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Colby College

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Program Name

Madagascar: Ecology and Conservation


For decades, the notion of ‘sustainable development’ has been a source of international contention and debate. While the meanings and implications of sustainable development are widely disputed, it is interpreted by many as an ideal that encompasses social, environmental and economic spheres while promoting the value of human rights in development. Theoretically, this approach allows for the quality of life of current and future generations to be considered in environmental decision-making and formally recognized by national and international standards, dictated primarily by wealthy industrialized governments (Adebowale et al 138). Policy-makers in developing nations continuously face the struggle to balance the pressures of trade liberalization and globalization with sustainable resource use and environmental moderation.

Despite the controversial nature of sustainable development and its economic implications, the underlying principles and impacts are becoming an important asset to developing nations, allowing policy-makers, industries, NGO’s and other stakeholders to consider development programs that incorporate both social and environmental needs in a mutually supportive manner. However, many environmental standards and ‘sustainability initiatives’ result in cost increases which may erode existing market access conditions and reduce export competitiveness (Shahin 207, 222). While these principles play an important role in helping to define policies at the international level, I wanted to learn more about the realities and constraints which drive development at a local level in Madagascar. Too often, the notion of development and the policies which shape it become detached from the communities which suffer most from poverty, isolation, and general underdevelopment the most. In many ways, ‘development’ has become an abstract ideal, overburdened by macro policy structures which fail to address socio-cultural obstacles to progress. For my independent study, I chose to look at the relevance of local and regional development initiatives which influence sustainable resource use in Madagascar.

The objective of my independent study was to evaluate the role of the private sector in sustainable resource management and development programs in Madagascar. I spent the month with UNIMA, one of Madagascar’s largest shrimp export companies, to study the impacts of industrial shrimp exploitation in relation to development efforts, economic stability, social issues, policy structures and natural resource management. I worked with UNIMA’s fishing division, Pêcheries de Nosy-Be (PNB), to learn about the relationship between industrial and traditional fishing and their collaborative approach to managing common fish stocks in the region. While sustainable resource management was the basis of the study, I placed an emphasis on relevant local structures and issues which influence resource use in the area.

I chose to work with UNIMA, as opposed to the government or an NGO, to learn about the various dimensions of business practices which influence the private sector’s relationship with the environment and development in developing countries. Trade is playing an increasingly important role in defining the connection between industrial economic interests and the environment. Population growth and the expansion of international markets have resulted in significant increases in industrial production in most sectors, including fishing. While industrial development has increased the rate of resource depletion in many cases, the private sector has also revealed vested interests in responsible resource exploitation and development initiatives in developing nations. I was able to study the origin of “sustainable practices” and how and why they are applied in a specific context. Working with PNB, I learned about international market pressures, national policies, local resource issues and the self-defined notion of corporate responsibility that influence the company’s role Madagascar’s fishing sector.


Growth and Development | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources and Conservation


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