Food Insecurity And Building Climate Change Resilience In Madagascar

Food insecurity continues to devastate Southern Madagascar.  Severe weather conditions caused by climate change make it increasingly difficult for locals to harvest their crops. In a country where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, such conditions can be deadly. The global pandemic has only exacerbated current challenges through market disruptions and limitations on humanitarian assistance.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) states that “Hunger is on the rise in Southern Madagascar due to consecutive years of drought, affecting half the region’s population or 1.5 million people”.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) of April 2020 estimated that over 554, 000 people in Madagascar’s Great South are living in acute food insecurity; an increase of 10% in October last year.

Tomson Phiri, a spokesperson for the WFP has said that “as hunger numbers rise, so does the proportion of families who are resorting to crisis-coping mechanisms.  The majority of them are having to eat bugs.  They are selling off lifesaving livelihood assets, farm implements, kitchen utensils.” Phiri went on to say “Most of the women that we spoke to said they had nothing to feed their young children except the red cactus pears that grow on the roadside.”

In the 2017 University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative index, Madagascar has ranked the 13th most vulnerable country to climate change and the 22nd least prepared. Droughts, floods, and cyclones are increasingly common on the island; Madagascar must grow resilience to these extreme weather events. Madagascar is disproportionally affected by climate change. It is for this reason, that the international community owes the island nation its support.

The Government of Madagascar has already taken important steps towards protecting its people and the environment from climate change threats. The UN’s Least Developed Countries Fund has been used to help diversify domestic farming by introducing improved crop varieties and cultivation techniques. Other organisations are also working in this space, including UNICEF who’s Madagascar Country Programme 2021–2025 aims to empower communities to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Widespread malnutrition is largely the result of the past three years of droughts. Action Against Hunger, an NGO, stated that “In 2019, a lack of rainfall and a powerful El Nino phenomenon led to the loss of 90% of the harvest and pushed more than 60% of the population into food insecurity.” Earlier this year, yet another drought rocked the island nation. The frequency of these weather conditions has devastated domestic horticulture and driven many to extreme poverty.

In some areas, such as Ampanihy and Bekily, horticulture has become almost impossible. The scarcity of water and the rising cost of food only puts additional pressure on Malagasy living in these districts.

Building Madagascar’s resilience to climate change is essential to achieving a safe and prosperous nation. The Government of Madagascar has made great strides in this space already. However, Malagasy cannot achieve this alone. In partnership with the international community, the Government of Madagascar must pull resources, find, fund, and implement solutions that work for them.