Madagascar

Madagascar

Overview
The Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic, republiˈkʲan madaɡasˈkʲarə̥) is an island country located in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 off the southeastern coast of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (at 587041 square kilometres (226,657.8 sq mi), the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which include Nosy Be
Nosy Be
Nosy Be is an island located off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Nosy Be is Madagascar's largest and busiest tourist resort. It has an area of 312 km2 and its population was officially estimated at 36,636 in 2001....

 and Nosy Boraha
Île Sainte-Marie
Île Sainte-Marie, known as Nosy Boraha , is an island off the east coast of Madagascar. The main town is Ambodifotatra. The city covers an area of 222 km2, and had a population estimated at 16,325 in 2001.- City :...

 (Île Sainte-Marie).

The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana
Gondwana
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

 supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago.
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Encyclopedia
The Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic, republiˈkʲan madaɡasˈkʲarə̥) is an island country located in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 off the southeastern coast of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (at 587041 square kilometres (226,657.8 sq mi), the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which include Nosy Be
Nosy Be
Nosy Be is an island located off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Nosy Be is Madagascar's largest and busiest tourist resort. It has an area of 312 km2 and its population was officially estimated at 36,636 in 2001....

 and Nosy Boraha
Île Sainte-Marie
Île Sainte-Marie, known as Nosy Boraha , is an island off the east coast of Madagascar. The main town is Ambodifotatra. The city covers an area of 222 km2, and had a population estimated at 16,325 in 2001.- City :...

 (Île Sainte-Marie).

The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana
Gondwana
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

 supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in complete isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot
Biodiversity hotspot
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.The concept of biodiversity hotspots was originated by Norman Myers in two articles in “The Environmentalist” , revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others in...

 in which over 80% of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth. These are dispersed across a variety of ecoregions
Ecoregions of Madagascar
Madagascar island, located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, is the fourth largest island in the world. Its long isolation from neighbouring continents allowed the evolution of distinct communities of plants and animals. It is home to five percent of the world's plant and animal...

, broadly divided into eastern and south-central rain forest, western dry forests, southern desert and spiny forest
Madagascar spiny thickets
The Madagascar spiny thickets is an ecoregion in Madagascar. The vegetation type is found on poor substrates with low, erratic winter rainfall. An estimated 14,000 to is covered with this habitat, all in the southwest of the country...

. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are severely threatened by human settlement and traditional slash-and-burn practices (tavy) which have denuded Madagascar of as much as 90% of its original forest cover. Under the administration of former President Marc Ravalomanana, the government of Madagascar partnered with the international community
International community
The international community is a term used in international relations to refer to all peoples, cultures and governments of the world or to a group of them. The term is used to imply the existence of common duties and obligations between them...

 to implement large-scale conservation
Wildlife conservation
Wildlife conservation is the preservation, protection, or restoration of wildlife and their environment, especially in relation to endangered and vulnerable species. All living non-domesticated animals, even if bred, hatched or born in captivity, are considered wild animals. Wildlife represents all...

 measures tied to ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 as part of the national development strategy. However, under Rajoelina's caretaker government there has been a dramatic increase in illegal logging of precious woods
Illegal logging in Madagascar
Illegal logging has been a problem in Madagascar for decades and is perpetuated by extreme poverty and government corruption. Often taking the form of selective logging, the trade has been driven by high international demand for expensive, fine-grained lumber such as rosewood and ebony...

 and the poaching and sale of threatened species such as lemur
Lemur
Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

s in Madagascar's many national parks, several of which are classified as UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Sites.

Most researchers believe Madagascar was first inhabited sometime between 300 BCE and 500 CE by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger
Outrigger
An outrigger is a part of a boat's rigging which is rigid and extends beyond the side or gunwale of a boat.In an outrigger canoe and in sailboats such as the proa, an outrigger is a thin, long, solid, hull used to stabilise an inherently unstable main hull. The outrigger is positioned rigidly and...

 canoes from Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 in the Indonesian archipelago who were later joined around 1000 CE by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel
Mozambique Channel
The Mozambique Channel is a portion of the Indian Ocean located between the island nation of Madagascar and southeast Africa, primarily the country of Mozambique. It was a World War II clashpoint during the Battle of Madagascar...

 and establishing first on the north and west coasts. Arabs, East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

n, later Malay and Javanese, Indians
Indians in Madagascar
Indians in Madagascar form a community of roughly 25,000 individuals according to the statistics of India's Ministry of External Affairs; other estimates of their population range from 15,000 to 30,000. Among them are 867 non-resident Indians, with the rest being locally-born descendants of early...

, Chinese
Chinese people in Madagascar
Chinese people in Madagascar form Africa's third largest overseas Chinese population. , roughly 40,000 to 60,000 lived on the island. They constitute a minority ethnic group of Madagascar.-History:...

 and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an (primarily French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

) migrants settled on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group
Ethnic groups of Madagascar
The number of ethnic groups of Madagascar has long been a point of contention and debate. The island of Madagascar is predominantly populated by people broadly classified as belonging to the broader Malagasy ethnic identity...

 is often sub-divided into sixteen or more sub-groups
Malagasy people
The Malagasy ethnic group forms nearly the entire population of Madagascar. They are divided into two subgroups: the "Highlander" Merina, Sihanaka and Betsileo of the central plateau around Antananarivo, Alaotra and Fianarantsoa, and the côtiers elsewhere in the country. This division has its...

 of which the largest are the Merina
Merina
The Merina are an ethnic group from Madagascar. The Merina are concentrated in the Highlands and speak the official dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo. Their ancestors, the...

 of the central highlands around Antananarivo, and the Betsimisaraka people of the eastern coast around Toamasina
Toamasina
Toamasina , meaning "like salt" or "salty", unofficially and in French also Tamatave, is a city on the east coast of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. The city is the chief seaport of the country, situated northeast of its capital and biggest city Antananarivo, near the centre of the eastern coast...

