Madagascar: when “red wind” means hunger
Africa’s largest island is facing a serious humanitarian emergency. Drought and sand storms have unleashed one of the worst food crises in the history of a country with endemic deficiencies in water infrastructures and with a governance that is incapable of adequately managing the territory. The short film Where to go?, finalist at the We Art Water Film Festival 5, provides direct evidence of a crisis that threatens to kill more than a million people.
The situation is particularly serious in the south of the island, where farmers lost most of their rice crops in October.
The climate crisis predictions are turning out to be true in Madagascar. in the last five years and the current one is the worst in the last 40 years. The situation is particularly serious in the south of the island, where farmers lost most of their rice crops in October, a key month for the growth of the cereal, when rainfall was 50% less than the usual average.
The devastation of the tiomena
For farmers on the vast island in southeast Africa the situation worsened in January when the dreaded “red wind” - the tiomena (from tio, which means wind in Malagasy, and mena, meaning red) – devastated crops and pastures in the south. These storms, which cover the sky with a reddish dust that sometimes blocks the sunlight, contribute to increasing the dryness of the soil and deforestation. They generate a feedback loop: the more tiomena, the drier the soil and therefore the more sand to be blown by wind in the future.
For farmers on the vast island in southeast Africa the situation worsened in January when the dreaded “red wind” - the tiomena (from tio, which means wind in Malagasy, and mena, meaning red) – devastated crops and pastures in the south. © Madagascar74
This is a phenomenon that usually takes place from mid-May to mid-October, almost never in January, but the forecasts of scientists warn that these seasonal patterns will be altered by climate change.
As a result, less than half of what is needed to feed the entire population is expected to be harvested in the coming months. It is a real emergency: according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), urgent intervention is required to avoid a worsening of the famine that has already begun, as malnutrition has almost doubled since September, from 9% to 16% of the population.
Where to go?
This kind of emergencies increase with climate change. Effective management of water resources in line with the balance of ecosystems must go hand in hand with strong actions to curb desertification. A community capable of managing water itself is capable of reducing the risk of droughts and . Therein lies the hope, both in southern Madagascar and in the rest of the world.