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Anglophone press (British mostly, but North American and Australian too potentially) over the course of the autumn; any unpublished material will go on my website.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
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (22 days)