. The Austronesian origins of the earliest population are evident everywhere not only in the language and the physical appearance of many Malagasy people, but also in cultural practices related to the veneration of ancestors, the prevalence of : the valiha
Valiha
The valiha is a tube zither from Madagascar made from a species of local bamboo. It is played by plucking the strings, which may be made of metal or the bamboo skin which is pried up in long strands and propped up by small bridges made of pieces of dried gourd...

 (a bamboo tube zither
Zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

 of East Asian origin) and the sodina
Sodina
A Sodina is a woodwind instrument commonly played in Malagasy music and a member of the aerophone family of instruments. Similar in structure and sound to a flute, the sodina is made out of bamboo, lightwood, plastic, or reed and varies in size depending upon the region it is being played...

 flute in Malagasy musical traditions
Music of Madagascar
The highly diverse and distinctive music of Madagascar has been shaped by the musical traditions of Southeast Asia, Africa, Arabia, England, France and the United States as successive waves of settlers have made the island their home...

, the architectural methods and norms
Architecture of Madagascar
The architecture of Madagascar is unique in Africa, bearing strong resemblance to the construction norms and methods of Southern Borneo from which the earliest inhabitants of Madagascar are believed to have emigrated...

 who share the same norms than in South East Asia (like the square foundations of habitations), and a cuisine based on rice
Cuisine of Madagascar
Malagasy cuisine encompasses the many diverse culinary traditions of the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. Foods eaten in Madagascar reflect the influence of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European migrants that have settled on the island since it was first populated by seafarers...

 that establishes the Malagasy people as the largest rice consumers per capita in the world. Bantu influences are evident - especially in the West coast and in the South - in the spiritual and monetary value placed on zebu
Zebu
Zebu , sometimes known as humped cattle, indicus cattle, Cebu or Brahmin cattle are a type of domestic cattle originating in South Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent. They are characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders, drooping ears and a large dewlap...

.

The first transcription of Malagasy using Arabic script
Arabic alphabet
The Arabic alphabet or Arabic abjad is the Arabic script as it is codified for writing the Arabic language. It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters. Because letters usually stand for consonants, it is classified as an abjad.-Consonants:The Arabic alphabet has...

 (sorabe
Sorabe
Sorabe, or Sora-be, is an alphabet based on Arabic used to transcribe the Malagasy language and the Antemoro Malagasy dialect in particular dating from the 15th century ....

) and certain elements of Malagasy cosmology were introduced ca 1500 by Arabs, and islamised Indians and Indonesian people who were established on the Southeast coast (in the current Vohipeno and Manakara region).

Malagasy
Malagasy language
Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar, a member of the Austronesian family of languages. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.-History:...

, the Austronesian language spoken in various forms by the vast majority of the population, is the national language and one of two current official languages alongside French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. The majority of the population adheres to traditional beliefs
Malagasy mythology
Malagasy mythology is rooted in oral history and has been transmitted by storytelling , notably the Andriambahoaka epic, including the Ibonia cycle....

 or Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, but followers of other faiths such as Islam
Islam in Madagascar
Islam has been well-established in what is now known as Madagascar for centuries and today Muslims represent 7 percent of the population. Muslims mainly consist of Sunni Muslims.-Settlement of Arabs:...

 and Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 are found in smaller numbers throughout the country.

Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was populated by a fragmented assortment of shifting socio-political alliances of varying sizes. Beginning in the early 19th century, however, the majority of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar
Merina Kingdom
The Merina Kingdom was a pre-colonial south-eastern African state that dominated most of what is now Madagascar. It spread outward from Imerina, the central highlands region primarily inhabited by the Merina ethnic group with a modern and historic political capital at Antananarivo and a spiritual...

 by a series of nobles (andriana
Andriana
Andriana is a title of nobility in Madagascar and often traditionally formed part of the names of noblemen, princes and kings. Historically, many Malagasy ethnic groups lived in highly stratified caste-based social orders in which the andriana were the political and/or spiritual leaders...

) of the Merina ethnic group. The monarchy collapsed when the island was conquered and absorbed into the French colonial empire
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 in 1896, from which the island gained independence in 1960. The autonomous state of Madagascar has since undergone four major constitutional periods, including a post-colonial First Republic under President Philibert Tsiranana
Philibert Tsiranana
Philibert Tsiranana was a Malagasy politician and leader, who served as the first President of Madagascar from 1959 to 1972....

 (1960–1972), a Soviet-style
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 Second Republic under Admiral Didier Ratsiraka
Didier Ratsiraka
Vice Admiral Didier Ratsiraka is a Malagasy politician who was President of Madagascar from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002.-Second Republic:...

 (1975–1991), and a democratic Third Republic under successive presidents Albert Zafy
Albert Zafy
Albert Zafy is a Malagasy politician. He was the President of Madagascar from 27 March 1993 to 5 September 1996.-Early life and career:...

, Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana is a Malagasy politician who was the President of Madagascar from 2002 to 2009. A member of the Merina ethnic group, Ravalomanana served as Mayor of Antananarivo before becoming President in 2002...

