Down in the southwest of Madagascar now where the plains are open, the grass looks tough and the people are scarce. But here Zebu (humped-back cattle) are king and these folk are cattle people, much like the Masai of Tanzania and Kenya. They walk their herds for weeks to the markets in the north so they can sell their much-appreciated Zebu for a premium price in the markets where the population craves top beef. Of course down here is where there’s been trouble with rustlers as well and seeing just how poor these folk are (poor but not destitute) you can understand why the other week they reached the end of their tether and took it to the rustlers in no small measure, killing them all in the act.
It’s a hard life, but in many ways its simplicity is beautiful too, they are all smiles, love to engage you, are eager to find out about our world, what’s good and not so good about it. The natural rhythms they live their lives by as the seasons come and go, with no television of newspapers or online social media to set their standards or define their aspirations, has a lot going for it. And man do they work. When I look at the work they do and the meagre return they get it’s hard not to think of the impact a ubiquitous plethora of targeted welfare benefits has in discouraging self-reliance and enterprise. No such risks down here, the hard side of life in a place like the southern plains of Madagascar necessitates everybody scraping a living just to survive