The Brit dedicating her life to battling Madagascar's eco catastrophe

Emma Gibbons is the executive director of Reef Doctor, a UK-based non-profit organisation which carries out conservation and social development in south-west Madagascar.

Here, for ITV News, she describes how she has seen the impoverished land that has become her unexpected home suffer dreadfully and what keeps her fighting to reverse it.

When I first came to Madagascar as a young marine biologist from Britain I had no idea I would never leave.

Nearly two decades later I am still here, trying to protect some of the most biologically unique resources on earth.

Feeding the rapidly growing population is of huge concern. Credit: ITV News

South-west Madagascar is now my home, its people are my friends, neighbours and colleagues.

Together we have witnessed a heartbreaking decline in the coral and associated marine life along the coast and watched as farmers living inland struggle, and often fail, to harvest enough crops to feed the rapidly growing population.

In the time I have been here, a blink of an eye in ecological terms, a once sustainable way of life has faced catastrophic changes.

Whereas our mission at Reef Doctor, a British/Malagasy organisation, was initially aimed primarily at conserving the reefs, we now work on holistic strategies to instigate change to conserve the marine and terrestrial environment for communities that depend on these systems.

Madagascar used to have uniquely precious marine and forest eco-systems and is home to some of the rarest mammals, plants and trees in the world. Credit: ITV News

We all have a responsibility not only for our own environmental footprint, but for the impact we as a population have on the earth as a whole.

For the fisherman of southern Madagascar global warming isn’t a future threat – it is a brutal reality and is already destroying their way of life and their source of food.

Madagascar is one of the poorest places on earth.

Global warming is already destroying fishermen's way of life. Credit: ITV News

Where we are based in the southwest region of Atsimo Andrefana, the predominantly rural people have low education levels, rapid population growth and high dependence on small-scale agriculture, fisheries and natural resources for food, fuel and income.

Fifty of the population is under 15 years of age which means that more than a million young adults will require access to a livelihood and/or work within the next 15 years.

The future of those growing up in impoverished Madagascar is incredibly uncertain. Credit: ITV News

Without investment and help their future looks bleak but if enough people care and offer assistance the situation can be improved.

That’s why I stay.

I’m proud to be here helping empower local communities to find solutions.

It’s part of our duty as citizens of our shared planet.