 (1992–2009). Since 1992 the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo
Antananarivo
Antananarivo , formerly Tananarive , is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. It is also known by its French colonial shorthand form Tana....

 by an elected president who serves a renewable five-year term and is supported by the prime minister
Prime Minister of Madagascar
This page contains a list of the Prime Ministers of Madagascar.-Prime Ministers of Madagascar :-Affiliations:*PSD - Social Democratic Party of Madagascar and the Comoros...

 he or she nominates. However, following a popular uprising in 2009 instigated by then-mayor of Antananarivo
Antananarivo
Antananarivo , formerly Tananarive , is the capital and largest city in Madagascar. It is also known by its French colonial shorthand form Tana....

 and TGV
Young Malagasies Determined
Young Malagasies Determined is a political movement in Madagascar. It is headed by the current provisional President, Andry Rajoelina, who organized it prior to the Antananarivo mayoral election in 2007....

 political party president Andry Rajoelina
Andry Rajoelina
Andry Nirina Rajoelina , born May 30 1974, is the former mayor of Antananarivo who became transitional head of state of Madagascar on March 21, 2009 after the 2009 Malagasy political crisis....

, Ravalomanana was pressured to resign. Presidential power was then unconstitutionally transferred to Rajoelina with the support of a portion of the military
Military of Madagascar
The Military of Madagascar is made up of the People's Armed Forces and the National Gendarmerie. The IISS detailed the armed forces in 2007 as including an Army of 12,500+, a Navy of 500, and a 500-strong Air Force...

. A 2010 constitutional referendum
Malagasy constitutional referendum, 2010
A constitutional referendum was held in Madagascar on 17 November 2010, in which voters approved a proposal for the state's fourth Constitution. The Malagasy people were asked to answer "Yes" or "No" to the proposed new constitution, which was considered to help consolidate Andry Rajoelina's grip...

 ushered in the Fourth Republic in which the nation continues to be managed by Rajoelina's unelected caretaker government
Caretaker government
Caretaker government is a type of government that rules temporarily. A caretaker government is often set up following a war until stable democratic rule can be restored, or installed, in which case it is often referred to as a provisional government...

 known as the High Transitional Authority
High Transitional Authority
The High Transitional Authority is a provisional executive body that came to power in Madagascar following the coup that forced Marc Ravalomanana to leave the country on March 17, 2009 as a result of the 2009 Malagasy protests...

 (HAT). Rajoelina (b. 1974), currently the youngest head of state in Africa, has failed to secure recognition from the international community, which largely views the current administration as illegitimate and has widely characterized Rajoelina's seizure of power as a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

.

In 2010, the population of Madagascar was estimated at around 20 million, 85% of whom live on less than two dollars per day. Ecotourism, agriculture, expansion of international trade and greater investments in education, health and private enterprise are key elements of Madagascar's development strategy. Under Ravalomanana, these investments produced substantive economic growth but the benefits were not evenly spread throughout the population, producing tensions over the increasing cost of living and declining living standards among the poor and some segments of the middle class. Current and future generations in Madagascar are faced with the challenge of striking a balance between economic growth, equitable development and natural conservation.

Etymology


In the Malagasy language
Malagasy language
Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar, a member of the Austronesian family of languages. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.-History:...

, the island of Madagascar is called Madagasikara madaɡasʲˈkʲarə̥ and its people are referred to as Malagasy
Malagasy people
The Malagasy ethnic group forms nearly the entire population of Madagascar. They are divided into two subgroups: the "Highlander" Merina, Sihanaka and Betsileo of the central plateau around Antananarivo, Alaotra and Fianarantsoa, and the côtiers elsewhere in the country. This division has its...

. However, the island's appellation "Madagascar" is not of local origin but rather was popularized in the Middle Ages by Europeans. The name Madageiscar was first recorded in the memoirs of 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 as a corrupted form of the name Mogadishu
Mogadishu
Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

, the Somalian port with which Polo had confused the island. On St. Laurence's Day in 1500, Portuguese explorer Diogo Dias
Diogo Dias
Diogo Dias, also known as Diogo Gomes, was a 15th-century Portuguese explorer. He was the brother of Bartolomeu Dias and discovered some of the Cape Verde islands together with António Noli....

 landed on the island and christened it São Lourenço, but Polo's name was preferred and popularized on Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 maps. No single Malagasy-language name predating Madagasikara appears to have been used by the local population to refer to the island, although some communities had their own name for part or all of the land they inhabited.

Geography


At 592800 square kilometres (228,881.4 sq mi), Madagascar is the world's 47th-largest country and the fourth-largest island. The country lies mostly between latitudes 12°S
12th parallel south
The 12th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 12 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

 and 26°S
26th parallel south
The 26th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 26 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australasia, the Pacific Ocean and South America....

, and longitudes 43°E
43rd meridian east
The meridian 43° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 51°E
51st meridian east
The meridian 51° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in complete isolation.

The island of Madagascar can be divided into three broad geographic zones. These include the highlands, a plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 region in the center of the island ranging in altitude from 750 to 1500 m (2,460.6 to 4,921.3 ft) above sea level; a narrow and steep escarpment that runs the length of the eastern coast and contains much of the island's remaining tropical rain forest; and a wide, dry plain that gently slopes from the western boundaries of the highlands toward the Mozambique Channel
Mozambique Channel
The Mozambique Channel is a portion of the Indian Ocean located between the island nation of Madagascar and southeast Africa, primarily the country of Mozambique. It was a World War II clashpoint during the Battle of Madagascar...

