In 2008, in cooperation with WWF and the GoodPlanet foundation, the French company AIR FRANCE launched a program to fight deforestation in Madagascar and invested 5 million euros in protecting more than 500,000 ha of forest. The so-called Holistic Conservation Program for Forest (HCPF) has multiple objectives: protecting endangered forests, replanting and restoring, creating new protected areas, and training local communities in the principles of sustainable management of their living heritage.
The HCPF activities are carried out on 5 WWF sites in moist forest (379,974 ha) and dry forest (126,798 ha). According to the company, this large-scale area represents close to 32 million tonnes of stored carbon that can be preserved by lowering the present rate of deforestation. This should support the AIR FRANCE "Climate Plan" strategy, especially in reducing its C02 emissions.
But the AIR FRANCE Program has been criticized since scientists and some NGOs have revealed latent and visible conflicts in the sites covered by the project.
Slash-and-burn agriculture is forbidden in the HCPF areas. And yet, most of forest people in Madagascar currently depend on clearing forest to establish new agricultural land. Also, they depend on forest products for cooking fuel and construction materials. People living closest to the forest also depend, to varying degrees, on forest products for food, medicine, livestock fodder and pasture.
In Ifotaka, WWF has developed ground patrols and an aerial surveillance. Peasants who practice slash-and-burn are fined: they have to pay 30$ and give a zebu (which costs 150$). This is absolutely ridiculous in a country where average income is around 40$/month. And if they cannot pay, they risk criminal sanction (6 months to 1 year imprisonment). This situation has increased social conflicts in Ifotaka, and according to local communities, there is an atmosphere of denunciations in this area. Some peasants had to stop traditional agriculture and became workers in the Program “Food for Work” supported by World Food Program.
International EJOs like Friends of the Earth and investigative journalists from BASTA! consider it as a human rights issue. They are concerned about the future of forest people in this region. Some local civil society organisations thought the AIR FRANCE carbon offset would benefit local communities. This is a problem of unequal distribution of costs and benefits of conservation. The high costs of verification of carbon storage are also an issue, these are "transaction costs" that benefit expert companies but detract from revenue that could go to local people.
Those opposing the project in Amis de la Terre, France, state: "The development of the HCPF takes away entire forest areas from local populations, displaced and that see their means of subsistence reduced. So that a small minority can continue to pollute the planet, we require the world's poorest people to change their way of life: forests and land are no longer natural areas but have become stocks of carbon that must be protected. Worse, to keep an eye on fraudsters, a forest police has been set up: its mission is to track down villagers who clear patches of forest to grow food to feed themselves. Anybody caught in the act risks a heavy fine. If the individual is unable to pay, they are sent to prison.
And as if patrols on the ground were not enough, aeroplanes fly above the villages to keep a better eye on them!"