Rakotondralambo, H., Ndranto, R. 2014. Extractive sector and environmental civil society in Madagascar. GREAT insights, Volume 3, Issue 7. July/August 2014.
What is the Alliance Voahary Gasy (AVG) all about?(1)
Given the continued plundering of natural resources on an unprecedented scale (e.g. trafficking in protected species and the illegal logging of precious woods, particularly rosewood) and after 20 years of implementing an environment programme, in 2009 the associations and NGOs working on the environment decided to create a platform called the Alliance Voahary Gasy. This aimed at establishing a strong environmental civil society, one which is respected, heeded and responsible for contributing to the well-being of the Malagasy through proper natural resource management.’ Currently, 32 associations and NGOs are members and focus on environmental governance involving several specific themes: protected forests and areas; mining and extractive industries; water and ecological services; trafficking in natural resources; and marine and coastal ecosystems – all through capacity-building projects, networking, advocacy/lobbying, environmental justice and, above all, communication.
Fully embracing its role as a true civil society actor, the AVG has, through these thematic committees, developed a policy framework document to develop its vision, where mining and extractive industries are tied to securing the legal, institutional and economic environment of the sector, followed by a securing of investments and giving priority to the effective management of databases and technical, legal and institutional data. In this way, the AVG promotes a set of founding ideals by promoting good governance in the mining industry, through a specific vision, namely that ‘the extractive industries sector constitutes an area characterised by exemplary governance and is a driving force behind sustainable socio-economic development at various levels in Madagascar’.
What about the extractive sector in Madagascar?
Initially, Madagascar was not a mining-oriented country, but given the changing international context, combined with constant population growth(2) and the thirst for development, the ‘Big Island’ has become a new el dorado for large mining companies always searching for new resources to meet the growing needs of today’s world. The Malagasy substratum, particularly in the western part of the island, is rich in deposits and minerals (e.g. precious(3) and decorative stones, gems and industrial ores: chromite, graphite, mica, zircon, ilmenite, nickel, iron, titanium, uranium, copper, coal, fusing (lascas) and piezoelectric quartz, etc.)
Currently, a number of large mining projects are active and/or operational, such as Ambatovy for nickel and cobalt, QMM (QIT Minerals Madagascar)/Rio Tinto and Toliara Sands for ilmenite and chromium carried out by Kraoma (Kraomita Malagasy), while others are in the embryonic stage, such as Wisco in Soalala for iron, and vanadium/nickel–copper/silver–gold at sites in Fotadrevo, Vohibory and Ampanihy carried out by Malagasy Minerals, Green Giant Project and Energizer.
In addition to deposits, Madagascar is a petroleum treasure trove, both on- and offshore. Some 17 major oil companies are carrying out exploration operations on the ground. Following the example of Madagascar Oil in Tsimiroro (heavy oil), such exploration has borne fruit. Indeed, the latter plans to ‘sell 55,000 barrels in the local market over a period of six months starting from the second half of this year’. ‘Heavy oil is intended more for industries using generators which mix it with diesel oil. It will be sold at a price that will cover the costs of production and transport,’ Stewart Ahmed, the company’s managing director, announced at a press conference in May.(4) Inspired by this turn of events, the country’s president Hery Rajaonarimampianina spoke favourably of Madagascar becoming an oil-producing country, proudly proclaiming at the ceremony commemorating the first oil produced in the country, in Tsimiroro, on 18 June: ‘For the first time in its history, Madagascar has become an oil-producing country. This dream come true is a gift from God, and it is a source of pride for which we largely have the solidarity of public and private stakeholders to thank – namely Madagascar Oil Limited, OMNIS (Office des mines nationales et des industries stratégiques, a Malagasy government organisation run by the Ministry of Energy responsible for hydrocarbons and mining) and ONE (Office Nationale de l’Environnement, the National Commission for the Environment).(5)
In its current position, Madagascar has set a course for economic recovery. The development of the mining sector, a strategic resource for social and economic growth in Madagascar, is a hot topic. In addition to the central government and private companies, various technical and financial partners have an interest in this development, having expressed their views in a number of studies and publications. In its 2013 Country Environmental Analysis, the World Bank, for example, launched a clear secondary message, namely that ‘natural resources will be a determining factor in the country’s future. Human development will result from the effective transformation of natural capital into productive human capital. The effectiveness of such a transformation depends on the good governance of natural resources.’
Issuing of mining permits has been halted owing to the recent political situation in Madagascar, and a resumption is eagerly awaited, particularly by the private sector and other partners. This follows the last Salon international des mines (International Mining Trade Fair) held from 19 to 21 June to help give new impetus to the mining sector. In the plan it submitted to the president’s office and to the Ministry of Strategic Resources, the new ministry is planning to implement national policies in respect of mining and the issue of permits.
Judging from all these good intentions and big promises, the machinery is indeed in place and operational, but are we well and truly ready to enter into a mining and oil era which is supposed to further the development of Madagascar and, more importantly, human development?
Civil society: outlooks and initiatives
The Alliance Voahary Gasy, an environmental civil society actor, has laid the foundation for promoting good governance in the sector through its policy document. Its vision for the good governance of mineral resources advocates consistency across sector activities using environmental and land use planning mechanisms, while emphasising information, education, and communication – the basis for all employment. As a civil society actor, the AVG can represent the citizens of Madagascar, particularly the most vulnerable,(6) and, in that capacity, must espouse the profound meaning of the following two challenges: (1) its right to be consulted, taken into account and considered as a key player; and (2) its responsibility to challenge, mobilise, advocate, put forward ideas, anticipate and raise objections.
Over the last three years, the AVG has challenged the potential exploitation of unconventional oil, which could be very detrimental to human development; clearly outlined the social responsibility that Chinese extractive industries must assume; developed as part of a participatory process an initial regional order on mining governance; and, working together with the private sector, introduced a freephone number people can call to report any potential abuses involving the exploitation of natural resources in Madagascar.
During his presentation on mining impacts on 23 June 2014, the AVG’s president, Mr. Razakamanarina Ndranto, said: ‘Madagascar risks being hit head-on by the resource curse because the current state of governance (characterised by widespread corruption, inadequate public consultation, the lack of a shared vision for the sustainable management of natural resources, etc.) cannot protect or promote the interests of the Malagasy. Public involvement and a true civil society are the keys to establishing good governance of mining activities at the regional level. Investing in public involvement programmes, access to information and access to a grievance mechanism will significantly reduce social and environmental conflicts at all levels.’
Razakamanarina Ndranto, President of the Alliance Voahary Gasy, Platform for Malagasy Civil Society for the Environment, following a meeting with the European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, in June 2014.
Holly Rakotondralambo is Head of the AVG’s Mining and Extractive Industries Commission(7) and Razakamanarina Ndranto is President of the Alliance Voahary Gasy, Platform for Malagasy Civil Society for the Environment
This article was originally written in French, the version of which is available on the ECDPM website.
Le secteur extractif et la société civile environnementale à Madagascar
 Source: Embassy of France in Madagascar/MINER – DGTIPE 2007.
 Beryl: emerald; corundum: ruby, sapphire; celestite; tourmaline; quartz varieties; garnet.
 Published in the Politics section of the daily Malaza, no. 2880, on 19 June 2014.
 By ‘the vulnerable’, we mean any individual who is affected by the exploitation of resources, who is unable to act, and who must thus bear the serious consequences of decisions taken.
 See www.alliancevoaharygasy.mg.