Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ravaged by drought, Madagascar feels the full effect of climate change

David Smith in the Guardian (UK): …Southern Madagascar has had three years of crop failure in five years, resulting in chronic hunger for tens of thousands of families and soaring rates of malnutrition, stunted growth and death among children.

Three forces are combining with deadly effect on the Indian Ocean island, which is incalculably rich in wildlife but impoverished in basic infrastructure. Climate change is widely blamed for playing havoc with the seasons and destroying agricultural harvests. This is exacerbated by local deforestation, which has altered the microclimate and reduced rainfall.

Finally, a bloody political coup earlier this year paralysed essential services and led to the crippling suspension of several foreign aid programmes. The UN says that nearly half of households in the south have severe food shortages.

…Perversely, people in the south are so starved of water that they crave the increasingly fierce cyclones that pound the north three times a year. Two separate dry seasons have progressively expanded until they meet to form one long hot season, hitting crops such as maize, manioc and sweet potato.

Tovoheryzo Raobijaona, director of a food insecurity early warning system in nearby Ambovombe, said: "Before, people spoke about the cycle of drought every 10 years. Now it's every five years, or every three years. After a bad year like 2009, people need two to three years to get back to standard."…

Lavaka, Madagascar, 2005, shot by Ronadh, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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