Tiana Andriamanana was alarmed when she saw the fires swallowing Madagascar’s forests in March. She’d grown used to seeing illegal burns for agricultural expansion, but such widespread blazes so early in the year were extremely unusual.
The burning intensified in late March, after the nation’s coronavirus lockdown was announced. People began fleeing its capital, Antananarivo, and other cities, boarding crowded vehicles bound for rural areas. They hoped “they could work the land and then produce a yield that would help them survive the health and economic crisis,” says Andriamanana, executive director of Fanamby, a Madagascan conservation nonprofit responsible for managing five protected areas.
But working the land to grow food crops such as rice, peanuts, and maize means clearing trees. Soon,