Surviving in a stricken land : Amid cyclones and floods, Madagascar's poor adopt new diets and livelihoods.

From the time she was a young bride, all Taliasoa Vaolina knew was planting beans and corn to feed her family in their village in Madagascar. But three years ago, the worst draft in a generation set in.

Soon her crops had shriveled, her family was starving, and she had to find a new way to survive.

Madagascar, the world's fourth-poorest country, has in the last three years been strangled by drought and battered by successive cyclones and tropical storms that have become more powerful in a changing climate.

People like Ms. Vaolina have had to adapt with whatever means they have. On a journey this year through a country more often known for its ring-tailed lemurs and tourism, we met people turning from fishing to raising chickens, planting hardy shrubs to shield their crops from harsh winds, learning new building techniques and eating different foods. But we also saw the heavy price that many are paying.

Ms. Vaolina trudged with her nine children 20 miles to the town of Ambovombe-Androy, where she now washes baskets of laundry in the morning and uses the profits to buy the sweet potatoes that she fries and sells in the afternoon in a bustling market.

To make extra money, she dispatches her grandchildren to help shoppers carry their goods home.

''I don't have any business skills, but life brought me here,'' said Ms. Vaolina, a 64-year-old widow, sitting near her new home - a domed tent made of empty rice sacks - in a camp for climate refugees.

Climate disasters are compounding the poverty in Madagascar, an island country off the southeast coast of Africa.

During storms this year, at least 214 people were killed, and 571,000 needed food, shelter or medicine. More than two million in a country of 28 million face acute food insecurity, which could worsen by the end of this year and cause a new exodus.

The World Students Society thanks author Lynsey Chutel.


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