Madagascar is about to experience a “climate change” global catastrophe, according to the United Nations, which says thousands of people already have a “severe” hunger and food shortage after four years of no rain.
Drought – the worst in 40 years – has devastated rural areas in the south of the country, leaving families to protect insects from survival.
“This is similar to hunger and is driven by climate and not conflict,” said Shelley Thakral of the UN World Food Program.
The UN estimates that 30,000 people are currently suffering from an international food crisis – the fifth – and concerns that the affected population could rise sharply as Madagascar enters a “pre-harvest” cultural era before harvest.
“This has never happened before. These people have not done anything to help climate change. They do not burn oil … but they still have a big problem with climate change,” said Thakral.
In the remote village of Fandiova, in the state of Amboasary, families recently showed the true WFP locust group the locusts they were eating.
“I clean the insects as much as I can but there is no water,” said Tamaria, a mother of four, who is known by the same name.
“My children and I have been eating this every day now for eight months because we have nothing to eat and no rain to allow us to reap what we have sown,” he added.
“Today we have nothing to eat but cactus leaves,” said Bole, a mother of three.
She said that her husband had recently died of starvation, as did a neighbor, leaving her and two other children to fend for themselves.
“What can I say? Our life is about to search for cactus leaves, over and over again, so that we can survive.”
Adjust water management
Although Madagascar experiences frequent droughts and is often affected by climate change as a result of El Niño, experts believe that climate change could be directly linked to the current crisis.
“With the recent IPCC report we have seen that Madagascar has seen an increase in rainfall. And this is expected to increase as climate change continues.
“In many ways this can be seen as a powerful argument for people to change their ways,” said Dr Rondro Barimalala, a Madagascan scientist working at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Seeing the same atmosphere in the air at Santa Barbara University in California, the director of the Climate Hazards Center, Chris Funk, has confirmed the connection to “climate change”, and said Madagascan officials should work hard to improve water management.
“We think there is a lot that can be done in a short period of time. We can often predict when it will rain heavily and farmers can use this information to harvest their crops. We are not weak in the face of climate change,” he added.
The effects of the drought are now being felt in the major cities of southern Madagascar, with many children being forced to beg in the streets for food.
“Prices in the market are going up – three or four times. People are selling their land to raise money for food,” added Tshina Endor, a relief worker at Seed, Tolanaro.
His colleague, Lomba Hasoavana, said he and many others slept on their cassava fields to protect their crops from people in need of food, but this has become more dangerous.
“You can risk your life. I find it very difficult, because every day I have to think about feeding myself and my family,” he said, adding: “Nothing can predict the weather now. It’s a big question, big mark – what will happen tomorrow?”