While the global spotlight is on Glasgow and world’s leaders discussing how to halt the growing climate crisis, young people, from wherever they are, have thoughts and opinions that we should hear.

One of those places is Madagascar, the second largest island nation in the world, sitting around 250 miles off the coast of East Africa where more than a million people are on the brink of famine caused by an unprecedented drought – almost certainly linked to the changing climate.  In some villages in the South of the country there’s been no proper rain for more than 3 years.

Livestock herds have been devastated and harvests of staples such as rice and cassava have been drastically reduced.  With many now relying on limited international relief, a recent report by Amnesty International says, “People’s lives are being turned upside down, many have had no option but to migrate to other areas in search of food. Children are being robbed of their futures, as hunger forces many to drop out of school to seek work to support their families.”

The Herald: Elena Princia Rabermandimby Elena Princia Rabermandimby

This crisis affects young people even more acutely in Madagascar as around d 60 percent of population are under 24.  Long before this unprecedented drought, the island was battling extreme poverty and on the United Nation’s list of Least Developed Countries.

This lack of economic and cultural power means that Madagascar’s voice isn’t often heard and its people have little input to discussions on climate action.  With this current acute crisis, Madagascar’s young population face an extremely worrying future, so it’s time to listen to what the Malagasy youth have to say.

Elena, Frederic and Astan are at school in the coastal town of Antalaha on the North East coast of Madagascar.  Luckily for them, they are hundreds of miles North of the areas most affected by drought.  That said, they are acutely aware of how much they rely on the decisions of the people in power to solve these life changing challenges.

 “Our lives depend on them”, says Elena and Astan adds, “We could all die because of this”.

These acute issues are not the only ones threatening Madagascar’s future. 

The Herald: Astan Princy Rabearivony Kiadinirina Astan Princy Rabearivony Kiadinirina

Astan highlights the issue of deforestation.

“They should stop cutting down our trees. The practice of slash-and-burn is very bad for the environment.” This is a centuries old tradition, where farmers burn a section of forest to provide fertile ashes as ground for crops.

On a small scale, this doesn’t pose any problems, as there is enough local forest remaining but with Madagascar’s population multiplying five-fold in the last 60 years and its economy relying on the export of crops such as vanilla, lychees and cloves, these controlled wild fires have spread massively and long surpassed sustainability. Today, at least 50 percent (and possibly much more) of the island is deforested, which leads to contamination of water, loss of animal habitat and desertification.

Frederic worries, “Future generations will not see the beautiful nature of Madagascar”.

This deforestation is both the cause and the effect of the problem in Madagascar. Globally, deforestation is linked to around 15 percent of greenhouse gasses, as there aren’t enough trees to convert CO2 back into oxygen. The wider effects of climate change on the Malagasy people in turn leads to even more deforestation, as poverty and famine force people to turn more and more forest into farmland for export or for their increasingly challenged food supply.

The Herald: Frederic Fanomezana Ngueta Frederic Fanomezana Ngueta

Madagascar is considered one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world, but its bioreserves are not endless. Types of lemurs only found in Madagascar are one of the casualties.

This iconic ‘maki katta’ – the ring-tailed lemur – is the national animal of Madagascar and a source of great pride and happiness for the children in Antalaha.

Elena is direct. “Stop poaching!” as illegal hunting adds to this loss of habitat which has now brought this loved species close to extinction.  Recent studies suggest there are now less than 2500 animals remaining in the wild.   Until recently, poachers sold lemurs for their fur or as pets but now, through the drought and shortages of food, they are now hunted for their meat.  Climate colliding with poverty leaves many of Malagasy people with little choice.

Guyot - Elena, Aston, and Frederic’s teacher - adds his voice, “The politicians say that people should stop doing it, but there’s no alternative. There’s nothing that they offer people to earn their living. 80 per cent of Malagasy people are farmers, but we still don’t have enough food for the country.

This is why the fate of Madagascar needs to be heard in Glasgow. Aston, Elena, and Frederic and particularly others hit even harder by the drought face a dangerous future because of where they live.

Just because their voices aren’t as loud as many others should not mean they are, literally, left in the dust

This ‘Dear Green Place’ story is a collaboration between 3 pupils at Horace Francois School in Antalaha, Madagascar, Elena, Astan and Frederic and Luis Teschner, a journalism student at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.  This story was made possible by generious support from  the Centre for Global Education based in Edmonton, Canada