Disaster ResponseNatural Environment

MAF responds to food crisis in southern Madagascar

4th March 2022

Years of drought and deforestation have decimated southern Madagascar

It has been described as the ‘worst drought’ Madagascar has seen in 40 years. UNICEF says half a million under-fives will be ‘acutely malnourished’ this year, with a further 110,000 facing ‘severe malnourishment’. In response, MAF flew staff from the ‘Malagasy Assoc. of Biblical Baptist Churches’ who have been distributing food to the worst hit areas…

In southern Madagascar where 80% of the population depend on agriculture to survive, one in two people are now facing hunger (UN World Food Programme). 

The drought has decimated crops and dried up water sources, resulting in little sustenance for communities and cattle. Farming families have lost their livelihoods and have been displaced by the drought.

The pandemic, deforestation and Madagascar’s cyclone season have exacerbated their woes. According to UNWFP, this could become ‘the first famine to be caused by climate change’.

Half a million under-five-year-olds in Madagascar will be ‘acutely malnourished’ this year

80% of Madagascar’s rainforest has been cut down, leading to soil degradation. Sandstorms are occurring as frequently as four times a month where dust smothers and ruins any fledgling crops (The Guardian).

Once farms are covered in sand, it’s difficult to reuse the land for planting as the sand has to be removed manually.

Al Jazeera reports that some communities have been eating locusts, leaves, clay and even shoe leather just to survive.

MAF flew a team from the Malagasy Assoc of Biblical Baptist Churches to facilitate food distribution

Partnering with MAF meets ‘real needs’

In December, MAF’s Ryan Unger flew a team from the Malagasy Association of Biblical Baptist Churches (MABBC) to Ambovombe – a city in the far south.

The team facilitated food distribution in more than 20 surrounding villages, which have been devastated by the drought.

Thanks to MAF, MABBC and Pastor Jonoro – a local pastor who works in southern Madagascar – some 2,500 people received food aid over three days.

Had the team driven from Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, it would have taken them over 20 hours to reach Ambovombe by road, instead of a 3.5 hour flight.

‘MAF are partnering with us and together we’re able to distribute food to around 2,500 people. We are thankful to God and MAF for their transportation. Our partnership is meeting real needs.’Josoa Salama Emmanuel, Gen. Sec. of Malagasy Assoc. of Biblical Baptist Churches

Thanks to MAF’s Ryan Unger, the flight saved the team at least 20 hours by road

Food and water have become unaffordable

For many southern Malagasy people who are farmers on incredibly low incomes, accessing basic food and water has become unaffordable.

Today, an average family of six has to find money for the following:

20 litres of water – MGA 3,500 (66p) 

1kg of corn seeds – MGA 10,000 (£1.88) 

A 5,000 litre water tank to service one village costs 150,000 MGA (£28) per day.

Josoa from MABBC continues:

‘It’s not affordable for anyone in that area anymore. Cassavas and sweet potatoes are difficult to find – few were produced because of the lack of rain. Before, families could afford to eat once a day in the evening. Now people from the villages are forced to relocate to the city to find a job.

‘Many farmers have sold their livestock. They have to sell something to find MGA1,000 (19p) – that’s the daily cost of feeding their whole family. The rich became poor after selling all their cattle. Others sold their houses and land just to be able to eat and drink.’

Besides quenching physical thirst, the MABBC team also helped to stave off spiritual dryness

Spiritual nourishment

Besides meeting practical needs, spiritual food was also offered to the people. Hundreds heard the Gospel for first time.

At a time of dire need, there’s an opportunity for Christians to share the love of God. In one village, 30 people repented and burnt their charms to the delight of one village church leader:

‘I am thankful to God for this food, but I am more thankful to see a crowd gather here to hear the Gospel, commit to God, repent and be saved.’

One new Christian shares her experience:

‘Before, I was asking myself, “what will I eat?” after trying hard to find something, but God heard my cry and today I got something to eat! Thanks to God for hearing my cry. I want to rely on this living God who Christians are worshipping.’

She is one of many to glorify God. The feeding programme has also strengthened and encouraged local church leaders and Christians longer in the faith, says Josoa:

‘It’s a big relief for them, physically and psychologically. They are strengthened in their faith and are persevering during this long test. As they share food with others, they feel encouraged to share the Gospel with their non-Christian neighbours.

‘We are seeing double the numbers of people coming to church and have added more than 10 villages to our Bible study programme. Pray for these fledgling churches – may God grant them perseverance and an enduring faith. Also pray for rain.’

Please pray for Madagascar at this time.

MAF’s time-saving tool – the 5R-AMF plane in Madagascar