Reporting project: Understanding the Impacts of Conservation Investments in Madagascar

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With its unique flora and fauna, including extremely high levels of species endemism and at-risk wildlife, Madagascar has been a global conservation priority for decades, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in conservation funds, mostly from governments, multilateral agencies, philanthropies, and NGOs. But rising deforestation, commercial exploitation of wildlife, and degradation of critical habitats suggest that conservation investments may not be reaching their full potential. The sector’s sharp retrenchment following the country’s 2009 coup further suggests that initiatives may need to focus more on interventions that will sustain conservation in the long-term.

Now, as the pendulum swings back from a time of intense hardship toward a potential period of increased resources for conservation through growing tourism and increased overseas development aid, it is critical to understand the effectiveness of past conservation spending in Madagascar so as to inform future investments. Time is short for the country’s fast-dwindling ecosystems and the flora, fauna, and nature-dependent communities that depend on them.



Conservation effectiveness

One of the foremost challenges in global biodiversity conservation efforts is understanding the effectiveness of different types of investments, projects, and organizational strategies for achieving conservation outcomes. While there are many methods for evaluating conservation impacts, and project or program-level reviews are common, these are often unsatisfactory and lack a sufficient depth of analysis, longitudinal timescale, or comparative basis for understanding relative performance.


The project

Mongabay aims to improve the understanding of conservation impact in Madagascar through investigative journalism. This special reporting project will document and evaluate the relative performance of conservation investments made over the past 10-20 years at the scale of an entire country by examining the track records, outcomes, and trajectory of biodiversity conservation efforts in Madagascar. The project will explore in depth a cross-section of different conservation organizations and initiatives, including major international organizations, smaller or indigenous organizations, and large-scale government conservation projects, in some of the most important conservation landscapes in Madagascar.

The project is designed to address some of these fundamental questions about conservation outcomes in Madagascar:

  • What have been the major conservation successes and failures in Madagascar during the past 20 years?
  • What have conservation efforts prioritized as outcomes, and have those outcomes been achieved (or rather to what degree)?
  • What are some of the standout examples of conservation innovation, impact, and large-scale change?
    • What conservation organizations, initiatives, and strategies are most inspiring and impactful in terms of generating clear and scalable results?
  • What conservation initiatives or approaches appear to be delivering a high impact relative to the scale of their budget/size (i.e. a high return on investment)?
  • What characteristics distinguish relatively successful/unsuccessful conservation efforts on Madagascar or in the sites examined?
  • What conservation efforts appear to be most effectively targeting the underlying social, institutional, and behavioral roots of conservation problems (i.e. addressing root causes rather than superficial symptoms)?
  • What conservation efforts are doing the most/have had the most success in building indigenous Malagasy capacity for achieving conservation impact, including effectively supporting, nurturing and growing strong Malagasy organizations and institutions?
    • Is there strong and effective collaboration between international conservation organizations and local or national organizations or groups?
  • What tensions, disagreements, debates, or conflicts most greatly challenge or undermine the achievement of conservation outcomes on Madagascar?
  • What are the implications from the recent history and dynamics within conservation efforts in Madagascar, for conservation practice and investments more broadly around the world (i.e. key lessons learned)?


A journalist has been selected to produce a series of ten in-depth articles on the topic, as per our earlier announcement. However, we are also accepting pitches for individual stories that address the questions posed by this initiative until September 31, 2017. Modest funding for travel within the region is available.

Completed stories will be published on by the end of 2017 under an open Creative Commons license that allows for sharing and re-posting.

Please submit your pitch here along with your journalism resume and some clips. Pitches should be roughly 500 words in length for each proposed story. They should clearly explain the specific subject you would like to write about and your approach to covering it, describe a few potential sources, and explain whether you would need to travel to report the story. Applications must be submitted in English.