People in the south of Madagascar are eating soil mixed with tamarind to stave off hunger as a drought has destroyed the region’s staple crop, the AFP news agency reports.

“We call it survival soil because it allows the acidic taste of tamarind to seep into our mouths, which staves off hunger,” AFP quotes farmer Doday Fandilava Noelisona as saying.

“These days we no longer look for food to live on, but for ways to fill the empty stomachs.”

The cactus fruits which people normally rely on have dried up because of the lack of rain.

AFP quotes another farmer, Avianay Idamy, who says that he has taken up selling charcoal to raise enough money for his family to eat cassava just once a day.

The World Food Programme says 1.5 million people in Madagascar’s southern region need emergency food aid.