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Brown University

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management


In the wake of pharmaceutical success with alkaloid compounds found in the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), there has been increased attention towards identifying medicinal properties in the country’s rich flora. Both native and foreign companies seek profitable use of wild plant species found within Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. Many conservation organizations believe that the world’s forests in biological “hot spots” contain cures unknown to modern science and therefore, their preservation essential.

While the protection of these natural resources is important to Western medicine, it is even more vital for local people who depend on the forest as their primary source of healthcare. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of people in the developing world rely on traditional medicine (2007). The traditional healthcare system in Northern Madagascar, often called “aody gasy,” is a complex network of culture, tradition, health and knowledge that has sustained itself for generations, before the presence of Western medicine on the island. As modern medicine extends its reach into less developed countries, it is important to preserve these increasingly marginalized systems of knowledge and healing. This case study examines how the traditional healthcare system works in Northern Madagascar by following medicinal plant resources and their associated knowledge between Diego-Suarez’ medicinal plant marketplace and rural surrounding areas.


Environmental Health and Protection | Medical Pharmacology | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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