ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — Upon first glance of its distinctive biodiversity, deep rainforests, and serene beaches and reefs, the island country of Madagascar may seem untouched and celestial. Zooming in on the daily lives of the Malagasy people, conversely, one will see a poverty stricken nation that has deeply rooted governmental corruption, and unfortunate environmental disasters.
Extreme poverty plagues the country, consuming about 77.8 percent of the population. Tropical storms and cyclones hit the island every year; dilapidated houses and schools are all that is left of the infrastructure in most rural regions. As a result, the Malagasy people are left impoverished.
Infrastructure is not a priority investment due to climate shocks that directly impact the ability of enterprises to interact with international markets. Nationally, companies do not have much scope for business, and 91 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day which creates a low demand for goods other than agricultural products.
Lack of Access to Necessities
Necessities such as food and clean water are monopolized by the nation’s leaders who often pursue their personal agendas without much care for their constituents. For example, Illegal foresting and grazing has been a blatant activity in which ruling families have participated, and soil erosion is a common outcome of these activities. Poor families are most impacted by the repercussions of this activity as 1.2 million people in Madagascar are food insecure without adding the effects of soil erosion.
Money Funneled Away from the Poor
Relying on the government to assuage poverty in Madagascar is not an alternative. Instead of financing programs for common citizens, the government funnels money into affairs that benefit the elite minority. Less than 0.5 percent of the national budget is addressing malnutrition when more than one third of the population under five years of age suffers from chronic undernourishment.
Madagascar holds fourth position internationally for highest undernourishment rate, and the impact of that ranking on the community is tragic. Not only does undernourishment stunt growth, but it also interferes with brain development. Reduced school performance and minimal earning power are a couple of the poor results of undernourishment that end up furthering the cycle of poverty. In addition, the economy is indirectly impacted from the loss of human capital.
Locust infections similarly threaten poverty in Madagascar by aggravating the already scarce agricultural production. Sixty percent of the rice crop is susceptible to infestation which is bad news for the already malnutritioned populations that customarily rely on rice as their staple food selection.
But fortunately, light can be seen at the end of the tunnel for Madagascar’s economy. 2016 was a turnaround year — after five years of an average 2.6 percent GDP growth rate, Madagascar’s GDP increased by 1.5 percent to 4.1 percent. With foreign aid and a government clean out, poverty in Madagascar can be drastically alleviated.
– Tanvi Wattal