Famine in Madagascar: Caused by climate change & capitalism

By Lucy Marron

Madagascar is on the brink of the first famine in modern history to be driven by climate change according to experts. Over one million people on the island nation are currently experiencing severe food insecurity, with at least 30,000 in southern Madagascar facing starvation. Many have resorted to eating locusts and wild leaves in order to survive, having already sold most of their possessions in an attempt to obtain food.

Severe drought

Global warming has created a hotter and more arid dry season and a wetter rainy season in Madagascar. This gradual change in rainfall patterns that have taken place over the last four decades has accelerated, causing a drought in the country, which has now lasted four years. The dry conditions alongside high levels of soil erosion, deforestation and increasingly frequent sandstorms have destroyed harvests and made areas that were once full of abundant crops, a barren wasteland.

75% of the region’s population are agricultural labourers, and many more are subsistence farmers: these people have not only lost their livelihoods but their only source of food as a result of the climate crisis. Rising sea levels causing increased flooding during the country’s rainy season leaves large amounts of standing water, which contaminates water supplies and increases the spread of disease.

Devastating inequality

While 100 companies produce 70% of annual carbon emissions, Madagascar has contributed only 0.01% of emissions between 1933 and 2019. Despite this reality, the working class and poor of the country are currently facing the worst effects of a climate crisis they did not cause.

This is likely to become a shared reality across Africa: centuries of resource extraction, exploitation and imperialism have left many parts of the region with basic or limited infrastructure, making the area more vulnerable to the effects of a climate crisis driven by capitalism’s ceaseless pursuit of profit. Christina Kolo, a Malagasy climate activist said ‘capitalism is destroying my country’ and criticized the top-down solutions offered by international aid organisations.

The working class and poor of Madagascar cannot rely upon the chaos of a capitalist market that increases food prices during a famine. The sell-off of natural resources and the destruction of the island’s forests at the hands of the Malagasy ruling class must be resisted. Immediate action must be taken to prevent the death of more people, but a global solution is also necessary.

The impact of the climate crisis can only be curtailed when its root cause: the capitalist system, is replaced by a globally planned, green socialist economy, that is publicly owned and democratically controlled by the international working class.