Waiting for rain that may never come: The Climate Crisis in Madagascar

Story by Jayne Mache

They waited for the rain but the rain did not come. Only dust storms instead of rainstorms have battered their land. Or when the rain does come it isn’t enough to revive their farms. Only the sun reigns high everyday scorching the earth until all the life-giving water has been drawn from it. Without rain, the crops cannot grow, if the crops don’t grow there won’t be food and without food there is starvation.

Many plantations in the Grand Sud of Madagascar are covered by sand, but people are trying to plant anyway. Photo: UNOCHA/Viviane Rakotoarivony

This is the story of more than 1.7 million people in the Grand Sud Region of Madagascar where back-to-back droughts has resulted in severe starvation and food insecurity. Since 2018 communities in southern Madagascar have been facing the worst drought in 40 years. With food reverses severely depleted many people now depend on humanitarian aid for sustenance.

Droughts have for centuries have been a common occurrence in Southern Africa. Countries like Zimbabwe, Angola and Malawi have for many years been struck by the backhand of mother nature and have borne witness to the life draining effects of drought. However, Madagascar’s extreme drought is as a result of ongoing climate crisis and now the country is at the brink of experiencing the world’s first climate change-induced famine. Now, the drought has ravaged communities forcing thousands of people to scavenge for insects and roots to survive.

A woman fetches water in a puddle in the dried Manambovo river bed in Tsihombe, Madagascar. Photo: UNOCHA/Viviane Rakotoarivony

The Government of Madagascar and humanitarian organisations are on the ground providing much needed assistance, but aid alone will not solve the climate change induced crisis. For years the climate crisis has been knocking at humanity’s door and the world has turned a blind eye towards the impending catastrophe. Many conferences have been held by international organisations, governments and many other stakeholders. However, although all agree that our planet is facing a crisis, they have failed to make concrete strides towards stopping or reducing the effects of climate change. The only tangible outcome has been empty promises of fossil fuel use reduction and funding towards adaptation for countries, like Madagascar, who are currently at the forefront of the crisis.

The climate crisis is here and Madagascar is already being smitten by the heavy blows of back to back droughts. Each year livelihoods are destroyed and without sustainable change to our current way of life, the human cost of this self inflicted crisis will continue to rise.

A child shows a plate with locust in Ambovombe District, Madagascar. Children catch locusts that eat the crop plantations and bring them back to the village to eat them. Photo: UNOCHA/Viviane Rakotoarivony

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