Reporting on the good and bad news stories from the world's second poorest country.
Since a coup in February 2009, Madagascar has been in limbo: elections have been promised – and postponed – every year. After four and half years of political vacuum, it is now the second poorest country in the world. The economy has stalled because of international sanctions; foreign direct investment has all but dried up; and tourism has slumped.
This is all the more tragic because the country has everything it needs to succeed: a young population, a wealth of natural resources (minerals, oil), a relatively well-educated workforce, and huge tracts of fertile agricultural land.
But who actually knows Madagascar? In 2012, less than 8,000 British nationals visited the island. On Twitter, the hashtag #Madagascar throws up endless tweets about penguins and cartoons but very little about the country itself. And the press rarely carries stories about the island.
So I want to change this. I want to write a series of dispatches about Madagascar and tell the world what is happening: the interminable political crisis, the abject poverty in which 57% of the population lives, the 600,000 children who have dropped out of school since the coup, the locust plague that is about to destroy 60% of the national rice crop. And I want to tell the good news stories too: the outstanding beauty of the world’s fourth largest island, its mind-boggling potential (textile, mining, agriculture, tourism), the resilience and ingenuity of local entrepreneurs, and the amazing natural world - Madagascar hosts 5% of the world’s biodiversity and against the odds, it has managed to triple the size of its protected areas since 2003.
My last trip to Madagascar goes back to summer 2011, when I researched the Lonely Planet guide to the country. I have since written regularly about Madagascar for the likes of The Economist, BBC Travel and the Africa Report on travel, business and current affairs.
I’ve now exhausted what I can do remotely. I need to go back to Madagascar to do on-the-ground reporting, take photos and produce a fresh batch of articles on the socio-economic situation, conservation issues, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and more. I plan to publish these articles in the Anglophone press (British mostly, but North American and Australian too potentially) over the course of the autumn; any unpublished material will go on my website.
I hope that greater press coverage will shine a light on the plight of Malagasy people and also show the fantastic potential of the country.
How you can help
I need your help to finance the trip – I work freelance and don’t have the support of a big news organisation. Kickstarter funding will allow me to travel to Madagascar for three weeks in September.
And I will take you along for the ride: I will share impressions, articles and photos with backers in the form of beautiful ebooks (check out the sidebar to see the rewards). For the many companies out there who’ve been wondering whether to invest in Madagascar, I will be offering off-the-record information on the political and economic situation. And I'll prepare in-depth briefings for the most generous supporters.
Credits & thanks
All photos used in the video are mine, except the image of the locust swarm, which is ©FAO/Y. Chiba and photos no 2 (woman by the sea), 10 (children at school) and 13 (woman with sea cucumber), which are courtesy of Blue Ventures (thank you!).
Music is Desert Song by Judson Lee Music.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
My biggest challenge will be to convince editors to run articles on this little-known country: I will use my contacts at the half dozen publications I regularly write for and will also approach new publications to cast the net as widely as possible. Any unsold material will go on my website.
The money will be used to finance my three-week trip to Madagascar, not to pay my income (that will be the sale of the articles). Here is a rough breakdown:
- Accommodation: £735
- Internal flights (x2): £730
- Airport transfers (London, Paris, Tana): £40
- Daily expenses (meals; local transport (4x4, boat etc); phone/internet connection; guide/fixer/translator where required): £1680
- Trip extension contingency (for first round of presidential elections): £300
- Malaria drugs: £135
- Rewards production (prints, books, enveloppes etc): £420
- Kickstarter fees: £430
I'll go anyway - and dig deep in my pocket. Perhaps I'll have to shorten the trip - or reduce the extent of it - we'll see. I really do believe there are great stories to tell in Madagascar and I can't sit here in London waiting for it to happen.
What a lovely problem that would be! Projects regularly get 'over-funded' and if that were to happen, I would use the funds towards another trip. Three weeks is a good chunk of time to have in Madagascar but the country is huge and I could do many more three-week trips and come back with a dozen more story ideas every time. So fear not, it won't go to waste!
Selon la demande, je traduirais une partie de mes articles en français ]pour que ceux qui ne sont pas à l'aise en anglais ne soient pas en reste!
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Pledge £5 or moreYou selected
A Twitter shout-out, a thank you email and a 'field report' email at the end of the trip.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £25 or moreYou selected
A Twitter shout-out, thank you email, a 10x8” print from the trip and twice weekly email from the field.Estimated delivery:Add £3 to ship outside the UK
Pledge £50 or moreYou selected
All of the above plus a photo ebook (compatible with iPads, iPhones and iPodTouch) with caption stories from the trip.Estimated delivery:Add £3 to ship outside the UK
Pledge £100 or moreYou selected
Twitter shout-out, thank you email, a 10x8” print from the trip, twice weekly email from the field plus a special ebook (compatible with iPads, iPhones and iPodTouch) containing all the articles I’ll have written from the trip, complete with photo illustrations, and a thank you in the acknowledgement section of the book.Estimated delivery:Add £3 to ship outside the UK
Pledge £200 or moreYou selected
All of the above plus off-the-record phone conversation about the political and economic situation in Madagascar.Estimated delivery:Add £3 to ship outside the UK
Pledge £500 or moreYou selected
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All of the above plus a briefing about a topic of your choice (to be agreed ahead of the trip) either through a Skype conference call or a face-to-face meeting in London.Estimated delivery:Add £3 to ship outside the UK
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