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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 202-231

Where Community-Based Water Resource Management has Gone Too Far: Poverty and Disempowerment in Southern Madagascar

International Studies Programme, California State University, Long Beach, USA

Correspondence Address:
Richard R Marcus
International Studies Programme, California State University, Long Beach 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840-4605
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Madagascar has struggled with the question of decentralisation for more than three decades. Since coming to power in 2002, President Marc Ra­valomanana has both reformed and accelerated this process, granting new roles and responsibilities to regional and community leadership. This politi­cal path is consistent with shifts in natural resource management in the 1990s, notably in the water sector. We thus see the role of the national gov­ernment diminishing in favour of resource management at the community level. This paper explores the impact of increased responsibility for water management and decision making in the southern district of Ambovombe­Androy. The assumption is that this sort of decentralisation leads to empow­erment at the local level and improves accountability, civic engagement and equity. Unfortunately, in the case of Ambovombe, 'local empowerment' quickly translates to 'you're on your own'. 'Decentralisation' quickly trans­lates into state disengagement. To avoid this, a finer relationship between state and local institutional relationships and responsibilities needs to be ex­plored. Only once we understand what a community is, and what its capacity can be, can we figure out what responsibilities it needs to take on to ensure the efficacy of a state that tends to be at best inefficient and at worst preda­tory.

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