MO Botanical Garden Helping Cyclone Victims In Madagascar

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There is terrible damage on the other side of the world from a killer storm you might not have even heard about.  A cyclone, stronger than Hurricane Katrina, blew through the nation of Madagascar two weeks ago.  And the Missouri Botanical Garden is hoping St. Louis begins to deeply care about what happened there.

"It`s a really, really poor country.  Probably in general, people live on one dollar a day," said Armand Randrianasolo, sitting on a bench at the garden.  He knows Madagascar much better than most in St. Louis.  It is his homeland.

"All my siblings and my mom live in a town about 50 kilometers south of where the cyclone hit.  They lost their house, but fortunately in my town, nobody was dead," he said.

What we know as a hurricane, they call a cyclone.   Cyclone Giovanna which hit February 13 was category 4;  Hurricane Katrina, was category 3.

"It is an island, so there are a lot of cyclones, but this one, is with magnitude they had never seen before," said Randrianasolo.  "About 26 people died in the storm." Thousands of homes were destroyed.  But he fears things will continue to worsen.

"All of the crops are lost, meaning starvation is coming," he said.

The Missouri Botanical Garden began researching in Madagascar 25 years ago.  Randrianasolo was one of the locals they employed.  He has since moved to St. Louis and earned his PhD.  He is now an Assistant Curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Alyse Kuhlman works with him here, and there.   "I`ve been to Madagascar twice and to see devastation like this is really heartbreaking."

Kuhlman is one of the researchers who traveled to Madagascar to teach conservation.  The Missouri Botanical Garden teaches people to live off the land in an environmentally friendly way.

Giovanna wiped out most of the botanical garden`s 11 facilities, but more frightening:  the cyclone destroyed the nation`s entire rice crop and many fruit trees, too.  That means the only real sources of food are gone.

"The immediate need is to make sure they have something to eat," said Kuhlman.  "A little bit goes a real long way in Madagascar, so if anyone can spare $5, $10, on up of course, that can go a long way in helping us to feed this community where we work."

The Botanical Garden has a goal:  they`d like to raise $40 thousand.  About $9 thousand of that could feed nine thousand people; $22 thousand could repair local schools; $8 thousand could rebuild the garden`s facilities.

Online donations can be made by going to http://www.wlbcenter.org/cyclone_donate.htm

"Help is needed," said Randrianasolo.  And hopefully soon, help will be on the way.

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