. The central highlands, traditionally the homeland of the Merina people (the island's most numerous ethnic group) and location of their historic capital at Antananarivo, is the most densely populated part of the island and is characterized by terraced, rice-growing valleys lying between grassy, deforested hills. Here, erosion has exposed the island's red laterite
Laterite
Laterites are soil types rich in iron and aluminium, formed in hot and wet tropical areas. Nearly all laterites are rusty-red because of iron oxides. They develop by intensive and long-lasting weathering of the underlying parent rock...

 soil, source of the country's sobriquet "The Red Island". Madagascar's highest peaks arise from three prominent highland massifs: Maromokotro 9436 ft (2,876 m) in the Tsaratanana Massif is the island's highest point, followed by Boby Peak 2658 m (8,720 ft) in the Andringitra Massif and Tsiafajavona 2643 m (8,671 ft) in the Ankaratra Massif. To the east, the Canal des Pangalanes
Canal des Pangalanes
The Canal des Pangalanes is a series of man made and natural lakes linked by rivers running down the east coast of Madagascar for about 300 miles. It is used mainly for transportation and fishing, but it also contains unspoiled beaches popular with tourists....

is a chain of man-made and natural lakes connected by French-built canals just inland from the east coast, running parallel to it for some 600 km (372.8 mi). The western and southern sides, which lie in the rain shadow
Rain shadow
A rain shadow is a dry area on the lee side of a mountainous area. The mountains block the passage of rain-producing weather systems, casting a "shadow" of dryness behind them. As shown by the diagram to the right, the warm moist air is "pulled" by the prevailing winds over a mountain...

 of the central highlands, are home to tropical dry forests
Madagascar dry deciduous forests
The Madagascar dry deciduous forests represent a tropical dry forest ecoregion generally situated in the western part of Madagascar. The area has high numbers of endemic plant and animal species but has suffered large-scale clearance for agriculture...

, thorn forests
Madagascar spiny thickets
The Madagascar spiny thickets is an ecoregion in Madagascar. The vegetation type is found on poor substrates with low, erratic winter rainfall. An estimated 14,000 to is covered with this habitat, all in the southwest of the country...

, and deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands
Deserts and xeric shrublands is a biome characterized by, relating to, or requiring only a small amount of moisture.-Definition and occurrence:...

. Presumably due to relatively lower population densities, Madagascar's dry deciduous rain forest has been better preserved than the eastern rain forests or the original woodlands of the high central plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

. The western coast features many protected harbors, but silting is a major problem caused by sediment from the high levels of inland erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

 carried by rivers crossing the vast western plains.

Climate



The combination of southeastern trade winds and northwestern monsoon winds produce a hot rainy season (November—April) with frequently destructive cyclones, and a relatively cooler dry season (May—October). Broadly speaking, the climate is tropical along the coast, temperate inland, moderately dry in the west, and arid in the south. Rain clouds originating over the Indian Ocean discharge much of their moisture over the island's eastern coast where precipitation as heavy as 3800 mm (149.6 in) per year supports the area's rain forest ecosystem. The central highlands are both drier and cooler, while the west coast is drier still, with high aridity in the southwest and southern part of the island where a semi-desert climate prevails. Annual cyclone
Cyclone
In meteorology, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth. Most large-scale...

s cause regular damage to infrastructure and local economies as well as loss of life. The most destructive since 1927 was Cyclone Geralda (February 2–4, 1994) which caused over 70 fatalities and left over 500,000 people homeless with the damage estimated at US$45 million.

Ecology


As a result of the island's long isolation from neighboring continents, Madagascar is home to a vast array of plants and animals, many found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 80% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic, including the lemur
Lemur
Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

 infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa
Fossa (animal)
The fossa is a cat-like, carnivorous mammal that is endemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family . Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a...

 and three avian families. This distinctive ecology has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the "eighth continent", and the island has been classified by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot.

Over 10,000 plant species are native to Madagascar, of which 90% are found nowhere else in the world. Seven plant families are only found here, the highest number of any biodiversity hotspot in the world. The plant family didiereaceae
Didiereaceae
Didiereaceae is a small family of just four genera and 11 species of flowering plants endemic to south and southwest Madagascar, where they form an important component of the Madagascar spiny forests.-Description:...

, composed of four genera and 11 species, is limited to the spiny forests
Madagascar spiny thickets
The Madagascar spiny thickets is an ecoregion in Madagascar. The vegetation type is found on poor substrates with low, erratic winter rainfall. An estimated 14,000 to is covered with this habitat, all in the southwest of the country...

 of southwestern Madagascar. Four-fifths of the world's pachypodium
Pachypodium
Pachypodium is a genus of succulent spine-bearing trees and shrubs, native to Africa. It belongs to the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. Pachypodium comes from a Latin form from Greek pachus and podion , hence meaning thick-footed.-Genus characteristics:All Pachypodium are succulent plants that...

species are endemic to the island. Three-fourths of Madagascar's 960 orchid species are found here alone, as are six of the world's eight baobab
Adansonia
Adansonia is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and one to Australia. The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island....

 species. The island is also home to around 170 palm species, three times as many as are found on mainland Africa; 165 of these are endemic. Many native plant species are used as effective herbal remedies for a variety of afflictions, including the Madagascar periwinkle, which has recently been established as the most effective treatment for leukemia
Leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

 and Hodgkin's disease. The traveler's palm, endemic to the eastern rain forests, is highly iconic of Madagascar and is featured in the national emblem as well as the Air Madagascar
Air Madagascar
Société Nationale Malgache de Transports Aériens, Société Anonyme, operating as Air Madagascar, is an airline based in Antananarivo, Madagascar. It is the national airline operating services to Europe, Asia and neighbouring African and Indian Ocean island destinations. It also operates an extensive...

 logo.

Lemur
Lemur
Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

s have been characterized as "Madagascar's flagship mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

 species" by Conservation International. In the absence of monkey
Monkey
A monkey is a primate, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys...

s and other competitors, these primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s have adapted to a wide range of habitats and diversified into numerous species. As of 2008, there are officially 99 species and subspecies of lemur, 39 of which have been described by zoologists between 2000 and 2008. They are almost all classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered. At least 17 species of lemur have become extinct since man arrived on Madagascar, all of which were larger than the surviving lemur species.

