I came to Vohipeno, Madagascar prepared for the hot, humid region that my research indicated. There was reported to be lots and lots of rain. However, the Vohipeno that I have found it not to be what I anticipated. Back in November I was told that we should have started getting very frequent showers. None came. Water stress continued to increase until every one of Fihaonana’s deep wells was bone dry. It was unprecedented. Fihaonana could no longer support the life it held; there was no water for drinking, cooking, washing, or watering. We turned to the Matitanana River that is located about five miles away. We made trips to river to bring back truckloads of water barrels which we manually filled in the river and emptied back into our own wells. This continued on for months as the rain continued to fail to fall.
Though the absence of rain in this region was more acute here than some other places this water shortage was not something that was limited to my region, a very large part of Madagascar was dealing with the absence of rain. Madagascar was drying up. In many parts of Madagascar the rice crop, the staple food, was not planted because there was simply not enough water for it grow. People grew increasingly desperate for water. There was talk of the Malagasy government forcing artificial rains which essentially consists of spraying clouds with salt, forcing the water to condense and fall down as salty rain on the earth below. The water to Antananarivo, the capital, was threatened to be completely shut off— they dissembled a dam to keep that nightmare from happening.
I have been cautioned to be increasingly careful as people fall into a desperation due to the failed rans. Rice prices have already shot up as the rice crop this year will be much smaller. Fortunately we have had a strong mango season as the mango tree, I am told, does well with less rain so people in my region have relied heavily on them. However, mango season is coming to close and people will no longer be able to count on it for to meet caloric needs. Typically after mango season, people in my region rely on rice and red fruit (that’s the only English name I’ve heard for it ). However there will not be the needed rice since it was not planted and the red fruit crop this year is quite weak due to the lack of rain. Many people honestly don’t know what they will be eating. I have been told that people will be getting the “rice crazies” as they can’t find and/or afford to buy their needed calories.
About two weeks ago we finally began to receive blessed rains. Though the rain cannot correct much of the damage already done it keeps more from happening. We’ve finally been able to begin planting some vegetables, the other day I helped to plant sweet potatoes, another staple food for many Malagasy people. But this weather is not a fluke, this year is not going to be thought of as some odd year where the rains were just off. This just part of a trend that has been growing, especially in the last ten years, where the dry season is extended further and further with each passing year— this is climate change at work. The South of Madagascar is already historically noted for it’s poverty and for it’s struggle to grow the food to support it’s population. Climate change aggravates and add to those struggles. If the whole world lived as the average Malagasy does, climate change would simply not be an issue today and yet, here we are, in a world where it is an issue and vulnerable places like Madagascar are having to pay prices they can’t afford because of the actions and lifestyles of others.