In Madagascar, a food crisis caused by exceptional climatic phenomena

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The strong rainfall deficit and the multiplication of sand winds caused a very sharp drop in harvests in southern Madagascar, an arid zone in which subsistence farming plays an essential role. The local population finds itself destitute and can only count on food aid to keep going over the next few months.

The United Nations announced in early May that more than 1.1 million people in the far south of Madagascar are severely food insecure. And according to a recent press release, some areas are already experiencing an even more dramatic scenario, close to famine, like the district of Amboasary Atsimo, in which “nearly 14,000 people are in a situation of catastrophic food insecurity”.

Gaëlle Borgia, correspondent for France 24 in Madagascar, recently visited the region of Anosy, which includes the district of Amboasary Atsimo, to recount the plight of residents threatened by hunger and raids by looters who covet their few. cultures. “The populations are forced to dig the earth to find tubers, to be able to survive. They are reduced to eating locust larvae which have no nutritional value,” she observed on the spot.

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The warnings and calls for help have followed one another for several months. David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, warned, June 25 on Twitter : “If we do not act quickly, the number of people facing famine will reach 500,000 in a few months.”

“The face of climate change”

In a video posted on July 3, David Beasley recounts his trip to the Great South of Madagascar, which is experiencing “its worst drought in more than forty years”. And for him, “this is the face of climate change”. Madagascar has indeed become, according to this senior UN official, the first country in the world to experience hunger due to the global warming crisis.

Present in the country since 2008, Xavier Poncin, deputy director for Madagascar of the organization Action Against Hunger (ACF), confirms the gravity of the situation in this arid and poor area, where conditions are traditionally difficult for agricultural activity. “The last two years have been marked by a strong rainfall deficit”, he explains to France 24. And the sandstorms were much more numerous than usual between October 2020 and March 2021, causing in places a significant retardation of crop growth.

Most of the harvest occurred in the past month and it was poor in this agricultural region where grains, tubers and pulses are planted. They had already been bad the previous year, which triggered food shortages at the end of 2020. The inhabitants are counting on their productions to bridge the gap between two harvests. And the current reserves are not going to last long. “We are very worried about the coming months, everything will depend on the level of humanitarian aid that the inhabitants will receive”, explains Xavier Poncin.

The return of “kéré”

In the 25 mobile clinics deployed by ACF in the far south of the island for lonely communities that do not benefit from nearby medical facilities, more and more children suffering from severe acute malnutrition are taken care of every day. Other humanitarian actors are also on the ground and are working with government agents to try to come to their aid. Together, they are trying to manage a situation that is certainly exceptional in its magnitude, but not new in this region.

“Here, we speak of” kéré “, a word from the antandroy dialect [l’ethnie principale qui peuple cette région] which means “to be hungry”. Historically, the first recorded episode dates back to 1895 and it was documented by French settlers who arrived in the south of the island. Since then, there have been sixteen similar episodes “, explained Mahatante Paubert, research professor at the University of Tulear, in an interview with the daily Le Monde. “The” kéré “occurs when the three southern regions [Androy, Ihorombe et Anosy]at the same time suffer from lack of water and food. This is what is happening today “.

The urgency is therefore to bring food to these inhabitants over the coming months. And in the longer term, development projects aim in particular to install crops in this area that are more resilient in the face of climate change and consume less water. Because water resources represent one of the main challenges for the future of the local population, which often has to be supplied by tankers.

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