The biodiversity of fauna in Madagascar extends beyond prosimian
Prosimian
Prosimians are a grouping of mammals defined as being primates, but not monkeys or apes. They include, among others, lemurs, bushbabies, and tarsiers. They are considered to have characteristics that are more primitive than those of monkeys and apes. Prosimians are the only primates native to...

s to the wider animal population. A number of other mammals, including the cat-like fossa
Fossa (animal)
The fossa is a cat-like, carnivorous mammal that is endemic to Madagascar. It is a member of the Eupleridae, a family of carnivorans closely related to the mongoose family . Its classification has been controversial because its physical traits resemble those of cats, yet other traits suggest a...

, are endemic to Madagascar. Over 300 species of bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 have been recorded on the island, of which over 60% (including four families and 42 genera) are endemic. The few families and genera of reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

 that have reached Madagascar have diversified into more than 260 species, with over 90% of these being endemic (including one endemic family). The island is home to two-thirds of the world's chameleon
Chameleon
Chameleons are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards. They are distinguished by their parrot-like zygodactylous feet, their separately mobile and stereoscopic eyes, their very long, highly modified, and rapidly extrudable tongues, their swaying gait, the possession by many of a...

 species, and researchers have proposed that Madagascar may represent the origin of all chameleon species. Endemic fishes on Madagascar include two families, 14 genera and over 100 species primarily inhabiting the island's freshwater lakes and rivers. Although invertebrate species remain poorly studied on Madagascar relative to other wildlife, researchers have found high rates of endemism among known species. All 651 species of terrestrial snail are endemic, as are a majority of the island's butterflies, scarab beetles, lacewings, spiders and dragonflies.

Environmental challenges


Madagascar's varied fauna and flora are endangered by human activity. Since the arrival of humans 2,000 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest, 70% was destroyed between 1895 and 1925, when Madagascar was under French rule. One third has disappeared since the 1970s. Key contributors to the loss of forest cover include the use of coffee as a cash crop, illegal logging and slash-and-burn activity, locally called tavy. This traditional practice was imported to Madagascar by the earliest settlers from Indonesia around 2,000 years ago and has strong cultural meaning in addition to its practical value as an agricultural technique.

Habitat destruction and hunting have threatened many of Madagascar's endemic species or driven them to extinction. This process is exemplified by the extinction of elephant birds (Aepyornis
Aepyornis
Aepyornis is a genus of aepyornithid, one of two genera of ratite birds endemic to Madagascar known as elephant birds. This animal was the world's largest bird until its extinction, about 1000 years ago.-Description:...

), an endemic giant ratite
Ratite
A ratite is any of a diverse group of large, flightless birds of Gondwanan origin, most of them now extinct. Unlike other flightless birds, the ratites have no keel on their sternum—hence the name from the Latin ratis...

 that was formerly the world's largest bird. This species, whose average height was over 3 metres (10 ft) tall, has been extinct since at least the 17th century, most likely due to human hunting of adult birds and poaching of their massive eggs for food.
Numerous subfossil lemur
Subfossil lemur
Subfossil lemurs are lemurs from Madagascar that are represented by recent remains dating from nearly 26,000 years ago to approximately 560 years ago. They include both living and extinct species, although the term more frequently refers to the extinct giant lemurs...

 species also vanished with the arrival of human settlers to the island, and today most extant lemur
Lemur
Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

s are listed as endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 or threatened species due to habitat destruction. Many species have gone extinct over the course of the last centuries as a growing population has put greater pressures on lemur habitats and, among some populations, increased the rate of lemur hunting for food.

Under President Marc Ravalomanana, a vigorous effort was made to expand Madagascar's protected natural areas
National parks of Madagascar
The protected areas network of Madagascar is managed by the Madagascar National Parks Association . The network includes three types of protected areas: Strict Nature Reserves , National Parks and Wildlife Reserves...

. At the 2003 IUCN World Parks Congress in Durban
Durban
Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It forms part of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa. It is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism...

, Ravalomanana announced the Durban Vision, a bold initiative to more than triple the area under protection from approximately 17,000 km² to over 60,000 km² (from 3% to 10% of Madagascar's area). As of 2011, areas protected by the state include five Strict Nature Reserves (Réserves Naturelles Intégrales), 21 Wildlife Reserves (Réserves Spéciales) and 21 National Parks (Parcs Nationaux). In 2007 six of the national parks were voted in as a joint World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 under the name Rainforests of the Atsinanana
Rainforests of the Atsinanana
The Rainforests of the Atsinanana is a World Heritage Site that was inscribed in 2007 and consists 13 specific areas located within six national parks in the eastern part of Madagascar...

. These six are: Marojejy
Marojejy National Park
Marojejy National Park is a national park in the Sava Region of northeastern Madagascar. It covers and is centered around the Marojejy Massif, a mountain chain that rises to an elevation of . Access to the area around the massif was restricted to research scientists when the site was set aside as...

, Masoala
Masoala National Park
Masoala National Park, in northeast Madagascar, is the largest of the island's protected areas. Most of the park is situated in Sava Region and a part in Analanjirofo. Created in 1997, the park protects 2,300 square kilometres of rainforest and 100 square kilometres of marine parks. The Masoala...

, Ranomafana, Zahamena
Zahamena National Park
Zahamena National Park is a national Park of Madagascar. It is part of the World Heritage Site, Rainforests of the Atsinanana....

