From seeds to solar energy in Madagascar

Since my arrival in Madagascar as a UN resident coordinator, at the end of 2020, the country has been whipped by unprecedented cyclones and has experienced the most serious drought of the last 40 years.

Together with other extreme meteorological phenomena, drought caused generalized hunger and pushed thousands of people to almost similar conditions to famine. In the south of the country, where the land is arid and households depend more on dry land agriculture, the problem of malnutrition is especially serious.

The crops not only suffer from the lack of water, but also because of the strong winds that sweep the fertile soil surface layer. Under these conditions, communities have difficulty cultivating basic foods, such as corn.

Improve nutrition

Last year, thanks to relatively sufficient rainfall and the increase in humanitarian aid of our United Nations team and other partners, food security and nutrition improved in southern Madagascar. Our humanitarian response reached about 1.1 million people in the areas of nutrition, food security and means of subsistence, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, health and protection, and cash transfers.

In 2022, no district was classified as a nutritional emergency, compared to the five districts of the previous year. However, to accelerate the recovery of drought and deal with its long -term effects throughout the region, more than emergency help are needed.

Therefore, together with the ongoing humanitarian efforts, our United Nations team in the country has been working to help communities throughout the region increase their resilience in the face of droughts and prepare for future climatic crises.

The resident coordinator’s office has played a key role in promoting greater integration of organisms interventions, contributing to increasing synergies and promoting the impact of our cooperation.

In April I visited the region to verify the impact of our joint efforts on the communities on the ground. Here is what is working:

Prevention is key

In a Maroalimpoty food distribution center, managed by (PMA), I could see how important the integrated prevention measures are to stop the problem of malnutrition. In addition to making general food distributions to meet the immediate food needs of the most vulnerable families in the area, the PMA uses the same place to carry out reviews and nutritional support sessions and awareness aimed at pregnant children and women.

In a neighboring commune, I visited an integrated health center where the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had trained nurses to examine children in search of malnutrition. The center offers a complete package of high -impact nutritional interventions and, with the support of the United Nations (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), carries out preventive, therapeutic and promotion activities of other health issues, which benefit the entire community.

In a nearby school, he collaborated with the government and the private sector to install a water desalination system through solar energy that supplies drinking water to the integrated health center, the school and the rest of the community. The PMA works in the same school with its food program, which encourages school assistance and performance, two fundamental prevention measures.

Eating dignity

In the same commune, two interventions of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization () are helping to increase the capacity of vulnerable homes through sustainable agricultural practices.

Thanks to these interventions, the commune farme associations received drought -resistant seeds, tools and training on heated agricultically intelligent agricultural practices. In addition, an irrigation system Gota by gout fed by solar energy, developed by FAO, provides access to water throughout the year, allowing homes to grow enough for their own consumption and a surplus to sell in the local market and conserve as seeds.

Some homes that I met in the commune said that during the high point of the crisis they sometimes only had cactus as daily food, but now, thanks to stronger crops, they have enough to eat “with dignity” and can even allow themselves two meals a day.

For Madame Nativité, a widow with two children seriously affected by drought, seeds and the small amount of cash you receive from the program are helping her to stand up and send her children to school.

In the same area, I saw how a project directed by the (UNDP) adopted simple solutions to stabilize coastal dunes and protect dust crops and sand storms, locally known astiomena. By planting three types of flora to reduce the impact of the wind and retain soil moisture, this project has helped communities to cultivate commercial crops in fields previously lost by the sand.

Collaboration increases resilience

Organisms are collaborating in other ways to create economic resilience, which leads to better results in food nutrition and safety. For example, in the Integrated Development Cooperative we visited, UNDP is providing training and equipment to modernize the cultivation and processing of the Sisal plant to produce crafts to sell.

In the same place, the (FIDA) and the PMA have provided the members of the tools and knowledge to process other plants and turn them into non -petal products, such as the use of cassava to produce flour, the elaboration of jam from cactus and organic soap with aloe vera, cactus or other extracts.

Speaking with one of the members of the association, it was clear that, especially during the dry season, these crafts provide families in the region with an additional and stable source of income.

With a longer -term development vision, eco -agriculture supported by the FIDA intends to overcome chronic problems related to drought and climate change through large -scale adoption of improved practices of adaptation to climate change.

In our last stop, we visited the remote village of Anjamahavelo, where the PMA established a solar energy center, connectivity and a sustainable water source that was being improved by UNICEF. In this place, UN entities and their partners are collaborating to feed a drip irrigation system aimed at improving agricultural production and providing a series of integrated community services such as a digital classroom and a training center for women and young people.

The solar centers have the potential to supply electricity to the community of the community and to other structures, as well as to offer business opportunities to diversify subsistence means and help communities to resist future climate crises.

The South of Madagascar communities have challenges of enormous proportions before them, but I am also convinced that our increasingly integrated approach is our best response to multidimensional problems of malnutrition and food insecurity.

In isolation, these interventions, ranging from food distribution and the treatment of severe acute malnutrition to the adoption of agricultural practices of adaptation to climate change and the generation of sustainable energy, would have a positive impact, although limited. However, when working together and creating synergies throughout the United Nations team in the country, we are obtaining more durable results and providing communities throughout the region the tools they need to recover with resilience.

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