More than three-quarters of Malagasy families earn a living from agriculture, but frequent natural disasters – drought in the South, cyclones in the East, locust threats – cut into production and incomes, pushing families into poverty and hunger. A locust plague that began in April 2012 could endanger the livelihoods of 13 million people – roughly 60 percent of the population. Madagascar has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, behind Afghanistan and Yemen. Through crop and income diversification, improved agricultural practices and stronger disaster preparedness, FAO is helping Malagasy families produce more and earn more – and reduce their reliance on external aid.
Building resilience to natural disasters
The frequency with which natural disasters strike Madagascar makes it increasingly difficult for farming families to recover. Challenges such as fields repeatedly damaged or destroyed by cyclones and flooding or yields reduced by drought or pest infestations cause greater food insecurity and uncertainty. FAO is working to ensure that families are better equipped to cope with a changing climate. It is expanding storage facilities, prepositioning quality seed in the event of a disaster and strengthening the capacity of local producers to multiply and market quality seed adapted to the country’s different agro-ecological zones. It is also training farmers on improved agricultural techniques and encouraging them to diversify production.
Improving food security in cities
Many of Madagascar’s city dwellers live 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.
Reducing losses from locusts
Madagascar’s southern districts are particularly vulnerable to locust outbreaks, which can be disastrous for food crops and pasture. An ongoing locust crisis is threatening the livelihoods of some 13 million people – nine million of whom rely on agriculture for their living, especially rice farming. FAO is helping to strengthen the country’s ability to prevent and control locust infestations by providing technical assistance in the management and use of pesticides, and supporting ground control operations. Efforts to protect human and environmental health are an important part of the campaign.