Moving towards self-sufficiency in Madagascar

A man checks his accounts, Anja Miray, Madagascar.
Ecotourism has provided substantial revenues for the small community of Anja Miray in Madagascar.

A Madagascar-based civil society organization, Association Anja Miray runs a community forest reserve, using ecotourism to create jobs and fund basic social infrastructure such as schools, health clinics and environmental education centers.

"Prior to our initiative, this vast territory was cleared every year for corn planting. Local communities were hunting the lemurs as a source of protein to supplement their poor food diet. Our environment was completely destroyed,” says Victor Rahaovalahy, chairman and founder of the association.

Highlights

  • The association was created to make local communities aware of the economic interest in protecting their environment.
  • 450 jobs were created and benefit 1600 people out of a population of 2500.
  • In 2011, Anja Miray received 12,000 visitors and generated US$ 45,000.
  • The initiative was selected among 800 other candidates as one of the winners of the 2012 Equator Prize.

Today, the forest is a popular attraction for tourists worldwide. In 2011, Anja Miray received 12,000 visitors and generated US$ 45,000 for the association. “With the income generated by ecotourism and the sale of handmade items, we were able to build two schools for our children and also pay the teachers’ salaries,” says Victor.

Ecotourism has also provided substantial revenues for alternative farming and new investments in agriculture, fishery and tree nurseries, helping the community become self-sufficient in food.

The association was created in 2001 with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, to make local communities aware of the economic interest in protecting their environment. Eleven years later, Anja Miray has capitalized on its experience and was selected among 800 other candidates as one of the winners of the 2012 Equator Prize.

A UNDP-led partnership that brings together governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to highlight local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the Equator Prize is awarded every two years to 25 communities around the world. All 25 recipients of the prize receive US$5,000, with 10 selected for “special recognition” and a total of US $20,000 each.

On 20 June, representatives from Anja Miray travelled to Brazil to receive their award at the Rio+20 summit. “Our main message to Rio+20 is to advocate for those isolated and vulnerable communities of Madagascar so that our leaders can … support our work as farmers, … so that we can achieve sustainable management of our unique source of living : our natural resources”, says Victor.

By Solange Nyamulisa

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