Banner image of a mountainous forest in Comoros

Conservation Agreements in the Comoros

Evidence-informed forest conservation and restoration for people and biodiversity.

Deforestation in the Comoros, an archipelago nation between Madagascar and Mozambique, threatens both biodiversity and human livelihoods. Conventional approaches to address this have been largely unsuccessful.

We will draw on a decade of experience from the Comoros and insights from international research on conservation agreements (including a unique Randomized Control Trial of a Bolivian program) to design conservation agreements ready for scaling up to conserve and restore the remaining forest on Anjouan Island, Comoros.

This project brings the Comorian NGO Dahari together with scientists from Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences and Oxford University’s Department of Biology, supplemented with independent external experts on particular topics.

This is a two-year project financed by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.

Project background

The Comoro Islands are a tropical archipelago located in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar. While they have exceptional biodiversity, being home to numerous endemic species, they also suffer one of the highest rates of deforestation anywhere in the world. Anjouan, one of the four islands, lost 80% of its native forests between 1995 and 2014. 

This extreme deforestation leads to consequences not only for the natural environment on the island, but also for the people who live there: water shortages and land degradation threaten agriculture and heavy soil erosion silts up the reefs, reducing productivity of fishing. Meanwhile, many communities are highly dependent on extensive farming, which combined with a dense and rising population results in fields getting smaller and livelihoods becoming more marginal with each generation. Environmental destruction and poverty thus form a vicious circle in which people are forced to cut down trees and clear forest for agricultural land, which in turn makes the environmental situation worse. 

Conventional approaches to address this problem have been largely unsuccessful. Protected areas, only established for the first time in 2018 on Anjouan, lack support and enforcement of environmental laws is uncommon. Weak social cohesion also makes it difficult to take conservation action at a community level.

Dahari, an environmental NGO working on three of the Comoro Islands, has been working to conserve forest on Anjouan since 2013. In 2021 they took the decision to build on a successful pilot conservation agreement program, which had conserved 7 of the 15 roost sites of the critically endangered Livingstone’s flying fox (Pteropus livingstonii), by basing their 5-year strategic plan on conservation agreements. Dahari has the long-term goal of conserving 1000 hectares of the remaining native forest on Anjouan through agreements with around 1000 highland farmers.

Researchers from Bangor University and Oxford University are working closely with Dahari to develop innovative and evidence-informed agreements for conservation and restoration of Anjouan’s native forest. Very unusually, the program will be implemented as a staged Randomized Control Trial, ensuring that robust impact evaluation is built in from the start. 

The team is drawing on a decade of experience with randomized experiments. Dr. Edwin Pynegar worked on the design and evaluation of the world-leading Watershared incentive-based water and forest conservation program in Bolivia, as both a researcher and practitioner. Professor Julia Jones led a Leverhulme Trust-funded project on the evaluation of Watershared and has studied tropical forest conservation in Madagascar and around the world for over 20 years. These experiences will be key to the design of both the new conservation agreements program in the Comoros as well as its associated randomized evaluation. 

Our goal is therefore that this project, funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative, will influence conservation practice internationally by providing a model for genuinely research-informed, evaluation-focused conservation and researcher-practitioner integration from the very beginning. Also, it represents the first step in a long process to conserve and restore the forests of Anjouan and other islands of the Comoros, and thereby secure water supplies, improve livelihood resilience and conserve endemic species. Read on to find out more about the team and what we are doing from day to day!

Our Activities

  • Design an evidence-backed Conservation Agreements program together with both local people and internationally recognized experts, to support farmers in conserving and restoring forests in the highlands of Anjouan.
  • Implement the program together with at least 40 farmers.
  • Establish a Randomized Control Trial to embed robust, counterfactual impact evaluation in the rollout of the program.
  • Train Dahari technicians in data collection and monitoring techniques.
  • Work with other partners and stakeholders in the Comoros and beyond to share lessons from the project.

Meet the team

This project brings the Comorian NGO Dahari together with scientists from Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences and Oxford University’s Department of Biology, supplemented with independent external experts on particular topics. 

To learn more about the Dahari team, take a look here (English) or here (French). 

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