Local people plant rice in flooded fields. For the Malagasy, rice represents life, an essential and sacred part of one's daily nutrition.
Rice is the primary cash crop in southeast Madagascar, the sale of which is often a main source of monetary income for Madagascar’s rural poor. The fields are thirsty however, requiring quantities of water that are becoming harder to find.
Local men plastered in mud take a break from working in the fields.
Herdsmen plastered in mud drive their cattle, known in Madagascar as zebu, in an ancient ritual dance called mangosy. Together man and beast churn the fields to ensure they are sufficiently saturated for rice plants to germinate.
Growing poverty and land scarcity continue to take their toll on the Malagasy. NGOs like Azafady are working to find solutions to restore balance to the people and the land.
Farmers in Agnalapatsy check their dead corn stalks. The people's ancient connection with the land is collapsing. Due to a lack of water in this coastal region, farmers are now turning to fishing, but the fish stocks are also down due to overfishing. These factors contribute to malnutrition and a lack of resources for people in this region of Madagascar.
A boy crosses the Mandrare Bridge. The waters of the Mandrare, the principal river in Southern Madagascar, have diminished to a trickle.
In the fishing village of Sainte Luce, fishermen return with their early morning catches, including pregnant lobsters whose eggs will be illegally removed and sold on the international market. Depleted fish stocks force fishermen further out to sea, which has made their work more dangerous and reflects a growing threat to their livelihoods.
When the land fails to provide, people turn to the ocean. Using mosquito nets provided by USAID, villagers employ the trawling method, a catchall technique that further depletes the lake's fish stocks.
Local villagers fish for saifotsy in the Anony Lake, an estuary fed by the ocean. The sisal rope comes from local plantations owned by foreigners and ex-pats that use a disproportionate amount of water and exacerbate water shortages in nearby villages.
Fish runners in Sainte Luce, Madagascar pack their baskets with the fresh catches of the day and then run for more than three miles to get them to trucks that will take the fish to local markets.
The illegal practice of tavy, or slash and burn agriculture, is one of the more urgent threats to Madagascar's people and forests. As farmers search for fertile land in which to plant land-hungry crops like rice, the forest is destroyed and a life-saving resource for Madagascar's rural poor is lost. In the distance is one of the few remaining native forests of the region.
In Analavinaky, and all over Madagascar, farmers practice tavy, an illegal slash and burn agriculture that continues to cause massive reductions in their forests. Local people must go further and further out from their villages to collect wood for their buildings and fires.
Charcoal is the primary source of fuel for the Malagasy and a source of income for women. Barren areas of land are turned into charcoal producing industries. Forest trees are cut down to size for burning. This coupled with slash and burn agriculture are devastating Madagascar's forests.
Wood from forest trees is slowly burned in earthen mounds. The resulting charcoal is then sold in the villages.
Giant brick kilns are another common and inefficient use of the forest. Smoke-shrouded workers bake clay into bricks, their faces obscured by clouds of noxious smoke.
In the Tulear Province, the relatively new business of breaking rock into stone and gravel to be sold for road building and construction is another example of the land providing a resource for the local people.
Zanazafy, 24, and her two week old son stay sequestered in this hut for the first two months of the baby's life. Infant mortality in Madagascar is one of the highest in the world and superstitions run high, so the belief is by keeping the baby and mom isolated, the baby will have a better chance of survival.
In the ritual literally translated as 'I don't want to show you,' girls as young as 11 cover their faces with the yellow paste of the tsiambara root. Played out over several days, this practice forms part of an elaborate courtship ritual in a society where marriage is seen as the only chance of financial security for many girls.
A woman and her daughter wash and gather water in the Tarantsy River. Accepting the constant health risks, they trust and use nature's resources in every aspect of their lives.
In the tiny village of Tsiharoa, women and children coat mahampy reeds in clay and leave them out to dry, which strengthens the reeds for weaving fencing, baskets and mats.
Women in the drought-ridden village of Belay use cups to collect silt-water from small mud pools- their drinking water for the day. Water shortages not only mean a lack of adequate drinking water but also the inability to produce crops which in turn leads to food shortages and increased desertification in this once fertile region.
Within Fort Dauphin, people live in over crowded residential quarters with little or no access to sanitation or water infrastructure. This is one of several water collection points created by Azafady that provide clean water for residents of the poor neighborhoods.
Rituals surrounding death remain an important part of the culture in southeast Madagascar. The standing of the stones, or tsangambato, is a ceremony in which granite burial stones are carried through the village and planted in the earth in honor of one who has recently died.
The recent arrival of Rio Tinto's ileminite mining operation has made the situation in Fort Dauphin worse as unemployed people migrate from rural villages in search of work.