Monday, 19 August 2013

Paths to the future

Libanona - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Value, society, sustainability and development are all brought into sharp focus in developing countries like Madagascar.

In many ways it might be argued such value of life is cheap here. Arguments spark freely on the streets, poverty is visible in every corner, life is hard, challenging and for some people short.

Perhaps the most arresting images are those of children, hanging outside supermarkets seeking handouts from Westerners. Or combing the beaches, seeking an opportunity to sell trinkets or necklaces.

Yet these are not thieving, offensive nor aggressive youths. These are merely children introduced at too young an age to the concept of working for a living.

Polite, energetic, bouncy and friendly, these youngsters retain a smile and a cheerful demeanour among some of the hardest living conditions imaginable.

An empty plastic bottle, waste to a Westerner, is a resource to a Malagasy child.

Perhaps this might be worth a hundred Ariary to sell, perhaps it could be a handy container for the future. Perhaps it might be a useful tool to build a home made toy or pastime.

Many commentators here tell me that actually one of the main things Malagasy youngsters seek is diversion. Something to do, an occupation, an opportunity to dream and to run like a child.

And indeed this they do in many ways; on homemade stilts, pushing empty bicycle rims or dragging car toys, home made from wood or old cans along the streets.

Libanona - Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Yet minutes from where children work on the beaches, a luxury hotels sits, offering breathtaking views across the bay towards the international port, built by QMM, the Madagascan / Rio Tinto joint partnership to mine minerals from the island.

How many Malagasy youngsters will ever enjoy these views? How many will spend a night in the luxury rooms, pampered in the spa or drinking cocktails in an infinity pool?

How many will find the education they need to climb out of poverty and earn a better future for themselves and for the development of their country and their children? What future form will their lives take.

It may be that the long awaited elections here will take place, offering a sense of power and meaning back to the people and perhaps enabling a return of wider international aid and assistance.

Futures, questions, livelihoods and the balance of life here all hang in the balance.

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