By: Morgan Frost
Classified as human trafficking, bonded labor, forced labor, or sex trafficking, it is present worldwide, with approximately 27 million persons enslaved. This astonishing fact is devastating but reminds us why the work we are doing at RainTees is so crucial. Through our reforestation programs we are able to provide jobs that can literally bring indentured servants in developing nations out of slavery and into freedom. Eden Reforestation Projects, one of our new partners in 2013, shared this inspiring story written by an employee of Eden out of Madagascar, where Eden has helped a women end her indentured servitude through reforestation employment.
In the remote fishing village of Mahabana, on the northwest coast of Madagascar, the population has grown. When we first visited this small stretch of coastline, it was a quiet village of 100 people. Now, 12 years later, the village has grown five-fold as people move from the city to the country in search of work and cheaper living. As new people come, they often don’t have the financial means to start their own business of fishing or netting shrimp and in desperation, they look for any possible means to survive. Enter in the fish lords…men and women who offer the use of their canoes, fishing gear or nets for shrimping in exchange for the unwritten agreement that the borrower cannot sell his or her daily catch to anyone other than the fish lord. However, what seems like a solution actually creates a bigger problem because the fish lords claim the entire catch but will only pay for half of the quantity at an unfair reduced price. Knowing that what they have paid will never be enough for the person to provide for their family, the fish lords happily offer “loans” to help make ends meet. This, of course, runs up debt, which the newcomer can never repay because they are never paid fairly for their catch. As a result, men and women who are extremely impoverished and completely destitute are also now enslaved to debt bondage with little hope of escape.
Rasoanaivo used to live in the city of Tamatave on the east coast of Madagascar with her husband and child. When tragedy struck and her young husband died, she didn’t have any way to care for her family. Her sister, who lived in Mahabana, invited Rasoanaivo to move to the opposite side of the island with the promise of a good job when she arrived. With new hope, Rasoanaivo and her son made the grueling five-day journey to Mahabana. Working for her sister wasn’t what it was promised to be, however, because Rasoanaivo quickly discovered that her sister is one of the notorious fish lords. Rasoanaivo ended up being an indentured servant to her own sister and was now even more destitute and helpless than before. She was stuck in a remote fishing village with a small child, no place to go and what seemed like no hope.
But there was hope for Rasoanaivo. Josy, the Malagasy manager of Eden Reforestation Projects, heard about her circumstances and offered her a job planting mangrove trees. Overjoyed, Rasoanaivo accepted, and soon, she and her family began to thrive. She was able to pay off her debts to her sister and even bought her own fishing gear. Rasoanaivo remarried, and now, she and her husband are both employed part-time by Eden Projects. When they’re not planting mangrove propagules, they have their own fishing business, complete with a canoe. Because of her job with Eden, Rasoanaivo and her family have moved out of the talons of extreme poverty. She has a restored identity as a mother who can provide for her children and is full of hope for a better future. There are countless stories of indentured servitude similar to Rasoanaivo’s throughout Madagascar and throughout the world. But as long as there are people who care, hope is not lost.
By supporting both Eden and RainTees, we can make a difference and restore hope, because planting trees truly does save lives, provide food and a stable income all across the world. For more information about Eden’s work, please visit http://www.edenprojects.org.
About the Author:
Morgan Frost is currently the Pen Pal Program Director here at RainTees. She is a student at Michigan State University studying International Studies and International Development. She hopes to find a career dealing with environmental sustainability and humanitarian aid.