Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Dr. Malika Virah-Sawmy





Office location



Visiting Scientist




Rudower Chaussee 16, Room 2'105

+49 (0)30 2093-5394

Malika 2020

About me


I work in the Science and Policy interphase especially focussing in the agriculture-energy-environment nexus. My work in this field have involved improving sustainability standards, establishing deforestation-free supply chains, defining low-carbon pathways for urban development, enabling equitable green growth and responsible mining.

Previously, I have worked for many years on the ground on conservation and agricultural programmes in Madagascar, Congo and several Indian Ocean islands.

Lately, I have founded Sensemakers Collective, a boutique consultancy, where we work as system change facilitators for a global environmental,  social and economic transformation. Sensemakers Collective harnesses co-creation to enhance systemic strategic planning, purpose-orientation, organisational evaluation, learning, and change.

As an accredited facilitator and systems scientist, I help systemic change by integrating various state-of-the-art facilitation approaches enabling embodied, emotional, and cognitive intelligence. These different forms of intelligence can help achieve more purpose-driven decision-making and in this way support collective transformation processes.

My current or prospective projects in Science-Policy include:

  • Capacity Building of the UNDP's Green Growth Commodities Community in Systems Practice
  • Evaluation of UNDP’s Good Growth Partnership
  • Facilitating system practices for the  UNDP’s Good Growth Partnership.
  • Evaluating and coaching the Climate Alliance ‘s Change the Power Partnership
  • WWF ‘s Collaboration for Forest and Agriculture – providing innovation in systems practice and understanding of stakeholders through systems science role playing games. I provided analysis and insight on issues on deforestation free supply chains.
  • Facilitating Endeva ii2030, an event which brought together leading innovators from corporates, startups, the public sector, NGOs and science to co-create solutions to achieve a more inclusive society by 2030
  • Achieving more sustainable trade for the Mercosur agreement.


Curriculum Vitae



Founder, Sensemakers Collective


Science-Policy Lead, Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF International, Geneva.

2013 - 2014

Lecturer, Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales

2009 - 2012

Conservation Coordinator, WWF Madagascar and Western Indian Ocean, Madagascar.

2000 - 2003

Programme Manager, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Birdlife Seychelles, and Department of Conservation, New Zealand




Green, J.M.H, Croft, S.A, Durán, A.P, Balmford, A.P, Burgess, N.D., Fick, S., Gardner, T.A, Godar, J., Suavet, C, Virah-Sawmy, M., Young, L.E., West, C.D: Linking global drivers of agricultural trade to on-the-ground impacts on biodiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS 116 (46), 23202-23208).

Durán, A.P., Green, J.M., West, C.D., Visconti, P., Burgess, N.D., Virah-Sawmy, M. and Balmford, A. (2018): Putting species back on the map: devising a robust method for quantifying the biodiversity impacts of land conversion. Methods in Ecology and Evolution (in press).

Guerrero, A., Biggs, D., Jones, N., Virah-Sawmy, M., Ross, H (2018): Mental models on reducing deforestation in supply chains: Insights from the soy sector. Environment Science and Policy (accepted, May 2020).

Kehoe, L., Reis, T. Virah-Sawmy, M., Kuemmerle, T (2019). Call to prioritize human rights and the environment in EU trade talks with Brazil. Science, 364, 6438.

Virah-Sawmy, M., Duran, P., Guerrero, AM, Green, J., Biggs, D., West, C. (2019): Sustainability gridlock in a global agricultural commodity chain: reframing the soy-meat food system. Sustainable Production and Consumption 18, 210-223.

Gillson, L., Biggs, H., Smit, I.P., Virah-Sawmy, M. and Rogers, K. (2018): Finding Common Ground between Adaptive Management and Evidence-Based Approaches to Biodiversity Conservation. Trends in ecology & evolution, 34, 31-44.

Pitt, R., Wyborn, C., Page, G., Hutton, J., Virah Sawmy, M., Ryan, M. and Gallagher, L. (2018): Wrestling with the complexity of evaluation for organizations at the boundary of science, policy and practice. Conservation Biology 2, 998-1006.

Joppa, L. N., O'Connor, B. C., & Visconti, P, Virah-Sawmy, M. et al. (2016): Filling in biodiversity threat gaps. Science, 352, 416-418.

Virah-Sawmy, M., Gillson, L., Gardner, C.J., Anderson, A., Clark, G. and Haberle, S. (2016). A landscape vulnerability framework for identifying integrated conservation and adaptation pathways to climate change: the case of Madagascar’s spiny forest. Landscape ecology, 31, 637-654.

Virah-Sawmy, M. (2015). Growing inclusive business models in the extractive industries: Demonstrating a smart concept to scale up positive social impacts. The Extractive Industries and Society, 2, 676-679.

Virah-Sawmy, M., Stoklosa, J. and Ebeling, J. (2015). A probabilistic scenario approach for developing improved Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) baselines. Global Ecology and Conservation, 4, 602-613.

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

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

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

Ebeling, J., Virah-Sawmy, M. and 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

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


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