using the forest.

The mechanism for establishing conservation agreements with local communities involves targeting the Local Management Units of CAZ’s governance structure so that there is a direct link between the conservation management tasks communities perform and the benefits they receive. CI works with ASOS (a local development organization) and VALBIO (a research institute supported by Stony Brook University) to train and empower communities to assume responsibility for ecological monitoring. Indicators regarding natural resource management behavior and the status of key resources such as economically beneficial trees or water sources are tracked. The information generated will guide land-use planning at the community level and provide quantitative information on biodiversity and land-cover changes. Communities are then compensated with micro-development projects. Key to the success of this project is that communities choose incentives that best meet their development needs but priority is given to activities related to sustainable livelihoods.

Integrated health, population, and environment

Many people living in and around CAZ do not have access to basic health services. They live in extremely remote areas that are far from health clinics, doctors, and medications. Their health is closely linked to the state of the ecosystems in which they live insofar as they may contract water-borne parasites from streams or ponds, or other diseases or infections from bushmeat.

CI is working to address these ecosystem-related human health issues by improving access to health care services and products, and building capacity to deliver those services. These activities have been implemented with local NGOs and communities participating in CAZ’s governance structure. CI’s approach involves training community-based agents who are able to provide technical assistance on a variety of topics including improved nutrition, hygiene, and family planning. They are also certified to issue vaccinations.


CI’s efforts in CAZ are proving successful but these positive results must be amplified if we are going to affect a larger scale. Our approach to scaling-up our impact includes applying lessons learned in CAZ to other areas of Madagascar, influencing policy, engaging markets, building capacity, and improving communications.

The approach in CAZ is already being recognized as a model that should be replicated to other areas of Madagascar. CI/Madagascar is working with regional authorities, NGOs, and communities in nine other important landscapes to use a similar strategy for developing a green economy. Learning from the CAZ experience, CI/Madagascar has been able to provide critical expertise and insight into making this approach applicable to various ecosystems and contexts.


CI/Madagascar is amplifying the impact of the work at CAZ by influencing national policy. The lessons generated at CAZ have been used to inform Madagascar’s national protected area law and policy framework. CAZ is also pioneering in developing a management plan for a multi-use protected area in Madagascar and a robust co-management governance regime. These efforts have been used to develop national-level policies and resource use in multi-use protected areas and governance structures. Before the work at CAZ and other new protected areas began, the policies were primarily being conceived from a theoretical standpoint. CAZ provides the field experience and ground-truthing needed to refine these polices and ensure they are achieving their intended goals.


A key component of developing a green economy is scaling it up is the extent to which markets are transformed and businesses become more sustainable in their practices. CI/Madagascar is using the work at CAZ to influence markets and businesses. For instance, through the forest carbon projects at CAZ, CI is providing valuable lessons about how the carbon market should be developed and how carbon revenue can be distributed. This is providing potential buyers with the reassurance they need that their carbon emissions will truly be offset through forest carbon projects. In addition, CI/Madagascar has engaged the tourism industry, specifically those firms focused on responsible tourism. Facilitating linkages between them and Malagasy-based businesses is beginning to affect the extent to which tourism in Madagascar is developed and marketed in an environmentally-friendly and socially-conscious way.

Capacity building

CI/Madagascar’s effort to scale-up its impact includes building capacity for scientific research, conservation, and policy making. CI believes that science should be used to inform appropriate action and that scientific capacity needs to be cultivated to ensure this function in the future. As such, CI/Madagascar supports research through grants. This research is conducted by national associations, researchers, and students. The aim is support the generation of scientific knowledge by Malagasy researchers as input to decision making. Since 2004, CI/Madagascar has supported over 150 Malagasy research projects.

CI/Madagascar also supports university programs, student groups and community associations that want to increase their general understanding of Malagasy conservation issues. Through activities such as educational field trips, exchanges and lectures, CI/Madagascar is increasing the constituency of Malagasy citizens that understand and support conservation work.  Since 2003, CI/Madagascar has provided over $11.5 million in grants to civil society groups working to conserve the country’s biodiversity.

In addition, CI/Madagascar works closely with Malagasy authorities on issues related to conservation such as protected areas, land-use planning, and climate change adaptation. These issues can be complex and technical and many Malagasy officials do not have formal training in these areas. CI/Madagascar therefore provides training, materials and tools to support these decision makers in their governance work. We engage them as true partners, providing data that can inform analysis and decision making.


The work at CAZ is being amplified through communications efforts. CI/Madagascar works closely with national and international media, providing incentives for them to report on activities at CAZ. These efforts raise awareness among the public about the importance of conservation issues and how conservation can contribute to Madagascar’s overall development.

CI/Madagascar also supports other communications activities such as participating in the organization of national celebrations of awareness-raising events like World Environment Day, Biodiversity Day, Wetlands Day, Forests Day and Climate Change events. Updates of conservation activities are shared with the general public and partner organizations through the news media, regular newsletters, websites and rural radio. One of the most successful approaches for increasing the coverage of conservation in the news media has been by providing regular trainings and information to journalists and using competitions to encourage high-quality reporting on environmental issues.

Key lessons

Although the context at CAZ is unique, many of the circumstances, challenges, and issues are similar to those faced elsewhere. The tension between conservation and development, the pressure exerted by outside interests, and the multiple actors implicated are issues that exist in many places. We feel our efforts are proving successful and that a few key factors have contributed greatly to this:

Although time-consuming and expensive, the effort put into developing partnerships has ensured that the protected area now benefits from a broad alliance of diverse stakeholders that share a common vision for creating and managing this large new protected area.

The emphasis on building the capacity of organizations in the corridor and the development of good, effective governance at a landscape scale.

The provision of incentives to local people for conservation, whether through conservation agreements, grants linked to natural resource stewardship, or nature-based enterprise such as ecotourism.

CI’s sustained presence and investment in the corridor combined with a recognition that long term financial sustainability is a key element to success.

Looking ahead

CI works with societies to secure ecosystem services that flow from natural systems to meet both current and future needs. The key to securing ecosystem services for the benefit of people is to demonstrate success in specific places and then scale-up those successes for broad-level impact.

CI/Madagascar is demonstrating that economic development in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor is possible with effective stewardship of the forest. This model, the green economy model, is a way to bring economic opportunity to people today while safeguarding this same opportunity for future generations.

CI/Madagascar is supporting the management of CAZ’s natural capital in a way that sustains flows of ecosystem services, people will benefit, economic development will be furthered, and nature will be conserved. This model reinforces the imperative codependent relationship between humans and nature. The lessons learned at CAZ are helping to refine the model and apply it to other landscapes in Madagascar. They are also influencing decision makers and policies.

By focusing on conserving healthy ecosystems that provide the ecosystem services upon which people depend, we are safeguarding the natural capital that is needed for economic activity.