Rivers of erosion

The hand axe or chopper. Madagascar’s weapon of mass destruction has sown its destructive virus from south to north across this massive island. There is hardly a tree that has escaped it. The few that are out there show the deep scars of many attempts there have been to chop it down. Tree felling is deeply entrenched in the Malagasy culture and way of life. Wherever you go you will see villagers, male and female with an axe over their shoulder. I feel its part of their national dress. But at what cost does this come to the future sustainability of this struggling nation.

The deforestation has been in the forefront the whole journey. But the transformation to farmland has been soft and in a way tranquil as one runs the valleys and you are greeted by lush green rice paddies. This seems to take away the harsh reality of what has happened.

Now travelling north east of Antananarivo it has really hit me with the scared red rolling hills. This area has been raped of every tree, the man made plantations that there are been plundered. The trees have not even reached maturity and they are being felled, not for timber, but to burn in charcoal pits. The problem with this area of rolling steep hills with its steep deep valleys, its not very conducive to rice or vegetable farming. The striped hills have just been left to the elements.

The monsoon rain relentlessly tears away at the exposed soil, ripping little rivulets of soil away, slowly bit by bit eating into the flesh of the hills. As the rain increases so does the size of the scar, eventually gauging huge gaping holes in the country side. This crimson red soils turns into slurry flowing down the hills and into the steep valleys, like blood it flows into the rivers and waterways colouring them crimson red as Madagascar bleeds into the ocean.

For over 100km I have run along a valley with every single hill exposed with huge gaping wounds, 300 meters deep just festering in the tropical sun. There is not a piece that has not been infected by erosion, bleeding into the giant rivers now carrying this shame to the ocean trying to hide the traces of destruction. Now dragging the problem with along the river ways, ending in the sea, clogging and polluting the delicate coral reefs and oceanic ecosystem, killing off the sea life around the island.

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