Madagascar – an island swarming with problems

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With problems ranging from locust plagues to forest destruction, Madagascar may appear to be a beautiful & diverse paradise, but looks can be deceiving…

 

Recently it was announced that Madagascar is facing its worst locust plague since the 1950s. Already one quarter of the island’s crops have been depleted, and 60% of the population’s livelihood is now under threat. The country must race to find appropriate interventions, as infestation may engulf over two-thirds of the land by September, according to the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO). Fighting back locusts is not a cheap endeavour –  launching this campaign requires 41.5 million USD. Yet funding is vital to ensure food security. Previous underfunding helped facilitate the current boom in this uncontrolled locust population; what began as an upsurge turned into a plague.

Photo by TallTom (from Reddit)

The food crisis is further exacerbated by the progressive deforestation that has affected the country since the 1890s. The results have been devastating, leading to soil loss and desertification. Because of this, the country has struggled with food production, sanitation, and fresh water. When combined with this locust plague, Madagascar faces a real crisis. Carbon management could be utilised to protect highly endangered Malagasy forests, yet repetitive slash and burn may have rendered previously afflicted areas hopeless.

                                                           Photo by Frank Vassen – http://bit.ly/13XpCMC

Malnutrition is already prevalent in the Malagasy population. Food supplies don’t fulfil the necessary dietary requirements, leaving a third of the inhabitants malnourished. With the population lacking nutrition, the immune system is weakened, leaving the individual vulnerable to tuberculosis (TB). In turn, TB erases appetite and reduces absorption of micronutrients, making it difficult to maintain the necessary diet. With locusts eating away at resources, the situation can only worsen.

With food security wavering, will this island sink or swim? Only time will tell, but right now time is limited.

If you’re interested in this area of research please visit BioMed Central’s open access journals Agriculture & Food Security and Carbon Balance and Management.