Biodiversity Integration and Rural Development

Madagascar and Comoros suffer from extremely high levels of poverty, and sustainable co-evolution between society and ecosystems is reaching a critical level. Due to the on-going loss of forest cover, biodiversity is dramatically declining in these regions.

Project Templates

By integrating biodiversity valorisation and rural development in the world biodiversity hotspots of Madagascar and Comoros, the project will contribute to the development and dissemination of innovative biodiversity conservation policies. More specifically, it will:

  • Strengthen the capacity of managing biodiversity and natural habitats;
  • Contribute to improved alternative measures for biodiversity conservation by the local population;
  • Promote community initiatives for a sustainable use of natural resources; and
  • Empower local communities through information, education and communication for behavioural change.

The local economy is mainly based on natural resources exploitation and no sustainable development policies are applied. Preserving forests and biodiversity, together with a sustainable co-development between society and ecosystems, is going to be crucial.

Numerous governmental environmental protection measures have not been enough for conserving biodiversity, mainly due to poor involvement of local workforce and experts in conservation practices, insufficient knowledge of the islands patterns of species, and to the low level of awareness of local communities on conservation issues. A new bottom-up approach is required to formulate development policies, which have to involve institutional and research bodies, as well as civil society, in particular, universities, biodiversity research organisations, agricultural research associations, forest management entities and local farmers associations.

The main problems the project is facing are:

  • Lack of availability of professionals (i.e. guides for researchers and tourists) working in the protected areas, despite the increase of them;
  • Insufficient crop diversification and low productivity due to wrong agricultural practices; and
  • Over exploitation of wood resources for cooking and heating.

The involvement of local villagers and their participation on the field will allow for:

  • Dissemination of best practices in the sustainable management of biodiversity and agriculture;
  • Improved productivity of crops and commercialisation of village products (e.g. strawberries, fresh and dried fruits including apples, apricots and peaches; African eggplants; okra and nightshades) at the local level; and
  • Enhanced energy self-sufficiency by using solar energy for the transformation of agricultural products (drying) and for domestic use.

The project will present an opportunity for local rural communities to learn:

  • how to increase and diversify agricultural production;
  • to have more high-quality food for local consumption and sale; and
  • to use and maintain renewable energy systems.

Activities in the Maromizaha Forest and Comoros will also encourage qualified professionals to promote educational programmes, cultural tourism and research tourism in protected areas.

Establishment of a multi-purpose centre
The centre will support capacity building activities to develop new professionals and improve the livelihood activities of local people. It will serve as a future office for the biodiversity manager; as a classroom for the lessons given in the training courses to managers, biodiversity guides and tourist guides; as a data collection centre where trained professionals will be able to insert data in a biodiversity database; and it will contribute to the team building of local professionals. Finally, it will be a good practice example of a building that uses renewable energy.

Organisation of technical courses building solar driers
The use of the solar ovens or driers is pivotal to reduce the use of wood for the production of energy. With the participation of the population, at least 20 solar ovens will be installed at the community level to introduce this new form of energy for drying agricultural products.  In particular, solar ovens for fruit production and solar energy home kits will be installed in the following villages: Anevoka, Andranobe, Tsiafahy and Laniera. Furthermore, a technician in the system maintenance will be trained.

Organisation of a three-year training programme for protected areas managers
Three forest managers of Maromizaha and two from Comoros will participate in seminars at the multi-purpose centre and in ongoing activities such as collecting biodiversity data, creating a database and entering an international standard data network. Furthermore, the managers will be trained to develop the tourist potential of protected areas and to prepare successful grant applications to ensure funds for future projects.

Setting up of a research training guide
The new protected areas in Madagascar and Comoros need new professionals capable of promoting research tourism and monitoring the biodiversity trend. At least five researcher guides will be trained to work in the protected areas of the region.

Training of tourist guides
Protected forest areas have potential in terms of tourist development, on a local and international scale. Moreover, educational programmes will be arranged for students. At least 20 tourist guides will be trained to lead guided tours in the forests of Maromizaha and Comoros Islands.

Training of agricultural techniciansin agricultural innovative models
Farmers will be trained in using new cultivation models and new crops to reduce deforestation and to ensure food self-sufficiency. The dissemination of this practice is pivotal to ensure the long-term sustainability of the agricultural system. With the involvement of local agricultural associations and universities, at least 20 farmers will be trained and two hectares of experimental soil will be cultivated with fruits and vegetables.


  • A community standard model in collecting and managing data on biodiversity, climate, plant and fauna to ease the use and comparison of data for local and international communities involved in biodiversity and climate research.
  • At least 20 solar oven driers installed at the community level.
  • Agricultural production increased and diversified.
  • At least 250 new science and educational tourists visiting the protected areas of Madagascar and Comoros.


  • At least five managers trained in managing the protected areas and the research programmes.
  • At least 20 tourist guides trained in managing tourist flows and educational programmes.
  • At least 12 farmers trained in appropriate agricultural practices and crop diversification and in solar energy transformation methods.
  • Active preservation and valorisation of local agro-biodiversity.
  • Deforestation practices reduced.
  • Energy self-sufficiency increased at the family level by using solar home kits.
  • Local communities empowered in understanding the needs and issues of development policies.
  • Increased trade between villages of agro-products.
Grant: FED/2009/217077
Project duration: 36 months (from 20/10/2009 to 19/10/2012)- CLOSED
EC funding: EUR 907,626.22
Total budget: EUR 1,134,532.77
Project contact:

Prof. Cristina Giacoma
Università Degli Studi di Torino (UNITO)
Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’Uomo (DBAU)
Via Accademia Albertina, 13
10123 Torino
Tel: +39-011-670.4558
Fax: +39-011-236.4558 / 670.4508
E-mail: cristina.giacoma [at]

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