What is the role of large-scale extractive investments in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and their contradictory dynamics?


The extractive industries sector is growing rapidly worldwide. Large-scale extractive investments (LEIs) target land in developing countries, especially on the African continent. This raises questions concerning the beneficiaries of these operations and their cost-bearers. Conflicts over such investments have been widespread, highlighting doubts about host countries’ ability to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Around 30 LEIs are currently operational in Madagascar in areas otherwise used by subsistence farmers and cattle herders. In this context, it is important to consider impacts on social, economic, and environmental sustainability and address the conflicts between different SDGs, especially between SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 15 (Life on Land), and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). Many questions remain with regard to the legal and procedural frameworks governing environmental and social impact assessments.

The project pursues the following questions:

– Who takes the decisions regarding environmental and social impact assessments?

– At what point in the process of LEI establishment are such assessments conducted?

– How are local farmers and cattle herders involved?

Other questions concern the different impacts of LEIs on social, economic, and environmental sustainability in close vicinity but also in the wider landscapes and nearby urban centres.

The methods used in this inquiry include the analysis of satellite images to identify land use changes in the surroundings of LEIs, social network analysis to disentangle the interactions between different actors involved, as well as interviews and surveys with land users, cattle herders, and other local stakeholders.

This project will produce scientific and transformation knowledge that helps devise policy measures to improve the extractive industries’ contribution towards the SDGs in Madagascar and other developing countries.

Project Keywords

  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Extractive industries
  • Subsistence agriculture
  • Environment


  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Environment
  • Geography


International Organizations

  • United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
  • World Bank, Madagascar Country Office

Non-Governmental Organizations

  • International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • WWF Madagascar
  • Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

Relevant Countries

  • Madagascar 


This is an ongoing project, which started in autumn 2019. The information here is updated regularly. If you have any inquiries please don’t hesitate to contact the project team via the form below.

Project Description Video

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Research team


Julie Zähringer
University of Bern

Peter Messerli
University of Bern

Sandra Eckert
Principal Member
University of Bern

Oliver Jütersonke
Principal Member
Graduate Institute

Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder
Principal Member
International Institute for Sustainable Development

Xin “Joe” Zhang
Principal Member
International Institute for Sustainable Development

Bruno Ramamonsjisoa
Principal Member
University of Antananarivo

Onintsoa Ravaka N. Andriamiahja
Principal Member
University of Antananarivo

Voahirana Randriambola
Associated Member
WWF Madagascar

Simon André Rafanomezantsoa
Associated Member
WWF Madagascar