ESPA Researcher wins 2015 Young Women in Conservation Biology Award

An Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)-funded research project has contributed to a top award for Julie Razafimanahaka, a researcher in the P4GES project. The Africa Section of the Society of Conservation Biology (SCB) created the Young Women Conservation Biologists Award (YWCB) to recognize the achievements of young women in Africa who advance the discipline of conservation biology on the continent. The panel were impressed by Julie’s exemplary commitment and contribution to conservation in Madagascar and her growth from volunteer researcher to director of Madagasikara Voakajy in less than one decade. 
Madagasikara Voakajy is a Malagasy biodiversity organisation dedicated to the conservation of endemic vertebrates and their habitats in Madagascar. As director Julie has built relationships with communities, regional leaders and national government partners, while continuing to manage high quality conservation research. She is leading the research into benefits from wild-harvested products and is jointly responsible for overall project management and interdisciplinary integration. 
Julie is also a key member of the ESPA research programme, ‘P4GES: Can Paying for Global Ecosystem Services reduce poverty?’ The project, based in the tropical forests of Madagascar, explores how international Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes can be designed to both encourage conservation and reduce poverty. There are many PES schemes in operation throughout the world yet there are few, if any, multi-dimensional assessments of how successful they are. 
Two patches of slash and burn plots at the boundary of Zahamena National Park, Madagascar
In Madagascar political instability, lack of good data on the distribution of populations, and the high transaction costs of working in hard-to-reach rural areas make it challenging to ensure the benefits from any ecosystem service scheme are distributed equitably. The ESPA P4GES project brings together a range of specialists including sociologists, economists, ecologists, hydrologists and modellers to explore the complex ways that PES schemes affect the forest and the lives of poor people. 
The project is targeting some of the most important questions including how agriculture is affected by forest conservation, what are the costs (and who bears those costs) of reducing wild-product harvesting and how political and social structures affect how payments might be distributed and to whom. The P4GES team are working closely with stakeholders in Madagascar and around world to try and ensure the results can be used by those in a position to make a difference to decisions about how forests, and their vital ecosystem services, are protected while ensuring the best possible outcomes for local communities.
Julie’s achievements in gaining the 2015 Young Women in Conservation Biology Award will be recognised at an awards ceremony with other SCB awardees from around the world at the upcoming Society for Conservation Biology meeting (International Congress for Conservation Biology) in Montpellier, France, 2-6 August, 2015