If Madagascar is famous for its amazing biodiversity, the big red island is also the theatre of extremes climatic events and extreme poverty.
In the complex socio-economic situation of Madagascar – one of the five poorest countries in the world – where food scarcity, locally called Kéré, is frequent, food security is the main issue. In addition to the outbreaks of infectious diseases, frequent extremes climatic events which destroy the crops, the constant increase of the population and humanitarian interference of the government, climate change in Madagascar drastically affect people subsistence and seems to catalyze the other ills.
In the Grand Sud, southern Madagascar, in 2019, LICCI core team Vincent Porcher and Xiaoyue Li investigated traditional knowledge on wild edible plants and climate change perceptions. During an interview, we were shocked by the conversation between the interviewee and another person: “don’t tell them that we are collecting fruits in the spiny forest behind, because we will not receive any more the help of the World Food Programme”. Less than two years after, Madagascar knows the worst drought in 40 years directly due to climate change passed over in silence. Since 2020, in the southern part of the island, more than 1.4 million people are affected by the famine resulting from this drought and need emergency food and nutrition assistance. Like Haiti, Liberia, Tchad, Rwanda and North Corea, over 35% of the population of Madagascar is touch by undernourishment (World Food Programme 2020).
Here the twin effect of the local climate change – due to deforestation in the rest of the island – and global warming directly affected water availability and wiped out crop production. Despite the great knowledge of wild edible plants, the drastic situation of climate change pushes local people to find alternative ways for food procurement. A recent video recorded that starved people started to cook zebu leather straps from their shoes.
Since the diffusion of this video, the Malagasy Head of the State stated that he will take some measures. The same Head of the State refused the help of the World Health Organization for free COVID vaccination for his country a few months ago. Despite bad governance, it is crucial to carry on our work on climate change while embedding policymakers. The need has never been so urgent.