Madagascar Droughts: Climate Change

Madagascar is the fourth biggest island in the world, situated in the Indian Ocean. The island country is deemed as ‘Megadiverse’ by Conservation International with more than 250,000 species of plants and animals most of which do not exist anywhere else. Almost 90% of the species found on the island are endemic. The island of 28 million people is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been ravaged by many natural and human-induced hazards.

So we can confidently say that the country is extremely rich and unique biodiversity. On the eastern coast of Madagascar the Rainforests of Atsinanana comprising of six national parks with an endemic rate of species touching almost 80%. This area has also been added to the World Heritage List since 2007. The area is considered important to both ecological and biological processes and it also supports the rare species of Lemurs and many other primates.

Deforestation has been a major issue in Madagascar and this has also threatened the Lemurs and them and many endemic species of the island heavily rely on these forests. Madagascar witnessed rapid deforestation for long a time and this only accelerated by the end of the 19th century due to French Colonization. The forested areas were gradually converted into coffee fields and the country lost its original forest cover by almost 80%. As of today, the primary forest cover stands a little over 10 percent.

Deforestation has not only affected the ecology of the country but has also affected the soil quality and increased soil degradation. Subsistence agriculture is quite common among the inhabitants of the islands. Slash and burn is another method that has affected the forest cover of the island as these methods are not beneficial after a certain population cluster. Another big reason for the rapid deforestation is illegal logging and this benefits private entities and large corporations. The country has also seen a rapid growth in its population which currently is estimated at 26 million, up from 2.2 million in 1900. This has increased the requirement for more land for cultivation.

Currently, Madagascar is going through a very severe drought and deforestation can partly be a reason for this phenomenon. But there are other issues of cause too. Due to climate change, Madagascar has also suffered the consequence of the increased frequency of extreme weather events. It’s the worst drought in 40 years and has taken grip of the Southern part of the island. Due to low rainfall various streams, rivers and small dams built for irrigation dried up last year. The majority of the people in the south of the country rely on rain-fed, small-scale agriculture to survive.  With no rainfall and non-existent agriculture output, there has been an emergency in the country with severe food scarcity. Many people in the region have resorted to eating insects, wild roots.

According to experts’ deforestation, drier soils and higher temperatures due to climate change are the likely cause of droughts.

Climate experts

The island is already suffering from the covid-19 virus combined with the pressure of droughts and famines have caused strain to the poor country. Food and other aids are being provided to the affected areas of the country but supply is still not aligning with the current demand. A long-term solution will be required to tackle this situation as this problem is only going to get more serious in the future.