Agriculture in Madagascar: Conservation and cultural meanings of rice

Date of Completion

January 2005


Anthropology, Cultural




This dissertation examines the cultural meanings of rice agriculture in Madagascar and their implications for conservation projects. It discusses Madagascar's prehistory and history of the Malagasy people's relationship with their environment and literature on the theory and application of cultural models. It compares the positions and priorities of Malagasy governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to show the potential conflicts between the goals of agricultural development and conservation organizations and those of the local farmers. It describes and compares the categorization of rice varieties according to rice merchants and rural farmers. Finally, it evaluates the influence of conservation organizations on the cultural model of tavy (swidden agriculture) in eastern Madagascar by testing and confirming the following hypothesis: as knowledge of non-indigenous conservation practices increases, knowledge of tavy rituals decreases. Thus, farmers in protected areas are more influence by the introduction of non-indigenous conservation practices than those living in unprotected areas. This dissertation concludes with a discussion of the future prospects of rice agriculture, conservation and the rural farmers, who will be the ones most affected by change. ^