, Andohahela
Andohahela National Park
Andohahela National Park, in southeast Madagascar, is remarkable for the extremes of habitats that are representened within it. The park covers 760 square kilometers of the Anosy mountain range, the southernmost spur of the Malagasy Highlands...

 and Andringitra National Park
Andringitra National Park
Andringitra National Park is National Park in the Haute Matsiatra Region of Madagascar, 47 km south of Ambalavao. Approximately 140 km of the Tropic of Capricorn crosses the park....

. Local timber barons are harvesting scarce species of rosewood trees from protected rainforests such as Marojejy National Park
Marojejy National Park
Marojejy National Park is a national park in the Sava Region of northeastern Madagascar. It covers and is centered around the Marojejy Massif, a mountain chain that rises to an elevation of . Access to the area around the massif was restricted to research scientists when the site was set aside as...

 and exporting the wood to China for the production of luxury furniture and musical instruments. To raise public awareness of Madagascar's environmental challenges, the Wildlife Conservation Society opened an exhibit entitled "Madagascar!" in June 2008 at the Bronx Zoo
Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is located in the Bronx borough of New York City, within Bronx Park. It is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, comprising of park lands and naturalistic habitats, through which the Bronx River flows....

 in New York.

Early history


Most archaeologists estimate that the earliest settlers arrived in outrigger canoe
Outrigger canoe
The outrigger canoe is a type of canoe featuring one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, which are fastened to one or both sides of the main hull...

s from southern Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 between 200 BCE and 500 CE, making Madagascar one of the last major landmasses on Earth to be settled by people. Upon arrival, early settlers practiced tavy (swidden, slash-and-burn agriculture) to clear the virgin coastal rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

s for the cultivation of their crops. The first settlers encountered Madagascar's wealth of megafauna, including giant lemurs
Subfossil lemur
Subfossil lemurs are lemurs from Madagascar that are represented by recent remains dating from nearly 26,000 years ago to approximately 560 years ago. They include both living and extinct species, although the term more frequently refers to the extinct giant lemurs...

, elephant bird
Elephant bird
Elephant birds are an extinct family of flightless birds found only on the island of Madagascar and comprising the genera Aepyornis and Mullerornis.-Description:...

s, giant fossa and the Malagasy hippopotamus
Malagasy Hippopotamus
Several species of Malagasy Hippopotamus lived on the island of Madagascar but are now believed to be extinct. The animals were very similar to the extant Hippopotamus and Pygmy Hippopotamus...

, which have since become extinct due to hunting and habitat destruction. By 600 CE groups of these early settlers had moved inland and began clearing the forests of the central Highlands. Irrigated rice paddies emerged in highland Betsileo
Betsileo
The Betsileo are a highland ethnic group of Madagascar, the third largest in terms of population, numbering around 1.5 million and making up about 12.1 percent of the population. Their name means "The Many Invincible Ones" which they chose for themselves after the failed invasion of Ramitraho...

 country by 1600 and were complemented with terraced paddies throughout Imerina a century later. Zebu
Zebu
Zebu , sometimes known as humped cattle, indicus cattle, Cebu or Brahmin cattle are a type of domestic cattle originating in South Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent. They are characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders, drooping ears and a large dewlap...

 were introduced around 1000 CE by Bantu
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

-speaking East African migrants who maintained large herds. The rising intensity of land cultivation and the ever-increasing demand for zebu pasturage in the central highlands had largely transformed the region from a forest ecosystem to barren grassland by the 17th century. Merina oral histories tell of migration from the southeast coast to the central highlands where the Merina encountered an established population called the Vazimba
Vazimba
The Vazimba , according to popular belief, were the first inhabitants of Madagascar. While beliefs about the physical appearance of the Vazimba reflect regional variation, they are generally described as smaller in stature than the average person, leading some scientists to speculate that they may...

, who may have been the descendants of an earlier and less technologically advanced Austronesian settlement wave. The Vazimba were vanquished by Merina kings Andriamanelo
Andriamanelo
Andriamanelo was King of Alasora in the central highlands region of Madagascar. He is generally considered by historians to be the founder of the Kingdom of Imerina and originator of the Merina royal line that, by the 19th century, had extended its rule over virtually all of Madagascar...

, Ralambo
Ralambo
Ralambo was the ruler of the Kingdom of Imerina in the central Highlands region of Madagascar from 1575 to 1612. Ruling from Ambohidrabiby, Ralambo expanded the realm of his father, Andriamanelo, and was the first to assign the name of Imerina to the region...

 and Andrianjaka
Andrianjaka
Andrianjaka reigned over the Kingdom of Imerina in the central highlands region of Madagascar from around 1612 to 1630. Despite being the younger of King Ralambo's two sons, Andrianjaka succeeded to the throne on the basis of his strength of character and skill as a military tactician...

 in the 16th and early 17th centuries.

Madagascar was an important transoceanic trading hub connecting ports of the Indian Ocean in the early centuries following human settlement. The written history of Madagascar begins in the 7th century when Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s established trading posts along the northwest coast and introduced Islam, the Arabic script (used to transcribe the Malagasy language in a form of writing known as sorabe
Sorabe
Sorabe, or Sora-be, is an alphabet based on Arabic used to transcribe the Malagasy language and the Antemoro Malagasy dialect in particular dating from the 15th century ....

), Arab astrology and other cultural elements. European contact began in 1500, when the Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 sea captain Diogo Dias
Diogo Dias
Diogo Dias, also known as Diogo Gomes, was a 15th-century Portuguese explorer. He was the brother of Bartolomeu Dias and discovered some of the Cape Verde islands together with António Noli....

 sighted the island. The French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 established trading posts along the east coast in the late 17th century. From about 1774 to 1824, it gained prominence among pirates and European traders, particularly those involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The small island of Nosy Boroha off the northeastern coast of Madagascar has been proposed by some historians as the site of the legendary pirate utopia of Libertalia. Many European sailors were shipwrecked on the coasts of the island, among them Robert Drury
Robert Drury (sailor)
Robert Drury was an English sailor on the Degrave who was shipwrecked at the age of 17 on the island of Madagascar. He would be trapped there for fifteen years. Upon returning to England a book allegedly recounting his memoirs would be published in his name in 1729...

