AIR Evaluates Interventions in Southern Madagascar to Mitigate Severe Food Crisis

Farmer in Madagascar
Photo Credit: Pierrot Men for Amnesty International

In November 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported possible "pockets of famine" in Southern Madagascar, citing climate change as a key driver. The food insecurity affects more than 1 million people across the southern region of the country (United Nations, 2021). AIR has extensive experience conducting research on agricultural and social protection interventions in the south of Madagascar. Our research contributes to evidence that prompt interventions providing access to water and targeted social protection can improve food security and thus a household's well-being.

AIR is conducting an ongoing formative evaluation of the United Nations Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund supported Fagnavotse program, an integrated social protection program in the southern region of Anosy funded by UNICEF, WFP, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Labor Organization. The Fagnavotse program provides, among others, a conditional cash transfer coupled with agricultural insurance and livelihood support activities to the extremely poor. While the program was designed as a social protection program it has been adapted to the current food emergency. For example, the conditional cash transfer has been postponed in favor of an emergency cash transfer covering a broader population with higher payments. The recently initiated agricultural insurance has already paid out beneficiaries for drought-related yield losses.

AIR led a study of the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s program Appui au Développement du Menabe et du Melaky (AD2M). AD2M created new irrigation infrastructure and rehabilitated existing irrigation in areas of southwestern Madagascar. AD2M also trained farmers on improved agriculture techniques made possible by the irrigation. AIR’s study investigated the direct impacts on water access and agricultural outputs as well as the governance issues that can arise for small group water conservation cooperatives.

When households cannot meet their own needs for consumption, AIR’s evidence suggests that emergency social protection programs can mitigate food insecurity and build resilience. AIR’s study of UNICEF’s Fiavota emergency cash transfer showed significant benefits to cash recipients. The evidence generated from the evaluation of the Fiavota study demonstrated the nutrition and food security benefits following from social protection programs. UNICEF developed the Fiavota transfer under urgent conditions and largely succeeded, based on the research findings.

The humanitarian crisis facing those in southern Madagascar requires urgent action. Evidence on programs supporting these individuals suggest that aid can provide meaningful, life-saving changes to their lives.