Photojournalism in Madagascar Intro

Hey everyone, good to be blogging for the Charles Center again!

If any of you followed my research last summer, you’ll find that it shares a lot of parallels with what I’m doing this year (see previous posts or for more information).  I’m now in the process of finalizing my visit to Madagascar (buying tickets, arranging lodging, etc), where I’ll be working with Fanamby ( if you can speak French) doing a photojournalistic exploration of human-wildlife interactions.

Majestic Malagasy Baobabs

Madagascar is the world’s largest oceanic island, and during its long period of geographical separation from the mainland, evolution has yielded a diverse suite of unique flora, fauna, and landscapes.  Over 83% of Madagascar’s native plant and animal species are endemic, that is to say, found nowhere else on earth.  Its biological richness is matched only by its cultural diversity, with prominent human influences from Polynesia, Africa, Europe, and the Arab world.  It is considered to be one of the world’s highest priority biodiversity hotspots.  Tragically, mining, logging, and slash-and-burn agriculture have caused severe habitat loss across the country.  Current estimates show that less than 10% of the original forest cover remains, either as national wildlife refuges or as unprotected public land.  As conservationists struggle to preserve the last remaining wildlife refugia, conflicts of interest on the frontier between human civilization and the wilderness are at fever pitch.

Fanamby (Malagasy for “challenge”) is a Malagasy conservation non-profit organization founded in 1997 that is dedicated to fostering sustainable relationships between local people and their environment.  Many of their regional initiatives focus on promoting ecologically responsible resource use in high priority biodiversity areas that are not already protected by the government.  They accomplish this by building dynamic and participatory relationships with communities, and through a variety of sustainable community-based approaches.  For example, Fanamby developed a lucrative ecotourism project in one community, of which 100% of the profit flows directly back to the local people.  The efforts of Fanamby are a potentially inspiring case study of effective environmental management techniques in the face of dire political, socioeconomic, and ecological circumstances.

This summer, I will use in-situ photographic and ethnographic methods and social media to explore, document, analyze, and raise intra- and extramural awareness about the spectrum of interactions between Malagasy people and their environment, highlighting the crucial role that Fanamby plays in managing these interactions.  This is very similar to what I did with Projeto Tamar ( last year.  I’d like to eventually come up with a comparative analysis of the two situations, since the environmental situation in Madagascar is extremely different than in Brazil.

Hopefully, this research effort will be half as fruitful as the last, and I’ll have some really interesting things to talk about when I get back on campus on August 24 (just one day after I get back from two months in Madagascar!).  Please feel free to reply to this post or email me with any questions about my research (

Thanks for reading,



  1. Lelise Aklilu says:

    Morrison!! As soon as I saw you and you mentioned your research, I looked for your post here. I would love to hear more about your research, your findings, and moreover, your overall experience (the wildlife, the people, the NPO, and your view of it all as an American).

  2. Wow, research in Brazil and Madagascar! What wonderful places for projects on biodiversity! I would love to hear more about your findings. Are there particular species in Madagascar that are at high risk? I’m sure many insect and lemur species would be affected by logging alone. What about plant species?

    This is a really unique project because it explores both the country’s biological systems and the social factors influencing them. It would be interesting to compare not only the work of Fanamby and Tamar regarding conservation, but also the needs and interests of locals in Madagascar and Brazil, and how those needs influence the peoples’ treatment of their environment. Good luck with your presentation!