, whose journal is one of the few written depictions of life in southern Madagascar during the 18th century. The wealth generated by maritime trade spurred the rise of organized kingdoms on the island, some of which had grown quite powerful by the 17th century. Among these were the Betsimisaraka alliance of the eastern coast and the Sakalava
Sakalava
The Sakalava are an ethnic group of Madagascar numbering approximately 700,000 in population. Their name means "people of the long valleys." They occupy the Western edge of the island from Toliara in the south to Sambirano in the north. The Sakalava denominate a number of smaller ethnic groups...

 chiefdoms of Menabe
Menabe
Menabe is a region in western Madagascar. It is named for the 18th century Sakalava kingdom of Menabe. The capital is Morondava.-History:Menabe is the southern part of the Sakalava territory. Tradition holds that it was founded by Adriamandazoala . Its territory was increased under the legendary...

 and Boina
Boina Kingdom
The Kingdom of Boina was a traditional state situated in what is now Madagascar.The Kingdom was founded ca. 1690 by King Andriamandisoarivo. It was centered around Boina Bay in north-west Madagascar. Some time after 1832 it was occupied by Imerina and was annexed by Madagascar in 1840...

 on the west coast. The Kingdom of Imerina, located in the central highlands with its capital at the royal palace of Antananarivo
Rova of Antananarivo
The Rova of Antananarivo is a royal palace complex in Madagascar that served as the home of the sovereigns of the Kingdom of Imerina in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the rulers of the Kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century...

, likewise emerged at around the same time under the leadership of King Andriamanelo
Andriamanelo
Andriamanelo was King of Alasora in the central highlands region of Madagascar. He is generally considered by historians to be the founder of the Kingdom of Imerina and originator of the Merina royal line that, by the 19th century, had extended its rule over virtually all of Madagascar...

.

Kingdom of Madagascar



Upon its emergence in the early 17th century, the highland kingdom of Imerina was initially a minor power relative to the larger coastal kingdoms and grew even weaker in the early 18th century when King Andriamasinavalona
Andriamasinavalona
King Andriamasinavalona , also known as Andrianjakanavalondambo, was a King of Imerina in the central part of the highlands of Madagascar.-Early life:...

 divided it among his four sons. However, following a century of warring and famine, Imerina was reunited in 1793 by King Andrianampoinimerina
Andrianampoinimerina
Ruling between 1787–1810, Andrianampoinimerina , born Ramboasalama or Ramboasalamarazaka at Ambohimanga around 1745 , initiated the unification of Madagascar under Merina rule and is considered one of the greatest military and political...

 (1787–1810). From his capital at Ambohimanga
Ambohimanga
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a site of cultural and historical significance located approximately 24 kilometers to the east of the capital city of Antananarivo in Madagascar...

 (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), this Merina king rapidly expanded his rule over neighboring principalities with the intent to bring the entire island under his control, an ambition largely achieved by his son and successor, King Radama I (1810–1828). Radama concluded a treaty with the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 governor of Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

 to abolish the lucrative slave trade in return for British military and financial assistance. Artisan missionary envoys from the London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 began arriving in 1818. James Cameron
James Cameron (missionary)
James Cameron was a 19th century Scottish artisan missionary with a background in carpentry who, over the course of twenty-three years of service in Madagascar with the London Missionary Society , played a major role in the Christianization and industrialization of that island state, then under...

 and others established schools, transcribed the Malagasy language
Malagasy language
Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar, a member of the Austronesian family of languages. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.-History:...

 using the Roman alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

, translated the Bible, and introduced a variety of new technologies to the island.

Radama's successor, Queen Ranavalona I
Ranavalona I
Ranavalona I , also known as Ranavalo-Manjaka I, was a sovereign of the Kingdom of Madagascar from 1828 to 1861...

 (1828–1861), responded to increasing political and cultural encroachment on the part of Britain and France by issuing a royal edict prohibiting the practice of Christianity in Madagascar and eventually expelling all foreigners from the territory. She managed to preserve the island's sovereignty, but at a great cost, as many early Christians were vigorously persecuted and killed under her reign. Her son and successor, Radama II (1861–1863), attempted to relax his mother's stringent policies but was overthrown two years later by Prime Minister Rainivoninahitriniony
Rainivoninahitriniony
Rainivoninahitriniony , also called Raharo, was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Madagascar between 1852 and 1865. He was the chief engineer of the Aristocratic Revolution initialized upon the attempted assassination of King Radama II...

 (1852–1865) and other courtiers. The courtiers, seeking to end the absolute power of the monarch, offered Radama's queen Rasoherina (1863–1868) the opportunity to rule if she would accept a power sharing arrangement with the Prime Minister—a new social contract to be sealed by a political marriage between them. Queen Rasoherina accepted, first wedding Rainivoninahitriniony, then later deposing him and wedding his brother, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony
Rainilaiarivony
Rainilaiarivony was the Prime Minister of Madagascar from 1864 to 1895, following his older brother Rainivoninahitriniony who had held the post for thirteen years prior...

 (1864–1895), who would go on to marry Queen Ranavalona II (1868–1883) and Queen Ranavalona III) (1883–1897) in succession.

