This year’s World Food Day (celebrated every year on October 16) is focused on the importance of sustainable agriculture. Today on Human Nature, CI’s Rachel Neugarten recounts a recent visit to Madagascar where the close ties between people and nature were evident everywhere she looked. This is the first of three posts from Rachel’s trip.
Madagascar is a land of rice. To understand the relationship between people and nature here, that’s the first thing you need to know.
Malagasy people eat more rice per capita than most countries in the world. In Malagasy, friendship is referred to as “rice and water”; perfection is “rice with milk and honey.” I once saw a map that showed how agricultural wages varied across the country, and the units were kilos of rice, not money.
Everything about this place — land use, water use, income and poverty, nutrition and food security, deforestation and habitat loss — can be measured in terms of rice.
The second thing you have to know is that Madagascar is hungry … and growing. Over 90% of people live on less than the international poverty rate of US$ 2 per day. Rates of chronic malnutrition are so high that half the children under five have stunted growth. And the population is growing at an astounding 2.8% per year, twice as fast as India.