A huge number of new projects have been launched by the Malagasy Government from the late 1990s onwards and pitched as a win-win model for the country. During the last decade, especially since 2006, a variety of new agricultural and extractive projects have led to rocketing levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). (Raharinirina, 2013). In 2008, the Inbound FDI reached its highest level with USD 1.169 billion (CNUCED Madagascar 2014) with the extractive sector accounting for 74% of the total FDI (INSTAT & BCRM, 2012). Madagascar does not only attract large mining and oil companies; it has also become a “commodity frontier” for land. Burnod, Gingembre and Andrianirina (2012) reported 50 agribusiness projects between 2005 and 2010. This represents about 3 million ha. Some have been very conflictive and led to criminalization of EJOs. Some are suspended or abandoned.
Obviously, there is a link between the changing “global metabolic profile” and environmental conflicts. These last ten years, local media and The Collective for the Malagasy Land Defense TANY have repeatedly revealed cases of expropriation of peasants from their land, ethnic problems mixed with low native recruitment in the projects’ areas, displacement, low levels of compensation, criminalization of journalists and activists, pollution and contamination of rivers, or just blatant non-compliance with laws and operating standards in Madagascar. According to TANY (2011), the total number of complaints from people in distress is estimated at 2 million.
These conflicts have pushed the Malagasy communities into a more ecologically and socially vulnerable situation. They have never experienced so many environmental injustices and land grabbing cases. To date, 15 conflicts from Madagascar are reported on the EJ Atlas. They have been included in the database in collaboration with civil society organizations, both formal EJOs and informal groups, investigative journalists and scholars from Madagascar. Both highlight the distributive and structural impacts of economic activities on the health and environment of specific populations. The effects are economic, health impacts, economic, socio-cultural or environmental.
To address environmental injustices, Civil society organizations in Madagascar have mainly focused their claims on contract negotiations, securing commodity and land access, food security, and compensation issues. However, there is a visible divergence, or contradictory positions, especially about the relevance of these new commodity projects. For instance, some organizations are in favor of agricultural intensification but request fair distribution of costs and benefits, while another part are totally opposed and ask for more support to sustain family farming. For extractive projects, some civil society organizations call for the immediate stop of controversial projects and dialogue. Some organizations demand fair compensation, more jobs for local population, transparency on payments and contracts.
This divergence of objectives and perceptions within the Malagasy civil society hinders clear positions on these issues. Moreover, politics tend to create internal divisions within the civil society coalition over the past 15 years. They often create political manoeuvring in order to weaken the civil society coordination (Freudenberg 2010). It is clear that Malagasy civil society needs to be reinforced and empowered in terms of information and knowledge on how to address environmental injustices.
Vahinala RAHARINIRINA, Université de Versailles Saint Quentin (UVSQ) – International Center REEDS.
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