Madagascar is an extremely poor country, with more than 90 percent of people living on less than USD 2 a day and half of children under the age of five chronically malnourished. More than three-quarters of Malagasy families earn a living from agriculture, but frequent natural disasters, such as recurrent cyclones, tropical storms, flooding, drought or locust threats negatively impact production and incomes, pushing families into poverty and hunger.
Food security and livelihoods crisis
The 2015/16 agricultural season has seen a dramatic reduction in crop production in southern Madagascar mainly following three consecutive years of crop failures, aggravated by the current El Niño-induced drought. In particular, the production of maize and cassava crops this year declined by up to 95 percent compared with the previous five-year average ‒ last year it was over 80 percent. Vulnerable households, whose already low purchasing power is eroded by prevailing high prices, were forced to adopt multiple survival strategies, especially in Madagascar’s seven southern regions. Water for people, animals and agricultural purposes has been scarce.
According to the joint assessment conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, WFP and FAO in these regions (September 2016), more than 1.2 million people are food insecure including 665 000 people severely food insecure and in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. This mainly stems from the impact of recurrent drought that was aggravated this year by the El Niño phenomenon. The severity of the situation was confirmed by the mission undertaken by the WFP and FAO Emergency Directors (18 to 23 September), who were struck by the particularly acute situation in the Tsihombe district. Overall, there’s a serious risk of the deterioration of food security of a significant number of households that are likely to move from IPC Phase 4 to Phase 5.
Immediate response to save lives, protect livelihoods and build resilience for El Niño-induced drought-affected populations
FAO is implementing activities to protect and strengthen the livelihoods and resilience of 347 000 vulnerable households (1 735 000 people) in Madagascar’s southern and southeastern regions. More specifically, FAO is:
- Safeguarding agriculture-based livelihoods (seed distribution through input trade fairs and voucher schemes, community-centred drought-tolerant seed production, small-scale irrigation initiatives, promotion of conservation agriculture, training in postharvest techniques and development of storage infrastructure, school gardens and nutrition education).
- Protecting and enhancing livestock production (livestock restocking, animal health interventions).
- Increasing water access through improved infrastructure (cash-for-work initiatives to rehabilitate water reservoirs and construct water points).
- Providing information, coordination and analysis (seed security assessment, livestock needs assessment, early warning and vulnerability mapping).
So far, of the USD 12.4 million required, only 14 percent has been secured and efforts to mobilize more resources are ongoing.
Improving food security in cities
A large part of Madagascar’s urban population lives in poverty, aggravated by political instability, rapid urbanization and unemployment. Some 31 percent of the population in the country’s capital gets by on less than 50 cents a day, with more than half of that used to buy food. Seasonal inflation of staples means that many cannot afford the food they need. FAO is helping families in urban areas diversify and improve the quantity and quality of food produced, working to ensure reliable supplies of high-yielding seeds and introducing micro-irrigation kits for production during the dry season. FAO is also strengthening the capacity of producer organizations to supply fresh and nutritious food to urban markets and is supporting Government efforts to integrate nutritional awareness programmes into primary schools.
Locust plague halted
The Three-year Programme in response to the locust plague in Madagascar (2013‒2016) successfully implemented by FAO and the Malagasy Government thanks to the generous response of several governments and financial partners, allowing to secure a total of USD 37 million. Consequently, the plague was stopped and a calm locust situation now prevails. In parallel, FAO has been helping to strengthen the country’s ability in all aspects of locust management. With Programme’s outputs in terms of human competences, expendable and non-expendable equipment and infrastructure, the country is now in a position to undertake an efficient locust preventive control strategy, the only one able to sustainably anticipate repeated locust crises.