Cocoa Private Sector Engagement in Land-Related Issues in the Sambirano Valley, Madagascar

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Madagascar is one of the focal countries of the cocoa rehabilitation initiative carried out by the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The Climate Resilient Cocoa Landscapes in Madagascar (CRCL) project is implemented by the HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation consortium (an independent Swiss entity working in 30 countries around the world), Valrhona, Millot, Earthworm Foundation, Center for Development and Environment, Lindt & Sprüngli, Ramanandraibe Exportation (Rama Ex) and
Société Anonyme au Capital de MGA (SCIM). The consortium also includes two subcontracting entities: the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) and the Earthworm Foundation. The expected outcome of the project is that public, private, and community entities sustainably manage cocoa landscapes in Ambanja District and the Sambirano River Valley, thereby ensuring essential environmental service provision. Private sector companies in the cocoa sector (as well as vanilla and other cash crops) are potentially important drivers of change to reduce pressure on natural resources and biodiversity.

In July 2020, Helvetas organized a workshop at the level of the 15 municipalities, the inter-municipal level, and the level of the Sambirano River basin with the participation of many stakeholders such as municipalities, women’s associations, young people, cocoa producers, and traders. Several areas of interest emerged during these consultative meetings, such as conservation, exploitation of forest products, agriculture, livestock, and fishing, large commercial farms, domestic water services, service providers (including trade, tourism, and transport), social services (health, education, security) and the land sector.

Within the land sector, the problems raised included the cost of land services being too expensive (topographic and state district, and land counter), the non-existence of land-related offices, forced land grabbing, lack of awareness of laws governing land, influence peddling and corruption, and the existence of indigenous reserves whose ownership is not clear to local residents. The participants noted that most of the fertile land belongs to the old companies or colonial concessions, leaving only small plots of land for the local population, which continues to grow. Competition over land is considerable and especially accentuated by the non-existence of proof of ownership (title, land certificate) for the heirs of former owners or land resulting from purchases (e.g., settlers). During the consultations, women’s perspectives on access to land were not evident. To address these challenges, the CRCL consortium enlisted technical assistance from the USAID Integrated Land Resources Governance project.

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