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In Madagascar, the difficulties are pretty much always extreme

In Madagascar, the difficulties are pretty much always extreme

We speak with the Founder of Feedback Madagascar about climate change's disastrous effects on an already struggling nation.

Published on

You might recognise, from nature programmes, an extraordinary fact about the ecosystem in Madagascar: that 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 by year after year of severe drought. According to recent news from the World Food Programme (WFP), Madagascar’s population is the first to face famine created as a result of climate change, with more than one million people in southern Madagascar struggling to get enough to eat.

“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.
Jamie Spencer Feedback Madagascar - Founder

To share more knowledge on the worsening situation, we spoke with our partner organisation, 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: 

“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 has been hopeless has meant that there's an awful lot of suffering there. There is a compounding of problems.”

He continues: “80% of the people are subsistence farmers, utterly and directly dependant on a healthy environment. We believe that to solve any problems and to prevent other problems undermining your activities, you have to work on all fronts. We do this with an approach, which we call ‘participative’. So, everything we do is very much with the people's involvement from beginning to end and long-term, because these are the biggest problems on the planet. They're not going to get solved in three years. So, we commit to our working area long-term without any exit strategy."

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 pupils since the school feeding began.”

Jamie also remarks on the way the people of Madagascar contribute to the programme: 

“We also see an enormous impact on the organisation 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 programme 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: “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.”