by Franck Brych
I was very fortunate to go to Madagascar for the Pope’s visit, during the beginning of September. It was an enriching experience for my faith and to see an underdeveloped country, where many people still have to fight for basic needs such as water, food and shelter. Madagascar is a large island off the coast of East Africa, it is the land of Baobabs and lemurs, of which it has the most variety in the world, over 100 different kinds of lemurs. This place is magnificent. When we were in the capital, we went to the zoo and got to pet multiple lemurs, which are amazing little creatures that will jump around like a monkey, with a fur softer than a lab’s fur, they are fun creatures to see and observe, especially seeing them roam around the zoo.
The highlight of our trip, was away from the capital, on the West side of the island, where nature is omnipresent. On the way there, the only thing you could see was never-ending miles of Savanah, it was marvelous. After we arrived at the main city of the island’s Westside, we went 100km into the lands of Madagascar, seeing villages built along the road, with very thin pieces of wood, and hay as the roof’s main component. People were selling different food items such as rice, wheat, some (but very little vegetables), and zebu meat. The zebu is a kind of cow with long horns that is the basis of Madagascar’s economy, it is the meat that everyone eats there, the animal they use for agriculture, transport (when you go into the Savanah in small villages).
Seeing the Pope, and hearing his speech on how Madagascar is another example of a poor country suffering from a lack of development, and more importantly over the last decade, suffering from climate change, was a validation of the work the Social Justice & Advocacy team does. The country is suffering from many droughts, which was very apparent on our trip, most of the landscapes we saw were orange, almost desert-like. The inhabitants of the island showed us how just a little water can provide food for thousands of people, and how this land which used to be greener, needs the water to gain its greenback.
The trip to the West part of the island made it really striking, for a major part of the trip, most of the landscapes seemed to have burnt or to have dried. Once a river could be seen, the landscapes became green and agriculture was abundant. The locals told us that it was mainly this color around this area until 5-10 years ago when the land started drying up, because of the recurrent droughts (thank you climate change). The priest we were with showed us the importance of agriculture and the teaching of it. He made sure that every school had mango and banana trees around them so that even in drought periods, people could still eat healthy fruits and not just rice.
That trip was one of the most enriching ones in my whole life, it demonstrated how big of an issue climate change is, in a more hands-on way than here in the US, even if it is still pretty apparent here.