Village life

Life down on the southern tip of Madagascar seemed to be much simpler. The houses were made from sticks, small little individual huts, not many grouped together. More like individual families would settle as the ground could only sustain so much because of the harshness of the climate. Hardly a crop is grown here. Life is scratched from the soil on a daily basis. There is the odd little patch of maize grown, but only for 3 months of the year during the rain season. Little water if any can be found. The only type of well found is where the villagers had dug open the earth in large areas down to the limestone bed rock, here they will follow crevasses down to natural catchments in the rock below. This is the only water that can be found during the dry season, When ever it rains, the villagers will scoop the red mudded water from indentations in the ground and place it in containers, after a few days the mud settles out and you can drink the water. Thin tired looking zebu cattle make up the rest of the landscape as they drag their bones around the spiny bush looking for grazing. They seem to form the back bone of life down here food, milk, transport and work mules.

As I moved further inland, the conditions were as harsh, but there seemed to be a little more rain and vegetation, village life has now changed a little, the stick huts have been given a plastering of mud on the in and outside with grass roves added for insulation against the heat, but still small single room dwellings. The clusters of huts are in bigger groups. It looks as if clans have grouped together, pooling resources and labour to grow more crops, have bigger herds of cattle. Life seems to have more structure and planning it put into daily life. With more hills in the area, water catchment is better and natural springs are sparsely found with drinkable but always clouded water. Holes are dug into the dry river bed down to the water table.

Up onto the plateau and once forested areas life seems to be a little easier. Life revolves around cattle herding here, with massive plains of grass in abundance. Homes are bigger and multi roomed, build from large sun-dried mud bricks. Large timber beams support thatch roofs with porches for the sun. Bigger villages are common in this area with women tending fields of crops around them, while the men heard cattle. For the first time crystal clear water can be found drawn from man made wells 10m deep.

Now it’s up into the centre of the island, into the rain and mist belt. Deep valleys, steep slopes and water everywhere. The forested ravines have been shaved of any trees and terraced into rice paddies as far as the eye can see. Baked brick double story cottages with red tiled or thatched roofs are perched on high points along the walls of the valleys with steep paths leading down to the fields. Green well manicured vegetable and rice farms dot every bit of workable soil. Zebu cattle provide the muscle to turn the soil and transport the crops up and down the valleys.

Over the centuries, Madagascar seems to have settled into this rhythm of life.

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