(MissionNewswire) According to Salesian missionaries in the Fianarantsoa region of Madagascar, forests are being reduced by about 200,000 hectares a year due to unscrupulous activities in the area. Various firms and activities damage the environment in the Fianarantsoa region, which also has several sawmills, homes and small workshops.
Father Giuseppe “Bepi” Miele, who has been in Madagascar for almost 37 years, is aware of the local challenges and intends to do everything he can to help. He recently developed an initiative to aid both the youth in Salesian programs and the whole community. Fr. Miele recently asked for support from the Don Bosco Mission in Turin, Italy. He wants to equip the Salesian mission in Fianarantsoa with a briquetting machine.
“With this new machine, the waste from the sawmills will be compressed into bricks and logs that will then be used as fuel to replace coal,” explains Fr. Miele. “It is about changing a mentality. The first step will be to put the bricks at the disposal of local families so they familiarize themselves with the bricks, using them for free instead of coal. When people have seen the benefits, an awareness-raising plan will be put in place to be able to sell the product. Sales will subsidize the wages of young people who will use the briquetting machine. The sales profits will also become a source of self-financing for the Salesian’s program activities.”
Fr. Miele aims to help support youth who are unable to find a job as well as families who need a cheaper and more ecological fuel source than coal. The whole population will also benefit from this project as they will no longer be exposed to the harmful gas that coal releases. The 250 children from the Salesian school canteen will also benefit from the revenue from the sale of the fuel.
Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Seventy percent of Madagascar’s almost 19 million people lives in poverty with 5.7 million of those youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years, according to UNICEF. This number is expected to double by 2025. Due to Madagascar’s poverty, geography and an ongoing political crisis, the country is ranked 158 out of the 188 countries classified by the 2015 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program. Women and children in the country are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty.
For close to 80 percent of the country’s inhabitants who live in rural areas and practice subsistence farming, living conditions have been steadily declining in recent years, particularly when it comes to access to transportation, health services, education and markets. Because of the lack of hygiene and access to safe drinking water coupled with chronic malnutrition, people in Madagascar often suffer from respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and hepatitis.