Climate change, pandemic and now cyclone: We are worried for tomorrow !

Our core team member Vincent recently came back from two months of fieldwork in Madagascar after waiting two years due to COVID restrictions. He tells us how climate change and pandemic have affected localy the live of Betsileo people.

These last two years have been particularly tumultuous for Madagascar. Particularly exposed to climate change and extreme climatic events, the current situation in Madagascar have been exacerbated by bad governance and food crisis. Indeed, in addition to current climate change affecting Betsileo people from the highlands of Madagascar, the pandemic and recently, the cyclone Batsiray fragilize local coping strategy and mood of people.

School destroyed by the cyclone

A great share of Betsileo people living in the Namoly valley relies on tourism as a source of income. The pandemic and the border shutdown force local people to deal with climate change and COVID issues without this additional source of income. Moreover, in February 2022, the cyclone Batsiray destroyed most of the houses’ valleys and filled the paddy rice with 2m of sand due to erosion. This cyclone has been le most violent known in the valley, unprecedented in living memory. If Betsileo people reacted quickly by setting other short-circle crops such as sweet potatoes to overcome the loss of rice production, this last event seriously affected local wellbeing and health. The cyclone destroyed the new irrigation system developed a few years ago to overcome drought. This event affected both the mood of people and the quality of freshwater. During these two months of fieldwork, several people died, which might be related to water quality, COVID or post-traumatic chock after the cyclone.

Traditional burial

The cyclone destroyed all the bridges of the only road connecting the valley to the first town. This time reaching the fieldside have particularly challenging, forcing us to walk more than 20 km. Besides this difficulty, this isolated the valley, depriving people of outside help.

Despite the impressive local adaptation capacity, the accumulation of extreme events starts challenging the local resilience.

Vincent Porcher