Climate Witness: Emile Jean, Madagascar
I am from the Mahafaly tribe and the Temitongia clan. My village is between the forest of the lower Plateau Mahafaly and the ocean. I am a farmer like my father and his father before him, but there are some fishermen in our village too. I plant maize and vegetables. Half of what we grow is for our own needs, the rest we sell. Like every Mahafaly I have a couple of zebus.
For some years now, we have been losing a part of our manioc yield because the rain comes too late. We also have more insects these days.
We used to plant in the dry season also. This helped to overcome the lack of food between the rainy seasons. Now this is not possible any more, we just lose seeds if we do it... It used to rain a lot in January. Now there is no rain at all in this month.
When my grandfather was young, they didn’t have more than one or two bad years in 20 years. When my father was young, they had a bad year every 7 years. Now, it’s every two years. We even risk having the second bad year in a row. 2010 could be the worst ever – we are very worried.
The price for cattle is very low, while the prices for other products have doubled. Because of this, I now drink rohondroho in the morning instead of coffee. It is like coffee but stronger.
We used to water the animals in little natural ponds. Nowadays they are dry for 9 to 11 months. When I was young, they had water for 6 months. Thank God we have a pump in the village these days.
I don’t know who or what is responsible for those changes. When we changed to community based forest management, we sacrificed a zebu to ask God for his protection. We would protect nature, the forest and the tortoises. It was like a contract and God helped us through difficult times. Maybe we have to do another sacrifice as the last one was already a while ago. Especially because some of us didn’t respect the contract and have cleared some forest anyway. Maybe God is angry.
I am really scared that the drought continues. I am very scared of famine.
My kids all go to school. Education is what they inherit from me. I hope that they all become intellectuals, someone important, professionally speaking. Then they can take care of me, when I am old. They will remember that they got a job because I worked myself to death to educate them. I hope they will bury me in a big concrete gravesite when I am dead instead of a simple pile of stones.