Letter to readers from Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana
Express de Madagascar - july 12, 2018
We have just celebrated the 58th anniversary of our independence and I do hope that everyone enjoyed the festivities. During the occasion, video footage of the independence agreement’s signing ceremony, from June 2, 1960, circulated on social media. The video included scenes from the new Malagasy state’s very first military parade, which was attended, according to the narrator, by 100,000 citizens in the capital. However, what is most interesting about the video, is its brief portrayal of the new nation. The video describes how in 1960 the population of Madagascar was 6 million with only 206,000 of those living in Tana, and how one of the country’s great strengths was that “100% of its children completed schooling.”
Yet here we are in 2018 with a population of, according to the latest estimates and pending census figures, over 24 million – the population has quintupled in 58 years! What’s even more remarkable is that, according to projections, the population will be nearly 36 million in 2030, and close to 55 million in 2050.
"Madagascar is a nation of peasants, fishermen and pastors," remarked the narrator in 1960. So, did we anticipate this demographic explosion and the subsequent implications for our production systems? Were we prepared for it? Given the current situation, I think not.
And now, are we prepared to feed these 36 million mouths in 2030? Food requires land (and sea), water, energy, and access. Behind the simple enough idea of food, lies a complex system made up of small, medium and large producers, collectors, transporters, workshops or processing plants, canines and restaurants, local, national and even global markets. This list is not exhaustive either, since we cannot forget all the input suppliers, who supply seeds, fertilizers, equipment, technology, and sometimes even financing to food producers. Significantly, this system is based upon the availability of natural renewable resources that we garner from natural systems such as forests, lakes, reefs, mangroves, rivers, other wetlands.
Today, we are still one of the six countries most affected by chronic malnutrition.Troublingly, wood, which has long been in our main source of cooking energy, is becoming scarce, and, at the current rate of consumption, it is even feared that we might produce less firewood than we consume by 2030.Desertification has already reached 32% of the total area of our island, reflecting the damage done to soil and ecosystems in general. If we compound this issue with the effects of climate change, our prospects for feeding 36 million in 2030 are grim. This is especially problematic since we are an island, and inhabitants here will not have the opportunity to easily migrate in search of more fertile land.
Fortunately, we have the chance to change our future with active and conscious preparation. How? By systematically putting the sustainable management of natural resources at the heart of our plans for economic development. By investing in the management, maintenance and expansion of these “natural” infrastructures, as we invest in roads, bridges and ports, since they are the fundamental infrastructure which our future depends on. By implementing policies that allow us to reduce our carbon footprint, strengthen our ability to cope with climate change, and optimize opportunities for future generations to experience development. And, above all, by both putting an end to the distinct lack of stringency that currently characterizes those who govern natural resources, and to the trafficking of these resources, which only benefits a small minority to the great detriment of much of the population.
As we approach a new election, please think about it, whilst there is still time.
Director of WWF Madagascar