Madagascar – Drought Raises Food Security Fears

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Adverse weather patterns lead to crop failures and increased hardship for large swathes of the Malagasy agricultural and transhumant population.

According to a recent United Nations (UN) report, around 46% of the population in Madagascar, some 1.9 million people, are food insecure with almost half a million facing chronic food shortages. The Crop and Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), an initiative from the Malagasy government, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), identified the highest levels of food insecurity in the southern regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana.

The UN stated that a significant drop in agricultural production over the last three seasons, largely due to a shortage of rainfall, has negatively affected many people, who have often responded by selling off assets and withdrawing children from school to overcome food shortages.

A number of programmes intended to eliminate hunger, improve nutrition and to promote sustainable agriculture have recently been announced. The WFP said that they would be assisting 130,000 people with a ‘food/cash-for-assets‘ scheme which are designed to improve resilience and to prepare communities for the next harvest season; those that are unable to work will be distributed food, reported a WFP press release.

The FAO have announced a ‘drought-resistant seed’ as an emergency response mechanism to ensure the replanting of over 6000 hectares of land for 13,000 households in Androy and Anosy regions. The FAO added that it had eradicated a plague of locusts that had afflicted crops between 2013-14, with help from the Malagasy government,reported the UN News Service.

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(Madagascar – Agricultural Map: www.amadeusvanillabeans.com)

Earlier on October 21st the Malagasy government and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed an agreement in Rome for finance to support the Project to Support Development (AD2M-II) in the Menabe and Melaky regions to the cost of around US$56.7 million, reported an IFAD press release.

AD2M-II aims to improve the incomes and the food security of smallholders by improving and developing irrigated agriculture and natural resource management approaches. Sana F.K. Jatta, IFAD Regional Director for the East and Southern Africa Division added that it “It will also address land tenure security and safeguarding the land rights of smallholders so that they can investment more in their land and increase their incomes”.

Much of Southern Madagascar has been afflicted by a drought, which has lasted for almost a year and led to the deaths of a number of people, while also destroying livelihoods of the agricultural population. The Mayor of Anjapaly, Bernard Tolia, said that “the death rate varies from two to 10 per day due to drought in our area”.

“It has been almost a year since we saw the last rain. People have to travel 15 kilometres, often on foot, to find drinking water. Livestock is suffering and die while cultivation is impossible due to drought,” Tolia added, cited by the Namibian.

The General-Director of Meteorology in Madagascar, Samueline Rarahiveloarimiza, blamed the drought on the El Niño weather phenomenon, stating that while the southern regions are experiencing little rain, other regions may be inundated with rainfall.

Countries identified by the UN, WFP and FAO as most at risk are Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, all already suffering extensive crop failures, and there are also concerns in Lesotho, and parts of Angola and Mozambique. Malawi is facing its worst food insecurity for a decade with 2.8m at risk coupled by widespread floods.

The WFP stated that solutions would have to involve ‘drought-resilient crops’ such as cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum and millet and supplementary irrigation in order to cope with prolonged dry spells. The WFP also said it would be monitoring the food price situation in the countries which is likely to cause further hardship if they were to rise, reported a WFP report.

At the beginning of October, the Malagasy government urged the UN to take steps towards a meaningful agreement at the upcoming UN Climate talks in Paris in December. Malagasy President Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana said that it was important to recognise that developing countries are not the main parties responsible for climate change, although they pay much of the price; he stated that Madagascar is systematically suffering from the consequences of climate change, destroying efforts towards social and economic progress, reported the UN News Service.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Cereals: Southern Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20896C–20897B

Southern Africa: Devastating Floods
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp.20704C–20706C

Madagascar: Locust Plague
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.6, Pp.20014C–20015A

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