Biodiversity offsets: incorporating considerations of ecosystem services and impacts of poverty?

Economic development and the environment are inextricably linked but in many cases progress in one area has negative impacts on the other. For example, creating natural reserves can help to preserve habitats and ecosystem services but negatively impact local communities by limiting their access to agricultural land. 
Biodiversity offset is one mechanism which seeks to address this issue by linking the poorest (rural people in developing countries) with the wealthiest (such as mining companies) to improve equity and fairness (such as compensating for any environmental degradation caused by mining activities). The project, based in Madagascar, examined the potential impacts of biodiversity offset mechanisms on ecosystem services and poverty. It also looked at whether local livelihoods are taken into account in the development of biodiversity offset national and international policies.
Key findings of the project included:
  1. Biodiversity offsets are used to address environmental impacts of development; although offsets are spreading, their social impacts have received little attention.
  2. A biodiversity offset project in Madagascar highlights the intertwined positive and negative impacts on local people’s wellbeing.
  3. Positive impacts include donations and training provided by the offset project but they are perceived to be too late and too little to properly compensate for the conservation restrictions.
  4. The social impacts of the offset for the largest mine in this low-income country are mainly negative and are not fairly distributed, with the poorest and most forest dependent not receiving the most social compensation. Consideration of social impacts matters for sustainability of offsets and justice.
  5. There are stringent standards relating to the local costs of offsets.
  6. However there is a major gap between policies and practice on the ground.
  7. This must be resolved if offsets are to equitably contribute to conservation.

About Dr Cecile Bidaud Rakotoarivony

Cécile is a socio-anthropologist specialised in environmental policies analysis and forest governance. She has a PhD in development studies and her project, hosted by Bangor University, focused on biodiversity offsets – a market based mechanism aimed at enhancing both economic development and conservation of natural areas.

Fellow: Dr Cecile Bidaud Rakotoarivony
Host Institution: Bangor University
Start Date: 01/07/14
End Date: 31/05/16
Grant Ref No: FELL-2014-102
Authors: Bidaud, C.; Schreckenberg, K.; Rabeharison, M.; Ranjatson, P.; Gibbons, J.; Jones, J.P.G.
Year: 2017
ESPA Fellow
Country: Madagascar
Lead Mentor
Organisation: Bangor University
Country: United Kingdom
Organisation: University of Antananarivo
Country: Madagascar
Organisation: University of Southampton
Country: United Kingdom