The wealth of trees and the pressures of population
GDP, MAP, population, funding
It is a pleasure to introduce the second in what promises, and deserves, to be a long series of this journal on the importantareas of conservation and development in Madagascar.The first edition was impressive both in its breadth of subjects and in its depth of detail. This edition has more of a focus, and the subject is principally trees. The richness of the forests in Madagascar and the wealth of remarkable creaturesthey support are well-known. The pressures on the forests are equally well-known, and lie at the heart of the issues that dominate debate on the balance of development and conservation. It is now increasingly evident that the need to conserve natural assets is not only compatible with economic and social development but is to a large extent dependent on it: people desperate for resources to live cannot be expected to be as sparing of precious trees and the like as others would want them to be. But it is also clear that the potential drivers of economic development in Madagascar can bring their own pressures on the environment, in areas such as mining (due to increase its contribution from 4% of GDP now to 30% by 2012), road - building and even tourism, even though sensible eco - tourism is the type of development that seems well-suited to satisfy the interests of all parties. The proposals in President Ravalomanana’s Madagascar Action Plan do at least reflect his concern to protect the natural resources of the country, and he has made substantial steps in increasing protected areas of the natural environment while promoting a better business environment to encourage investment. The pressure of population growth is of critical importance. When I was first in Madagascar in 1967 the country’s population was 6 million. Now it is estimated to be some 19 million and is forecast to grow to more than 50 million by the year 2030. Substantial economic growth is needed just to match that growth in population, let alone to improve living standards, and the impact of such large numbers of people on natural resources is considerable. It is of crucial importance that the Malagasy government is able to make good progress towards its target of reducing the average size of families to 3 - 4 children from the present figure of 5.4. I would like to mention the issue of funding, and to finish with a request for some assistance. The running costs of the journal are remarkably low: the articles that are submitted are done so freely; the editors contribute their time for no charge; and the fact that the journal is distributed online keeps publishing costs down. However, there are still lay - out charges that amount to several thousand Euros. The editors would also like, with good reason, to be able to distribute the journal more widely in Madagascar itself and they believe that they can best achieve this by offering there a paper as well as an electronic version, which would entail printing costs of a similar amount. If you are able to contribute in any way, or if you have any suggestions on the raising of funds, then please do get in touch with the editors.