With a growing inequality in living standards that sees the wealthy flippant in their excess, the voices of those without are growing in number, clambering to be heard as the precious resources upon which their existence depends are depleted beyond repair at an alarming rate that cannot and will not be sustained. Nowhere are the effects of this dysfunctional relationship more evident than in Madagascar. This project is in direct response to the global cry to stop and take responsibility, seen through the dignified and vibrant people of south east Madagascar, in a cross-examination of the intricate ties that bind them to the earth.
For the Malagasy, everything that is needed to sustain human life comes directly from the earth. It is their food, their shelter, and more often than not their only source of income. And holding it all together in precarious balance, is an astoundingly depleted forest system.
Systematically plundered over the years by both external forces and the attempts of the island’s inhabitants to sustain their way of life, Madagascar’s forests now total less than 10% of their original status, existing in small, scattered fragments that are home to hundreds of endemic species, many of which are yet to be named or even discovered.
It is these forest fragments that provide a livelihood to more than 70% of the island’s population, and despite recent conservation laws established to protect the forests, the people of Madagascar, caught in a cycle of grinding poverty that eradicates the luxury of free will, continue to risk fines and imprisonment in pursuit of their forest-based survival.
My work has always been predicated on preserving the dignity of my subjects, something the Malagasy have in abundance, and I found in Azafady an approach that very much mirrored my own. Within this selection of photographs you will see not only the problems that Madagascar faces, but the holistic and sensitive solutions that are being offered in response by agents like Azafady.
No longer in photo journalism is it sufficient to document only the challenges, rather we need to empower each other through examples such as these to show just how great the power of collective action can be, and answer the global cry to stop and take responsibility. My heart felt thanks goes out to Prix Pictet, Azafady, and the people of Madagascar for giving me the opportunity to do just that. May it also empower you to do the same.