Dadabe was the wisest man in all of Madagascar. He could scent the wind and know the weather ten days out. He once brewed a tea from a pink-petaled plant that cured Samoely of fever.
He was a farmer all his life, baring the rich soil nourished by rainforest to grow his crops. He stood proud at the riverbank waving as I left for camp.
The camp was Madagasikara Voakajy. I alone was picked from my village to go. At the camp, I met other kids from up and down the highlands.
“Today, we will talk about sustainability,” they said.
We all loved our forest—it was not a thing they needed to teach. What we didn’t know was that the practices taught by our elders were destroying it. With our new wisdom, we could cultivate the land for generations to come.
When I saw Dadabe, I would teach him.
For generations, Malagasy farmers have relied on a system of slash and burn, using the ash to fertilize their crops. The practice gnaws away at hundreds of acres of precious rain forest every year. Madagascar’s deforestation rate is the highest in the world.
These same people rely on the forest for fresh water and medicine. Madagasikara Voakajy is an environmental organization training Malagasy youth in sustainable farming practices. The kids learn skills like making compost and crop rotation. These techniques enable them to farm the same plot year after year instead of razing more forest. Adults, excited by the high yields, often approach the kids for guidance.
To learn more about Madagasikara Voakajy, see these resources: