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Monumental Debt-for-Nature Swap Provides $20 Million to Protect Biodiversity in Madagascar, WWF Announces

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, June 11, 2008 – The largest debt-for-nature swap agreement in Madagascar’s history was signed today between the Government of Madagascar and the Government of France, allocating roughly $20 million (13 million Euros) to preserve Madagascar’s rich biodiversity, WWF announced today.

“This initiative is an excellent example of innovative financing for sustainable development,” said Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, acting regional representative for WWF in Madagascar. “Increasing funding to the endowment of the Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity means support for the protected areas' recurrent costs will be available long term. Stable and predictable revenues are critical to win the battle against deforestation and biodiversity loss in Madagascar.”

Today’s agreement is part of Madagascar’s ambitious national effort, pledged by President Ravalomanana, to triple the size of the country’s protected areas. The funds will be managed through the Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity—a conservation trust fund established by WWF, Conservation International and the Government of Madagascar to support the country’s distinct ecosystems and extraordinary wildlife. With this agreement, the fund has reached its endowment target of $50 million.

Nearly 98 percent of Madagascar’s land mammals, 92 percent of its reptiles, and 80 percent of its plants are found nowhere else on earth. WWF has been active in Madagascar for more than three decades, providing local communities with the support necessary to manage natural resources effectively. Madagascar’s ecosystems provide essential services that support local communities and an array of economic activities. WWF’s vision is to protect, restore and maintain Madagascar’s unique biodiversity in harmony with the culture and livelihoods of the people who live there.

With 70 percent of Madagascar’s population living below the poverty line, the country is one of the poorest in the world. Burdened with high levels of debt, Madagascar has limited domestic resources to address environmental degradation and preserve its unique and globally significant biodiversity. Debt-for-nature swaps, such as this one, are designed to free up resources in debtor countries for much needed conservation activities.

This historic agreement demonstrates the commitment of both the French and Malagasy governments to protect biodiversity in Madagascar and serves as a prime example of a debt-for-nature swap success that other nations can follow.

About the Madagascar Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity

The Madagascar Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity was created in 2005 to support sustainable financing for protecting, maintaining and expanding Madagascar’s protected areas network, including certain buffer zones and ecological corridors, and ultimately to reduce the dependence on external project assistance. The Foundation is already widely recognized as a “model” foundation for Africa and an anchor for sustainable financing of Madagascar’s protected areas system.

As a founding partner, WWF has contributed to the Foundation’s capital and has played a leading role in establishing its legal and operational framework according to the best practices and the highest international standards for environmental funds.

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