Madagascar: Planting hope one sand dune at a time
Food security and community resilience growing from under the sands of time in southern Madagascar
Extreme weather, boosted by climate change, is one of the key factors in the recent increase in global hunger.
At the global level, the number of extreme weather disasters, including droughts, has doubled since the early 1990s. These episodes are adversely affecting agricultural production and contributing to food shortages, with repercussions such as sharp increases in food prices and loss of income, which reduces people’s access to food. In southern Madagascar, climate variability and extreme weather conditions are having adverse effects on crop production so adaptation is crucial, as droughts become more frequent and last longer.
In Madagascar three consecutive years of prolonged drought, amplified in 2016 by the climatic phenomenon El Nino, led to poor harvests. The population is weakened by the lack of food, especially the most vulnerable population, including children and women. Today, in southern Madagascar, more than one million people do not have access to sufficient food.
Over the last few years, the drought-affected region of Faux Cap, on the southern coast of Madagascar, has been battered by strong winds which has resulted in the formation of dunes on cultivated land. The sand has covered the land, but also the houses nearby, up to ten kilometers inland. The people of Faux Cap, eager to rehabilitate their land, took part in the World Food Programme (WFP) Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) program.
WFP’s FFA initiatives addresses immediate food needs while at the same time it promotes the building or rehabilitation of assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience. FFA activities aim to create healthier natural environments, reduce the risks and impact of climate shocks, increase food productivity, and strengthen resilience to natural disasters over time.
“These lands seemed to be lost forever. Thanks to this project, we can now cultivate these hectares.”
For eight months, 945 people from the community worked on the rehabilitation of dunes. Every month, each participant received a basket of food consisting of cereals, legumes and vegetable oil.
“These lands seemed to be lost forever. Thanks to this project, we can now cultivate these hectares. It’s reassuring for the future,” says Miarisoa, a young mother and participant in the project.
The community in Faux Cap have successfully rehabilitated 19 hectares of sand dunes by planting sisal, lalanda, filao and coconut trees- plants that require little water to survive and are resistant to heavy winds. Also, sale of sisal (used for rope manufacturing, carpet weaving and roofing of homes) represents a reliable and regular source of income for the community.
“The inhabitants of Faux Cap are very happy with the dunes. The idea of this project came from them.”
Theodore, WFP Emergency Coordinator in Madagascar, worked with the community to launch this project. “The inhabitants of Faux Cap are very happy with the dunes,” he says. “The idea of this project came from them. They are very proud of the work that has been accomplished, but mostly, they are relieved because it represents a source of income for the community on the longer term. The women who participated to the project, told me that it will be nice for them now to have to worry too much about how to feed their children, especially during the lean season, when food becomes scarce at the market.”
While climate hazards will continue to affect food security, building community resilience is essential. In Madagascar, WFP is implementing resilience projects with the support of Germany, France, the United States (USAID), the European Union (ECHO), and donors of multilateral funding.
Learn more about WFP in Madagascar.