Madagascar -- where half the world's vanilla can be found -- has me floored. It is such an incredible place. Read:
"Madagascar is home to as many as 12,000 plant species, making it one of the most diverse floras on the planet." - wildmadagascar.org
"More than 600 new species have been discovered in Madagascar's unique habitats in the past decade." - theguardian.com
But the health of the people and the land is in an urgent state of decline:
"From January to June 2018, Madagascar has been hit by tropical Cyclone Ava and tropical Storm Eliakim ... The Nutrition Surveillance System, implemented in 120 of 224 communes in Southern Madagascar, showed that 37 per cent have a global acute malnutrition prevalence (GAM) greater than 10 per cent ... The effects of the El-Nino induced drought in the southern part of the country and continues to fuel food insecurity due to low agricultural output and lack of access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in the affected regions. The presence of health services is also weak in this region, with more than 70 per cent of the population living more than 5 km away from a basic health center." - reliefweb.int
Yet Madagascar's greatest problem isn't the weather; it's us. Please read the following (emphasis mine):
"Today roughly 90% of Madagascar’s spectacularly unique forests have been destroyed, and much of the destruction has come from slash and burn agriculture, or as the fires are called locally, tavy. The problem with tavy is that in the end, the land is left bereft of the nutrients that supported vegetation such as forest or the later rice paddies. When the land is eventually abandoned after its usefulness, erosion often occurs and it’s extremely hard for forests to reclaim the land in the short-term. It’s said that from space, Madagascar looks like it’s bleeding from the run-off of red soil in the oceans surrounding the island nation ... As Madagascar continues to burn, the root problem continues to grow as well: exploitation of a land and a people too powerless to stop the relentless march of exploitative capitalism." - Zach Fitzner, earth.com
"After a political crisis of more than five years (2009-2014), Madagascar is now in a process of political normalisation. Development challenges are huge as social, economic and environmental situation remains worrisome. About 92% of the Malagasy population lives with less than US $2 per day. Although the authorities have managed to avert a macroeconomic collapse during the crisis, this has been done at the expenses of public investment and social expenditure that have been sharply compressed. This has negatively impacted the energy and transport infrastructure, the education and health systems, as well as underemployment, food insecurity and malnutrition that have been increasing. This situation is compounded by high vulnerability to natural hazards, such as locust attacks or climatic events (cyclones, droughts, floods) exacerbated by climate change. The index of good governance deteriorated with wide repercussions including on justice and Rule of law, as well as on the use of all natural resources." - European Commission
I'm rooting for the people and the land of Madagascar by supporting a small, direct, cost-effective, long-term, science-based project. My friend Amber's conservation and education work focuses on lemurs and the humans who encounter them day by day. The Red Book Challenge is about discovering and sharing knowledge of these creatures and the need to protect them, as well as enhancing children's access to education.
In tandem with healthcare, community-rebuilding and sustainable-farming initiatives, The Red Book Challenge will help ensure these children never have to destroy the ecology that holds them -- and us -- in the name of making a dollar.
"The Red Book Challenge has reached more than 300 children living in three communities of southern Madagascar bringing conservation education. Its initiatives teach children about the uniqueness of the endemic wildlife living in their backyards." - Dr. Amber Dawn Walker-Bolton
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