In Madagascar as in others pars of the world, land is a source of well-being for current and future generations. Land provides a wide range of crucial ecosystem services that sustain human needs.  Land degradation causes several negative impacts by severely influencing livelihoods by restricting the availability of vital ecosystem services, increasing the risk of poverty a forcing people to migrate [1].

About 71 % of  Madagascar is agricultural land, and most of the country's cultivated land is inland [2]. 68% of Madagascar's land is savannah,  with the largest expanses located in the western and southern parts of the island [120]. In 2010, 1.9 million people were living on degrading agricultural land in Madagascar. The amount increased by 27% in a decade, bringing the share of rural residents that inhabit degraded agricultural land to 14% of the total rural population [1].

Almost half of the cultivated land in Madagascar is devoted to rice, which is the staple food [2]. In lowlands and alluvial marshes and plains, rice fields are irrigated. Shifting rice cultivation is common on hill ridges and upper slopes. Families often own a mountain or hillside plot which they plant in rotation, periodically leaving this land fallow or using it to cultivate cassava.

Pastoralism is also an important use of land and economic activity in Madagascar. Livestock grazing occupies 55% of the land area, and livestock provide the main household income for 60% of households [2]. In some areas, livestock ownership is a more important factor of wealth than land ownership.

Land degradation also has significant social and economic costs to Madagascar. It is estimated that the cost of land degradation in the country is around 1.7 billion USD, which is  equal to 23% of the country's Gross Domestic Product [1].


The increases of population growth put pressure on land and restricts access to land in Madagascar. In addition, the decline in soil fertility has led to an increase in the number of families settling in forest areas, causing land degradation through the construction of settlements, clearing and cultivation of forest land. High levels of soil erosion, deforestation and sandstorms have covered croplands and pastures with sand and turned arable land into wasteland throughout the region. In addition to drought, there are also sandstorms that engulf farmland and destroy farmland [3].

Land also plays also important role sequestering carbon through natural processes but also releasing carbon through respiration as well as anthropogenic activities related to agriculture, forestry, and other land use. In Madagascar, the agriculture, forestry and the land use (AFOLU) sector is responsible for nearly 90% of the total GHG emissions [1].


Key policies and governance approach

Madagascar has a pluralist legal framework governing land tenure. The country has a formal land tenure system that recognizes individual freehold tenure under formal law and community customary land systems. The systems are governed by formal laws at the national level and community rules that govern access, acquisition, and use of land. Under official law, landowners can acquire either land titles or land certificates [2].

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP) and its Directorate of Property and Land Services, Conservation of Land Documents and Domains and Land Ownership oversee the National Land Program and decentralization. The National Land Program Coordination Unit is responsible for managing the implementation of land reform, including the development of regulatory frameworks. In addition, the Land Use Planning Act (2015) obliges local governments to identify private, untitled and communal lands and ensure that they are reflected in local plans [4]

The strategy of the National Land Program, adopted in 2016, rebalanced the orientations towards decentralization and land certification, emphasizing the improvement of the decentralized land administration system and the harmonization of rules and regulations in Madagascar. In addition, the National Urban Development Policy (PNDU), approved in 2019, considers land management in urban areas to be a major issue and offers various options for upgrading the sector [5].

Sustainable Development Goal 15, ‘life on Land', and its target 15.3 on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) provided an opportunity for countries to curb the growing threats of land degradation and to reap multiple socioeconomic benefits of LDN. Madagascar has established a national voluntary LDN targets, created an LDN baseline, and formulated associated measures to achieve LDN [1].


Successes and remaining challenges

The lack of reliable land information is a threat to land management in Madagascar and urban land reform is lacking in the country [5]. This poses serious problems in the urban areas of the country which are experiencing exponential population growth, and hence deprived of land information necessary for their development.

However, land-based mitigation options are one of the most most cost-effective opportunities to sequester carbon emissions. Various economic evaluations of climate change mitigation alternatives show that capturing carbon through restoring degraded lands (including degradedforest) is a cost-effective option that offers multiple cobenefits [1].


Initiatives and Development Plans

Madagascar has implemented several projects to address land degradation together with different stakeholders. Some on-going projects and programmes supported by national and international organizations related to land-based approached include for example the Sustainable Agriculture Landscape Project, the Madagascar Agriculture Rural Growth and Land Management Project and the Sustainable Landscapesproject in Eastern Madagascar [6] [7].

The goal of the  Sustainable Agriculture Landscape Project, funded by GEF and imeplemeted by the World Bank,  is to increase access to improved irrigation services and agricultural inputs and strengthen the integrated management of natural resources in the targeted landscapes by the local actors and, to provide immediate and effective response to an eligible crisis or emergency. The estimated funding for the project is 13.70 million USD/93.00 million USD [6]. The project aims to improve rural land tenure security and access to markets of targeted farming households in selected agricultural value chains in the project areas, and to provide immediate and effective response to an eligible crisis or emergency. The project is financed by the International Development Associatio and imeplemnted by  the Ministry of Agriculture with atotal cost of 53.27 million USD [6]. The Sustainable Landscapes in Eastern Madagascar project aims to investigate landscape measures to enhance resilience of smallholders, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and channel private finance into climate-smart investments in agriculture and renewable energy [7].

In addition, the European Union (EU) and the French Development Agency (AFD) are supporting land decentralization with a € 5 million project covering 70 municipalities in Madagascar [2].


Goals and Ambitions

As its global voluntary LDN target, Madagascar commits to achieving Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030. As specific targets related to the global goal, Madagascar aims to: i) improve productivity and carbon stocks in cultivated areas and grazing areas, ii) improve the cover of green infrastructure, iii) reduce conversion of forests into other types of land cover by 2030, and to iv) reduce conversion of wetlands into other types of land cover by 2030 [1].

Madagascar has also defined various measures to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality including: i) integration the concept of land degradation neutrality within land planning, ii) integrating  the concept of land degradation neutrality within the making and/or implementation of sectoral policies/strategies, iii) reinforcing  intersectoral innovation capacity through sustainable land management and iv) mobilizing financial incentives to promote research on sustainable land management in relation to biodiversity and climate change. Moreover, Madagascar plans to reduce pasture fires, restore 400, 000 ha of landscapes using green infrastructure, and practice sustainable agriculture within parcels totaling at least 200,000 ha each year by 2025 [1].

In addition, Madagascar has committed under the Bonn Challenge to restore 4 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 [8].



[1], [9]

  • develop large-scale dissemination of intensive and improved rice cultivation techniques
  • large-scale implementation of conservation agriculture and iii) climate-smart agriculture and dissemination of arboriculture 
  • In addition, extensive research on integrated spatial planning in Madagascar is crucial to designate areas at risk, areas prone to flooding and areas where the above agricultural initiatives or planned settlements should not be allowed in the country
  • Madagascar has committed to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030, established an LDN baseline and formulate associated measures. This provides Madagascar a strong vehicle for fostering coherence of policies and actions by aligning the national LDN targets with measures from the NDS and other national commitments. Investing in LDN speeds up the advancements of other SDGs because of closes linkages to poverty, hunger, clean water and sanitation and climate action related targets