Malika Virah-Sawmy

Malika Virah-Sawmy PhD

Research Lead: Sustainable Consumption & Production

Malika has worked both as a conservation practitioner and a conservation scientist in various countries. She has a broad range of experience in conservation management, market transformation and livelihood issues.

She first started her career as a conservation biologist working on ecological restoration and endangered species management in Mauritius, her home island, then in the Seychelles and in New Zealand. She later coordinated the conservation and livelihood programme for WWF Madagascar for 4 years from 2009-2012.

Over the last few years, Malika has been working increasingly with businesses, NGOs, governments, and research organizations to find shared solutions for building socio-ecological sustainability in various sectors, with a focus on production practices relying on natural resources, and supporting market transformations that enhance environmental conservation and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. For example, she worked with ENDEVA to support the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a national strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo to support business solutions that scale inclusive businesses in agriculture.

Malika received her PhD at the University of Oxford in 2009, where she worked on landscape resilience to human impacts, in particular mining, and climate change. She helped designed strategies for Rio Tinto to best reconcile mining with biodiversity conservation and livelihood support. She continued on this research theme as a researcher and lecturer at University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia and University of Cape Town in South Africa. She is an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of New South Wales.


DPhil (PhD) in Geography and the Environment, Oxford Centre for the Environment, University of Oxford (2009)

MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, University of Oxford (2004)
BSc in Botany and Zoology with a distinction in Botany, University of South Africa (2001)


Peer reviewed journal articles

Gardner, C.J., Vincke, X., Rafanomezantsoa, S., Virah-Sawmy, M. (2015). “Oblique aerial photography: a novel tool for the monitoring and participatory management of protected areas”. Parks 21.2: 12-28

Virah-Sawmy, M et al. (invited). “Designing smarter and socially integrated biodiversity offset in Australia with farmers: a question of additionality, equity, and effectiveness”. Extractive Industries and Society.

Virah-Sawmy, M (invited). “Mining and inclusive business: irreconcilable approaches?”. Extractive Industries and Society.

Virah-Sawmy, M (2015). “A walk into Malagasy past. Book review of “Extinct Madagascar – picturing the island’s past”. In press in The Holocene.

Virah-Sawmy, M, Gillson, L. “Designing smarter adaptation policies to extreme climate change in an arid biodiversity hotspot Madagascar to accommodate for conservation and human needs”. Under review in Ecology and Society.

Virah-Sawmy, M et al. “Designing climate-smart conservation strategies in Madagascar’s spiny forest ecoregion using past and present ecological records”. Under review in Landscape Ecology.

Virah-Sawmy, M, Ebeling, J., Taplin, R. (2014) “Mining and biodiversity offsets: A transparent and science-based approach to measure “no-net-loss” ”. Journal of Environmental Management 143: 61-70

Gardner, C.J., Virah-Sawmy, M. et al. (2013) “Protected areas for conservation and poverty alleviation: experiences from Madagascar”. Journal of Applied Ecology 50: 1289-1294

Lawton-Smith, H., Romeo, S., Virah-Sawmy M. (2012) “Business and professional networks: scope and outcomes in Oxfordshire”. Environment and Planning A 44: 1801-1818.

Virah-Sawmy M., Ebeling, J. (2010) “The difficult road toward real-world engagement: conservation science and mining in southern Madagascar”. Conservation Letters 3: 288-289.

Virah-Sawmy M., Willis, K.J., Gillson, L. (2009) “Does heterogeneity enhance resilience to rapid climatic changes? Sea-level rise and ecological dynamics in Madagascar’s hottest hotspot”. Ecological Monograph 79: 557–574.

Virah-Sawmy M. (2009) “Ecosystem Management in Madagascar during global change”. Conservation Letters 2: 163-177.

Virah-Sawmy M., Bonsall, M., Willis, K.J. (2009) “ ‘Tales of Symphonia’: extinction dynamics in response to past climate change in Madagascan rainforests”. Biology Letters 5: 821-825

Virah-Sawmy M., Willis, K.J, Gillson, L. (2009) “Evidence for drought and forest declines during the recent megafaunal extinctions in Madagascar”. Journal of Biogeography 37: 506 – 519

Virah-Sawmy M., et al. (2009) “Rapid forest degradation in a Mauritian rainforest following 60 years of invasion”. Oryx 43: 599–607.

Virah-Sawmy M., Willis, K.J., Gillson, L. (2009) “Threshold Response of Madagascar’s littoral forest to sea-level rise”. Global Ecology and Biogeography 18, 98-100.

Willis, K.J., Gillson, L., Virah-Sawmy M. (2008) “Nature or nurture: the ambiguity of grasslands in Madagascar”. Journal of Biogeography 35: 1741-1742.

Book chapters

Virah-Sawmy, M. et al. (2013) “The Durban Vision in practice: participatory governance in Madagascar’s new protected areas”. In I Scales (editor). Madagascar at Crossroads. Earthscan publication, UK

Ebeling J., Virah-Sawmy, M., Moura Costa, P. (2009) “Using international carbon markets to finance forest restoration while mitigating climate change”. In F.A. Comín (editor). Ecological Restoration: A Global Challenge. Cambridge University Press-CSIC

Research/policy reports

Virah-Sawmy, M. (2014) “Feasibility report for the African Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP)”. Endeva, Berlin. A report commissioned by the UNDP.

Virah-Sawmy, M. (2013) “By-product to Buy Product: Building markers for Palm kernel Expeller”. A report commissioned by WWF Australia.

Global Forest Footprints Report (2009) “Global Canopy Programme, United Kingdom” (Among contributing authors)

Chris JohnsonMalika Virah-Sawmy