Thoughts are always turning around in my head about ways to provide food for my children.
Soarohy, female, 50, Petriky
Narrators from all communities say that in the last 10 to 15 years harvests have become poor and irregular as a result of drought and decreasing rainfall. In the past they used to have good yields. They explain that although there were recurrent food shortages, there were also good recovery periods. People subsisted on their crops and also sold or exchanged them for clothes and other goods.
Several narrators say that today there are almost no recovery periods, just persistent drought and failing harvests which lead to increasingly severe food shortages. People describe the hunger and malnutrition resulting from these shortages, referring to skipping meals and listlessness resulting from insufficient food intake.
Some say the changing climate is the reason for drought, while several narrators attribute it to QMM’s activities and the violation of certain taboos by outsiders. They regret how difficult it has become to carry out certain ceremonies – because they lack the necessary natural resources – as they believe these customs would bring rain and enhance their harvests.
People’s farming options have also been curtailed by the appropriation of land and restricted access to forests. For example, communities used to plant various subsistence crops at the edge of the forest, where tree cover created more moist conditions. Many express great frustration at the way new restrictions have undermined their strategy of diversifying between fishing and farming, or weaving and farming, as conditions dictated.
Some still invest in buying cattle, which has also traditionally been an integral part of their survival strategies. But many express dismay at the increasingly common death of cattle, believing that this is the result of the contamination of air, grass and water sources by dust from the quarry explosions as well as the increasingly hot and dry weather.
Rice cultivation is important to my survival. It is a livelihood practice from my ancestors…[but now] I have problems every day because we are hungry. I cultivated rice but it did not grow like in the past, because there is too much sun and less water for irrigation now.
Tsilefa, male, 83 years, Petriky
My family did not consume cassava or sweet potatoes [in the past] because they had plenty of rice to eat… Crops rotted in the fields without being harvested, because production was so abundant…
Brinaldine, female, 42 years, Ilafitsignana
[Women] go to their farmland hungry and thus tire easily. Usually, they don’t eat in the morning. They give leftovers from the previous night to their children for breakfast. They make the sacrifice of not eating, since the food is not enough for everyone…. The 80 kapaoka of peanuts that we planted have all dried up. Also, [the beans and] maize did not grow either. The only benefit from these crops was that our cattle grazed on the leaves… All of this is due to the sun and lack of rain. Thus, we suffer…we suffer a lot.
Tema Pauline, female, 30 years, Petriky
In the past, I farmed one piece of land and could harvest a good amount. However, I had to increase the size of the land but I still cannot harvest sufficient crops for my family, because they did not survive the excessive heat. In addition, seeds are now for sale, unlike the past where one could get them for free from a relative or friend. It will cost me more than 2,000 ariary before I can have enough seed to farm my land. So, given this situation, I cannot rely on farming as a source of food for my children or income..
Mija, female, 28 years, St Luce
In the past, when people slashed forest land to farm, people yielded lots of crops…But since we have to use the same piece of land continually, due to the restrictions [on the forest], our crops have diminished… Thus, people are facing hardships…We harvested cassava, rice, pineapples, bananas – anything could grow on the forested land…because the soil was fertile. Now, we are forced to farm on sandy soil [and] our crop production has been mediocre.
Josephine, female, 56 years, St Luce
We farmed in forested areas and by the edge of the forest as well. Access to these lands was open. During the season when it is prohibited by the government to catch lobster, we cultivated cassava, sweet potatoes and corn. Now, this practice has run into a problem, because land has become scarce… [Also] the land has lost its productivity. The problem was that we did not have money to buy fertiliser.
Rakoto, male, 30 years, St Luce
People collect via (a type of edible plant) when the crops are bad and fish production does not yield any resources. Via can cause a scratchy feeling when touched if it has not been carefully prepared. The via grows along the river shore. People boil it first and then leave it to be exposed to sun, like rice paddies, before being cooked again. Nothing is like rice but people are forced to eat via and vine fruits when faced with hunger. People also consume ondriky (a type of plant that tastes like cassava) from the Petriky Forest, when they do not have any food available in their homes. So there are the alternatives for people whenever they face food insecurity.
Tema Pauline, female, 36 years, Petriky