Monday, 22 July 2013

Fort Dauphin thunderstorm

Fort Dauphin, thunderstorm - Giles Crosse

Today we are in the middle of a Madagascan rainstorm, strong winds, cold rain and very, very dark by 6PM.

Thus far Madagascar seems an intriguing mix of polarities and divisions. People here are among the friendliest I have ever met, faces beam in greeting, children dance and play whilst laughter and smiles permeate the cobbled, dusty streets.

Yet falling tourist numbers since 2002 and 2009's coup have led to deserted roads after nightfall and murmurings of security risks and muggings. I've yet to see any violence or disturbances of any kind, so the reality as ever likely remains somewhere between warnings and truth.

Poverty remains highly visible here, yet nowhere is an offensive or caustic attitude apparent. Indeed, a sense of welcoming, enjoyment and celebration of life seem far more prevalent amid these streets.

Shops open at 6AM, with many Malagasy beginning their working day at 4AM, to cook for their families before heading off to their respective workplaces. Shops then close for lunch between 12/2, reopening until 6PM in the evening.

Street vendors offer vegetables, bread and eggs, taxis bump and shudder emitting noise and smoke, indeed the street lighting system has only recently been established.

Giles Crosse
Politically, people I have spoken with express dissatisfaction at the long delayed election here, questioning whether it will ever take place. This perhaps contributes to falling numbers of tourists, following the withdrawal of foreign aid, and begs the question of how establishing any meaningful sense of democracy is going to take place.

Giles Crosse
Withdrawal of aid from damaging regimes seems a logical path. But the degree to which this encourages regime change, or merely undermines standards of living for an already impoverished nation remains hard to judge.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tana - Madagascar


View of Tana from Manoir Rouge - Giles Crosse
After another mammoth travel session I am here in Tana awaiting a 5:45AM start to fly down to Fort Dauphin in South Madagascar....

Thus far the people seem very friendly and kind, including one offer from a petroleum tanker officer to drive me around Tana when I get back from Fort Dauphin... Watch this space!

Very much looking forward to investigating the ecology and flora and fauna of the island and getting stuck into development work.

More meaningful updates for you ASAP!

Cloudy Tana sunset - Giles Crosse

Monday, 15 July 2013

Two days to go

Getting into final preparations now for departure...

Heathrow - Nairobi / Nairobi - Antananarivo

Night in Tana...then

Antananarivo - Fort Dauphin...

Details below courtesy of

Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. Because of its isolation most of its mammals, half its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on earth.
The island is heavily exposed to tropical cyclones which bring torrential rains and destructive floods, such as the ones in 2000 and 2004, which left thousands homeless.

The Malagasy are thought to be descendants of Africans and Indonesians who settled on the island more than 2,000 years ago. Malagasy pay a lot of attention to their dead and spend much effort on ancestral tombs, which are opened from time to time so the remains can be carried in procession, before being rewrapped in fresh shrouds.

At a glance

Baobabs in Madagascar
  • Politics: In January 2009 political unrest erupted into violence. President Ravalomanana resigned in March following a fierce power struggle with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who then assumed power with military backing.
  • Economy: Madagascar is the world's leading producer of vanilla. Many areas suffer food shortages.
  • International: African Union suspended Madagascar and EU froze aid after the 2009 coup
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
After sometimes harsh French colonial rule, which included the bloody suppression of an uprising in 1947, Madagascar gained independence in 1960. The military seized power in the early 1970s with the aim of achieving a socialist paradise.
This did not materialise. The economy went into decline and by 1982 the authorities were forced to adopt a structural adjustment programme imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
The World Bank has estimated that 70% of Malagasy live on less than $1 per day. Poverty and the competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island's dwindling forests, home to much of Madagascar's unique wildlife and key to its emerging tourist industry.
The island has strong ties with France as well as economic and cultural links with French-speaking West Africa.
However, Andry Rajoelina's seizure of power in 2009 left the country isolated by the international community and deprived of foreign aid.
An agreement to move back to constitutional rule in 2013 hung in the balance after Mr Rajoelina announced he would stand for the presidency after all. Both he and ex-president Ravalomanana had earlier agreed not to contest the election.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


From 17th July, I will be in Madagascar, working with Azafady on sustainability, conservation, education and development.

I'll be blogging from there on the people, the experience, littoral forest, unique species and humanitarian development - watch these pages!

With about 5% of Earth's plant and animal species found within this 0.4% of the planet's land surface, Madagascar is among the world's most significant biodiversity hotspots.

8 out of every 10 species found in Madagascar are found nowhere else…Though today it remains among Earth's top biodiversity hotspots, Madagascar has so far lost an estimated 90% of its original forest vegetation

Adding to the pressures on Madagascar's natural environment are resource extraction operations where foreign interests play a significant and typically dominant hand. Madagascar is rich with minerals, and increasingly busy with mining activities. 

The people of Madagascar make up an ethnically diverse population of some 21 million, with the number of inhabitants increasing at a rate of about 3% per year. It is one of the world's most impoverished and least developed countries, ranking 151/187 in the 2011 UN Human Development Index, with 77% of its population living below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day (that's about 80p). Only 27% of the population are classified as urban – the majority work in subsistence agriculture, and some 50% of children under three years of age suffer retarded growth due to a chronically inadequate diet. Island-wide, about 1 in every 10 children die before the age of five from easily preventable diseases, typically diarrhoea – rising to as many as 4 in 10 in rural areas.