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Environmental change

Even if there was a hainandro (drought) in the past we still had rains when the season came. These seasons are not valid any more; drought happens every day. It has been worse since QMM arrived here…
Zanaboatsy, male, 58, Petriky

The Anosy narrators, who rely heavily on their environment for their daily survival, describe at length the changes they have experienced. Drought has had a major impact on agriculture and water supplies, which are also being polluted by mining and construction activity. Many say they can no longer plan their crop planting, as they are unable to predict when the rain will fall.

As a result of land appropriation and the decline in agricultural production, reliance on fishing for food and income has increased, resulting in overfishing and dwindling stocks. At the same time, the fishermen say increasingly strong winds at sea are making their work more difficult.

Narrators say it is hard to understand the cause of the drought and other changes to their environment. Some believe they are the result of outsiders violating their traditional customs; others give different explanations, such as increasing pressure on those few natural resources that they can still access, and a changing climate.

There is concern about future generations growing up without the same knowledge and understanding of their environment. Medicinal plants, for example, are less easy to find because of reduced access to the forest, and young people are losing the skills to recognise and use them. The landscape itself is changing, as the hillsides are quarried and farmland is turned into roads and housing.

In Petriky, the water system that runs through the forest is a crucial source of life and narrators there are fearful that cutting down the forest for mining will destroy the river as a habitat for fish. Without the shade and shelter provided by the trees, the fish are likely to disappear.


In the past, whenever it rained, people were sure that they would have a good harvest. Strangely, such assumptions can no longer be relied upon since QMM’s arrival. Now, all people witness is bright sunshine all day long, no sign of a cloud that could allow people to hope for rain. The lack of rain has… exposed my family’s vulnerability to food shortages… [And] it not only affects farming, but also the growth of medicinal plants.
Brinaldine, female, 42 years, Ilafitsignana

The explosions used to be one per week, but now they set off explosions three times a day. The mountain that was once tall and massive is almost gone. It is going to seem like a myth when we tell future generations that there was a tall mountain nearby.
Marie Louise, female, 62 years, Ilafitsignana

Why are cattle today dying in large numbers?… People are not sure if they get diseases or if they die due to the effects of the dynamite explosions done by COLAS (French construction company). Whenever the dynamite explodes, a cloud of dust spreads all over the surrounding environment. Later, dust covers the grass that the cows graze. So people came to the conclusion that contaminated grass killed their cattle… Something is wrong… Even honey bees have fled the forest. Currently, there is a shortage of honey in the village. Probably the honey bees fled because of gas spreading all over their environment.
Miha, male, Ilafitsignana

The climate changed and became bad [and] our fields did not produce like before. Thus we became more involved in small-scale trade and commerce to raise money to purchase food. Each time there was some rain, everybody seized the time to farm their fields, since rain is becoming more and more scarce. When we are able to farm our fields, we are able to have a little bit of food…
Tema Pauline, female, 30 years, Petriky

The major difficulty people encounter here is the lack of water. It is a challenge to find a source of water and even if people dig a well, it takes time for that well to produce water. I guess because excessive heat dries up the water source. Life is almost impossible. Children in the village now end up going to school without taking a shower, or even cleaning their hands and feet. People eat without washing their hands. People wear dirty clothes. It shows how poor we are. Well, we already live in misery, so what can I say?
Marinette, female, 40 years, St Luce

A long time ago, when there was lightning, it meant it was time for us to work. We prepared for heavy rain… But now we do not understand why it becomes hotter and hotter every year. In the past, when we only planted a little parcel of a rice field, we could harvest enough to feed our family. Now, even if you try to plant a field as big as a hectare, you only harvest a basket of rice. We are stunned at how Petriky cannot provide the same resources as it once did. Maybe it is because it has become foreigners’ land and Petriky does not like that status, [maybe] that is why there is a drought. Maybe God turns the land upside down, resulting in drought, which cause us famine… That is why we are sad – because the drought affects us. We are clueless to understand the cause of climate change. All I can say is that we are just witnessing the change…
Lambo, male, 72 years, Petriky

The situation is now that the farmland has gone, the drinking water is polluted, some parts of a mountain nearby have been stripped, and so the rain has held off, and the cattle lack clean drinking water. Cows die, one after another. Green grass is also dying due to lack of rain.
Brinaldine, female, 42 years, Ilafitsignana

Bevava used to be a pristine place for fishing. Our fishing activities were rewarding, but lately the sea conditions in Bevava have been bad, almost constantly. The sea level has risen and threatened many ancestral tombs located near the shore… I don’t know why such a phenomenon is happening but the sea level continues to rise and our livelihoods are threatened.
Felicia, female, 19 years, Ambinanibe


Environmental change is a key theme of the Pushed to the edge oral testimony project.


Constand: middlemen control everything

Olina: money talks

Fanja: forest is forbidden

Sorahy: education is crucial

Kazy: rains aren’t coming

Zanaboatsy: needing the forest

Sambo: life goes on

Jean-Claude: we are not livestock

Rosette: story of change

Bruno: hotter and hotter

Say Louise: when hardships started

Sirily: working for foreigners

Key themes

Background to the region

The project and partners

Rivers and the sea


Land and compensation

Farming and food security

Environmental change


Economic conditions


Cultural and social change

Communications and power relations

Local development

The future