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Desperately poor, many farmers are sacrificing their rice paddies to the production of mud bricks as a way to generate income more quickly. Other Malagasy crack stone for cement or burn trees for charcoal. Some set up artisan studios to weave silk, carve wood, make paper, or transform iron scrap into sculptures. Still others seek to get rich quick by mining gemstones, and by putting children as young as five to work.
Spending a day at the Ecole des Saphirs where kids are able to go to school instead of working as miners let me see how eager they are for an education.
Throughout the trip, I was mobbed by kids every time I pulled out my camera. Reaching to hold my hand or kiss my cheek, they also wanted their pictures taken and giggled hysterically when I showed them the images.