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Africa Files: Madagascar

Tuesday, October 02, 2018 9:23 AM | Jennifer Wisniewski (Administrator)

At a glance

 Population:  26.26 million

 Capital:  Antananarivo

 Official Languages:  Malagasy and French

Religion: Traditional/Indigenous (50%) Christian (41%) Muslim (7%)

Fertility Rate:  4.03 births per woman

 Life Expectancy:  66.3 years (64.7 Men)  (67.8 women)

 Literacy Rate:  64.7% (total) 66.7%(men)   62.6%(women)

 Currency:  Malagasy Ariary

 GDP:  4.1% growth (2017)

 Form of Government:  Presidential Republic

 Natural Resources: semi-precious and precious stones, coal, ilmenite, chromite, cobalt, iron, copper, nickel

 Exports:  cloves, ylang-ylang, vanilla


A Vibrant Ecosystem

Inhabitants of the island nation of Madagascar - and that includes its people, animals, flora and fauna -  are among the world’s most diverse.

The plant biodiversity on Madagascar is a botanist’s dream.  A staggering 13,900 plant species grow on the island. Its animal kingdom boasts of over 350 species of birds and two-thirds of the world’s chameleon species.  (5) Its largest predator, the fossa, is found nowhere else in the world. (2) Not surprisingly, Madagascar is a growing eco-tourist destination.


Madagascar’s human inhabitants are heterogenous, too. Though settlers migrated from the African continent in 1000 AD, earlier settlers arrived between 350 and 550 A.D.,  from present-day Indonesia. The Malagasy also have Persian and Arab influence from the traders who arrived around the 7th century.  Later, in 1896, Madagascar was colonized by the French before fighting and gaining their independence in 1960. Consequently, 18 ethnic groups reside in Madagascar, the groups clustered in regions across the country.  Still, most residents are multi-ethnic. (3)

Geography

Four times the size of the state of Georgia, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world.  It is located in the Indian Ocean east of Mozambique. Because of its large size, it has several climates - tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south.  From May through October, the island enjoys its dry, cool season while November through April brings the hot and rainy season. The island is vulnerable to monsoons, cyclones, and southeastern trade winds. (5)

Economy

The population of Madagascar is mostly rural and poor.  Almost 80 percent live on less than $1.90 a day, a benchmark the United Nations uses to define extreme poverty.  In addition, only 15 percent of the population is able to access electricity. (4)

A majority of its residents survive on subsistence farming.  Crops include coffee, sugar cane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava, beans, bananas, and peanuts.  Madagascar is one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang. Over thirty percent of the nation’s GDP is in agriculture.  Industry takes up a 15 percent share of GDP and the remaining 52 percent is in services. (3)

Culture

The Malagasy are proud of a rich oral tradition.  Their primary means of expression are poetry, public discourse and proverbs.  Music and wood carving are also integral parts of the Madagascar cultural heritage. (5)

A meal one might expect to eat in Madagascar would likely start with a bowl of rice topped with a protein of beans or meat.  In some parts of the country, romazava, a side dish made of green leafy vegetables in broth, is served. Some might add spice to their meal with lasary, a condiment made of chili peppers, green mangos and lemon. (5)

The Malagasy religious practices include different forms of Christianity and to a smaller degree Islam.  However, half of the population holds traditional Malagasy beliefs. In fact, Madagascar holds one of the highest proportions of its population practicing an indigenous religion.  Their beliefs focus on one creator, neither male nor female, called Zanahary. A close relationship exists between the living and their ancestors. They avoid disapproval from these ancestors by observing taboos called fadys. (7)

Resources:

1.http://www.realclearlife.com/daily-brief/elephant-bird-largest-history/

2.https://www.earthtouchnews.com/conservation/conservation/caught-on-camera-the-fossa-madagascars-elusive-top-predator/

3.https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ma.html

4.http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/madagascar/overview

5.https://africa-facts.org/interesting-facts-about-madagascar/

6.https://www.everyculture.com/Ja-Ma/Madagascar.html

7.https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/religious-beliefs-in-madagascar.html



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