Exploring Deforestation and Growing Famine in Madagascar on Independence DayJun 26, 2021 11:38AM ● By Oga Africa
(Image by Luis Iranzo Navarro-Olivares, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Drought-780088.jpg)
Climate change is a global issue that is catalyzed by human activity, with impacts that can be evidenced around the world, from the melting of the North Pole to drought and famine in Southern Madagascar communities.
Madagascar, an island off the coast of East Africa, is mostly composed of Malagasy people, a population who are descendants of both migrants from southeast Asia and the African continent. Farmers in Madagascar utilize a practice known as ‘tavy’ or slash-and-burn, a process which includes burning trees, planting rice crops on the land for 2 years or rearing cattle on the land, and repeating the same process on a new plot of land.
This method endangers the unique flora, fauna and endemic species on the island, and because it destroys the trees, it creates erosion on the soil, as the trees are no longer there to allow water to absorb adequately into the soil. In addition, this practice contributes to a lack of rain because trees increase moisture in the air, and play a huge role in generating rainfall. Cutting down trees to make other products such as charcoal, fuelwood and timber has also had impacts on the country’s landscape. This deforestation has destroyed over 90% of the forest area in Madagascar.
(Malagasy woman. Image by Rod Waddington, via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/rod_waddington/50042712083 )
The country is currently experiencing its fourth year of drought, which is the most devastating one it has experienced in 30 years. The lack of rain, in addition to other contributing factors, including sandstorms, has worsened a famine that is concentrated in the southern region of the country, with over 1.35 million people experiencing acute malnutrition. The UN reports that 80% of communities in Southern areas are eating cactuses, wild fruit and leaves, termites and locusts. The World Food Programme estimates that this year, Madagascar’s food production will be below 40% of the regular quantity.
On the anniversary of Madagascar achieving independence from the French, on June 26th, 1960, we consider basic human rights like access to food, and consider how contributions from global communities can help ensure food security for at-risk populations. Learn more about how you can help here.