Madagascar's forests contain more than 4000 species of trees and large shrubs. There are 490 native tree genera, and 33% of them are endemic to Madagascar, including the Comoros Islands [1]. Madagascar's natural forest is highly fragmented, with 46% within 100 meters of a cleared area or open area. Natural forests cover 11.5 million hectares or 15% of the national territory. According to 2019 data, about 50% of the forest is made up of tropical rainforest, 29% of dry forest, 19% of thorn forest and 2% of mangrove [2]. Madagascar also has a large area of ​​coral reefs.

The eastern part of Madagascar is home to tropical rainforests, while the western and southern sides of the island are covered with dry and thorny tropical forests, thorn forests, deserts, and shrub areas. Dry forests are home to hundreds of native plant and animal species - for example, of the 12 species of baobab, all seven are found in Madagascar and six of them are endemic to Madagascar [3].

In Madagascar, deforestation and forest degradation are among the greatest threats to terrestrial ecosystems.  The country loses around 200,000 hectares per year due to deforestation. Recent studies from the Centre for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International indicate that if the rate of forest reduction remains at the current level of 0.55% per year, all of Madagascar's forests will be lost within 40 years [3].


The main drivers of deforestation in Madagascar are slash-and-burn agriculture, grazing pressures and the collection of firewood and coal. These drivers are enhanced due to population pressures and due to lack of access to sustainable alternative energy sources. In addition, agricultural productivity is low. Madagascar also suffers from lack of proper protection of forests and from an ineffective land tenure system.

Illegal exploitation of forest resources is also a crucial concern. In 2009, the illegal exploitation of wildlife (wild gallows and CITES and non-CITES species), forest products and natural resources, including in protected areas, and especially the precious wood (rosewood and ebony) alarmingly increased and still poses a serious threat to the conservation of biodiversity. In addition, wildfires, either natural or of anthropogenic origin, pose a threat to terrestrial biodiversity. Areas particularly threatened by fires are the Eastern Bioma and different Highlands vegetation as the Tapia formation and rupicolous formation at Itremo [4], [5], [6].

Moreover, the increasing impact of climate Change is causing coral bleaching and the rising sea levels together with intensifying extreme weather events could cause beach erosion and coastal ecosystems of the Indian Ocean islands [4].


Key policies and governance approach

In Madagascar, the Malagasy Environment Charter is a legal framework that defines the various aspects of legislation relating to the sustainable natural resources use, sustainable marine [4]. Forest management in Madagascar evolved from centralized top-down legislation to more decentralized forms of governance. An important institution in Madagascar in the forestry sector is the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.

On the back of the the 2011-2020 Biodiversity Strategic Plan, adopted at the tenth Conference of the Parties (COP-10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Madagascar developed it’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) for 2015-2015, were the main implementation instruments of the Convention at the national level are presented [4].  

In addition, Madagascar has a Protected Areas Management Code (COAP), which establishes three categories of protected areas: the Natural Reserve (NR), the National Park (NP) and Special Reserve (SR).

A new legal framework was adopted to the COAP in 2015 providing an opportunity for the actor participation from other than state institutions in the management and governance of protected areas (local communities, associations and NGOs, private sector and local authorities [4].


Successes and remaining challenges

Due to a strong awareness and involvement of the Malagasy civil society in the biodiversity conservation, mainly after the implementation of the National Environmental Action Programme (NEAP), the deforestation rate fell by half from 1990 to 2010. This rate was 0.83% annually over 1990-2000 and to 0.4% from 2005 to 2010 [4]In addition, Madagascar has succeed in the implementation of the NSSMB and the National Environmental Action Plan in the past by increasing the protected areas from 3% to about 8% of the country’s total area (4,751,895 ha). In 2009 for example, the Humid Dense Forest of the East, composed of 6 national parks with a total area of about 479,661 ha, was nominated as a World Heritage site. Additionally, reforestation efforts have covered an area of 34,925 ha and, in 2008, the fight against bush fires resulted in a 75% reduction in burned areas compared to 2002 [7].

The forestry sector suffers from the same financial and institutional shortcomings as other sectors. The main challenges relate to the general weakness of institutional and technical capacities in Madagascar. The national Reduction of emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation (REDD +) plan focuses on the preservation of carbon-rich humid forests with the best prospects for carbon credits. However, it does not address the low carbon dry and spiny forests that are home to many rare and endemic plant and animal species in Madagascar [2]. In addition, communities in Madagascar are already seeing the effects of deforestation on their lives and livelihoods, hence the success of the fight against deforestation in Madagascar will require above all the involvement of local communities.


Initiatives and Development Plans

Madagascar’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development signed a landmark agreement on February 5, 2021, with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Fund (FCPF), providing up to $ 50 million for efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation until 2024 [8]. With this  Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) in place, Madagascar is expected to reduce 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the eastern coast of the country, rich in tropical forests [8].

Madagascar demonstrates political commitment to REDD + at the national level, as well as internationally within the framework of the UNFCCC. The country’ National Communications to the UNFCCC emphasizes the opportunities of REDD+, and the associated forestry programs that it promotes are compatible with the objectives of Madagascar’s economic development.

The government of Madagascar has prepared a national REDD + financing plan to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and promote forest conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It also submitted data on the forest reference level (baseline) [2].


Goals and Ambitions

As a part of a  large-scale reforestation campaign launched by the government, Madagascar has pledged to plant 60 million trees per year to stop the alarming level of deforestation in the country [9]As part of the mitigation and adaptation actions stated in its NDS, Madagascar aims for a large scale reforestation to enable sustainable timber production and conservation of indigenous species, as well as the reduction of  forest timber extraction and enhanced monitoring of forests and grassland forests. Magagascar also aims for restoration of natural habitats (forests and mangroves: 45,000 ha; lakes, streams, etc. and reinforcement of  habitat connectivity). As a result of these actions, Madacasgar is expecting to restore 55,000 hectares of primary forest areas and mangroves before 2030 and halt receding shorelines progression in the most affected coastal zones [10].



  • In order to preserve the unique biodiversity and for the country to adapt to and mitigate climate change, global community needs to support Madagascar in its restoration and conservation efforts.
  • The opportunities and recommended actions for Madagascar as identified in its Nationally Determined Contribution (CDN) are large-scale adoption of agroforestry; reinforced monitoring of forests and grasslands; large-scale reforestation for sustainable timber production and native species for conservation and the promotion of REDD+.
  • Additionally, it is recommended that Madagascar maintains and increases urban green spaces and tree cover and extend reforestation and forest management efforts and initiatives beyond Madagascar's protected areas.