In Madagascar, the difficulties are pretty much always extreme

We spoke with the founder of Feedback Madagascar about climate change’s disastrous effects on an already struggling nation.

Back to all stories | Posted on 02/04/22 in NewsBlog

UPDATE

FEBRUARY 7- There has been extensive damage and loss of life due to Cyclone Batsirai. In some areas, up to 80% of schools have been destroyed. Mary’s Meals will continue to distribute food in the affected communities and to pray for all those impacted.

From nature programs, you might recognize an extraordinary fact about the ecosystem in Madagascar: 90% of its wildlife isn’t found anywhere else in the world. Sadly, for this unique and fascinating country, it is also among the poorest countries in the world.  

And there has been no relief for the people that call it home. The country has been devastated year after year by severe drought. According to recent news from the World Food Program (WFP), Madagascar’s population is the first to face famine because of climate change, with more than one million people in southern Madagascar struggling to get enough to eat.  

To share more knowledge on the worsening situation, we spoke with our partner organization, Feedback Madagascar, for a first-hand account of what is happening and how it is affecting the children born into these desperate circumstances.  

Jamie Spencer founded Feedback Madagascar nearly 30 years ago. “Madagascar is currently experiencing very tough times, very high COVID numbers, but also weeks of state of emergency. There's a drought in the south part of the island causing even more hunger.” 

“In a country like Madagascar, the difficulties are pretty much always extreme. So, from a local point of view, it's just more of the same troubles. The huge impact, of course, has been the closing of the borders (due to COVID restrictions), the crumbling of the economy, and the real increase in the prices of everything. So, that's probably the most direct impact which is making people's lives so much harder. In the south, which is experiencing this drought, it's extra dreadful. A series of droughts - for, I think, four seasons now - where the production and the success of the harvest have been hopeless has meant that there's an awful lot of suffering there. There is a compounding of problems.”

Jamie also reflects on Feeding Madagascar’s partnership with Mary’s Meals, “We find ourselves working with our amazing partner, Mary's Meals, who completely respect and understand our approach and philosophy, and their objectives and model marries perfectly with it. So, for us, it’s a match made in heaven.  

“When we started, we had no idea really how it might impact. We knew it would be popular because we are providing something additional. But we have seen significant improvements. For example, enrolment in schools went up immediately. And teachers are reporting that there is consistent attendance by [students] since the school feeding began.”  

Jamie also remarks on the way the people of Madagascar contribute to the program. “We also see an enormous impact on the organization of community teams, community groups, the building of the capacity of people to work together, to work with a third party like ourselves. That to us, is a huge impact. For example, where enrolment and attendance have increased, there's crowding in schools. Parents have taken it upon themselves to build extra classrooms. This is a catalytic project. It creates a foundation, a window of opportunity to do other things.” 

“So not only is the Mary's Meals program having a direct and enormous impact on education, hunger, but it's having a structural impact on communities, which we're very excited about. And we're orientating ourselves to seize this opportunity that Mary's Meals is creating.”  

Jamie leaves us with his dreams for Madagascar’s future:

Open quote mark I hope that Madagascar gets enough well-placed investment to secure the lives of all 25 million people, so they can live freely and take advantage of the opportunities that exist in this world. So, they can enjoy the beautiful country that they live in and take care of it the way they absolutely want to. Close quote mark