Madagascar Global Journey: Learnings from our field scan

For generations the relationship between people and planet has been imbalanced. This decade is our big opportunity to start getting it right.

Fires in California, Brazil, Australia and elsewhere served as a reminder of the scale and urgency of the challenge. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, world leaders pledged to plant one trillion trees to reforest the world and restore precious natural habitats.

In the run-up to the general election in the UK, the parties competed over who would plant the most trees if elected. The trend isn’t confined to the West – on January 19, the President of Madagascar launched the most ambitious reforestation scheme in its history, pledging to plant sixty million trees to mark sixty years of independence, and to mobilise all Malagasy people in a proud national effort to restore L’île Verte (The Green Island).

All of this raises the question – is tree-planting becoming a patriotic, even a populist policy to protect and restore the environment? Is that a good thing? More importantly, is it enough?

At TPW we recently returned from Madagascar, having conducted our field scan for the 2020 Global Journey. The fires in Madagascar may not have captured the world’s attention but they have been no less devastating, wiping out huge sections of the rainforest across the country. When 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife is found nowhere else on the planet, the threat to global patrimony is obvious.

The organisations we met told us that political will for action was welcome. But as so many of them reminded us – planting a seed is one thing – nurturing a tree is another altogether. A metaphor, perhaps, for social change more broadly.

The forest in Madagascar was cut and burned for a reason. Finding the root cause is complex – it’s not possible to point the finger at a single individual or corporation. Deforestation is a legacy of colonialism, where the norm was established that the earth is worth only the economic value that can be extracted from it. In recent years, climate change has led to drought and displaced entire communities in the South, who moved inland and turned to slash and burn agriculture as their primary livelihood. Poverty, which is the worst in Madagascar of all the countries in the world that are not in conflict, makes the demand for charcoal and wood too valuable to ignore.

Madagascar is a case in point – if this is our decade to save the planet, we’d be mistaken to forget about the importance of people. The Government of Madagascar has pledged to recruit guards to monitor and protect its sixty million young seedlings. Voices within civil society are questioning the strategy – others are asking if it can be called a strategy at all.

From 3-8 May 2020, TPW will go to Madagascar with the objective of learning about the role of strategic investing in supporting people and planet to survive and thrive. Madagascar’s history, culture and biodiversity are of course unique, but in many respects it is typical of post-colonial countries across the world. Civil society networks are nascent but are building their capacity and increasingly speaking with a united voice. Individual organisations and social enterprises have had a transformative impact at the community level, and are now looking to replicate and scale. With the Government severely limited in terms of resources and reach, the private sector and the international community have a huge role to play. As a peaceful country with political will for change and openness to external support, the opportunity for impact is huge.

We will begin in Antananarivo, spending a day to understand the context, culture and ecosystem within which we seek to create change. We then travel to rural regions, visiting communities on the frontlines of poverty and climate change but on the periphery of global consciousness. We will learn how these communities’ experience, expertise and energy are indispensable for sustainable change on the ground.

We will return to Antananarivo and explore how to support systemic change, considering the role of advocacy, storytelling, social enterprise, impact investing, data, tech and collective action in restoring harmony between people and planet. We will see how protecting the environment goes far beyond planting trees or establishing protected areas, but encompasses sustainable livelihoods, reproductive rights, strong health and education systems, anti-corruption initiatives, and more.

We will leave with learnings that can be actioned, not only in Madagascar, but in countries and communities across the world. As with every TPW programme, we will make strategic connections that will help you take your social investing to the next level.

There are limited places remaining, so join us by clicking here to register for the Global Journey. If you have any further questions, please contact Sam at

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