French colonization



France invaded Madagascar in 1883 in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War
Franco-Hova War
The Franco-Hova Wars consisted of French military interventions in Madagascar between 1883 and 1896 that overthrew the ruling monarchy of the Merina Kingdom, and resulted in Madagascar becoming a French colony...

 on the pretext of the non-respect of the Lambert Charter—a document granting lucrative concessions to French citizens—and a letter entreating the assistance of the French in ending the rule of Ranavalona I, both signed by former king Radama II. At the war's end, Madagascar ceded Antsiranana
Antsiranana
Antsiranana , named Diego-Suarez prior to 1975, is a city at the northern tip of Madagascar.Antsiranana is the capital of Diana Region.-Transports:...

 (Diego Suarez) on the northern coast to France and paid 560,000 francs to the heirs of Joseph-François Lambert
Joseph-François Lambert
Joseph-François Lambert, the "Duke of Imerina" was a French adventurer, businessman, and diplomat who fathered the Lambert Charter.-Early years:...

. In 1890, the British accepted the full formal imposition of a French protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

. Ultimately, the French bombarded and occupied the harbor of Toamasina
Toamasina
Toamasina , meaning "like salt" or "salty", unofficially and in French also Tamatave, is a city on the east coast of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. The city is the chief seaport of the country, situated northeast of its capital and biggest city Antananarivo, near the centre of the eastern coast...

 on the east coast, and Mahajanga
Mahajanga
Mahajanga is a city and a district on the north-west coast of Madagascar.- City :The City of Mahajanga is the capital of the Boeny region. Population: 135,660 ....

 on the west coast in December 1894 and January 1895 respectively. The flying column
Flying column
A flying column is a small, independent, military land unit capable of rapid mobility and usually composed of all arms. It is often an ad hoc unit, formed during the course of operations....

 proceeded to march toward Antananarivo but lost many to malaria and other diseases, necessitating reinforcements drawn from Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 and Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

. Upon reaching the city in September 1895, the column bombarded the Rova palace with heavy artillery, causing heavy casualties and leading Queen Ranavalona III to surrender.

After the conclusion of hostilities, in 1896 France annexed Madagascar. The 103-year-old Merina monarchy ended with the royal family being sent into exile, first to Reunion Island
Réunion
Réunion is a French island with a population of about 800,000 located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France...

 and then to Algeria the following year. Slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 was abolished in 1896, but many of the 500,000 liberated slaves remained in their former master's homes as servants.

Under colonial rule, plantations were established for the production of a variety of export crops. Wide paved boulevards and gathering spaces were constructed in the capital city of Antananarivo and the Rova palace compound
Rova of Antananarivo
The Rova of Antananarivo is a royal palace complex in Madagascar that served as the home of the sovereigns of the Kingdom of Imerina in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the rulers of the Kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century...

 was turned into a museum. Schools were built, particularly in rural and coastal areas where the schools of the Merina had not reached; education became mandatory between the ages of 6 to 13 and focused primarily on French language and practical skills. The Merina royal tradition of corvee—taxes paid in the form of labor—was continued under the French and used to construct a railway and roads linking the coastal cities to Antananarivo. During World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, 46,000 Malagasy troops fought in France, Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

. Some leaders in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 proposed deporting all of Europe's Jews to Madagascar (the Madagascar Plan
Madagascar Plan
The Madagascar Plan was a suggested policy of the Nazi government of Germany to relocate the Jewish population of Europe to the island of Madagascar.-Origins:The evacuation of European Jews to the island of Madagascar was not a new concept...

), but nothing came of this. After France fell to Germany, the Vichy
Vichy
Vichy is a commune in the department of Allier in Auvergne in central France. It belongs to the historic province of Bourbonnais.It is known as a spa and resort town and was the de facto capital of Vichy France during the World War II Nazi German occupation from 1940 to 1944.The town's inhabitants...

 government administered Madagascar. During the Battle of Madagascar
Battle of Madagascar
The Battle of Madagascar was the Allied campaign to capture Vichy-French-controlled Madagascar during World War II. It began on 5 May 1942. Fighting did not cease until 6 November.-Geo-political:...

, British troops occupied the island in 1942 to preclude its seizure by the Japanese
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

, after which the Free French took over. With French prestige at low ebb after the end of World War II, the Malagasy Uprising of 1947 broke out. It was suppressed after over a year of bitter fighting, with death toll estimates ranging from 10,000 to over 80,000. The French later established reformed institutions in 1956 under the Loi Cadre
Loi Cadre
The loi-cadre was a French legal reform passed by the French National Assembly on 23 June 1956. It marked a turning point in relations between France and its overseas empire...

(Overseas Reform Act), and Madagascar moved peacefully towards independence. The Malagasy Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1958, as an autonomous state within the French Community
French Community
The French Community was an association of states known in French simply as La Communauté. In 1958 it replaced the French Union, which had itself succeeded the French colonial empire in 1946....

. A period of provisional government ended with the adoption of a constitution in 1959 and full independence on June 26, 1960.

Capital



Antananarivo is the capital and the largest city of Madagascar. It is located in the highlands region, very near to the geographic center of the island. King Andrianjaka founded Antananarivo around 1610 or 1625 upon the site of a captured Vazimba capital on the hilltop of Analamanga. In 1793 it became the capital, under the Merina
Merina
The Merina are an ethnic group from Madagascar. The Merina are concentrated in the Highlands and speak the official dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo. Their ancestors, the...

 kings, of the whole island, and in 1895, after the French conquest of Madagascar, the center of the French colonial administration. In 1960, after independence, it became the capital of the Malagasy Republic. In 2011, the capital's population was estimated at 903,000 inhabitants.

Administrative divisions




Madagascar was divided into six autonomous provinces (faritany mizakatena), and subdivided into 22 region
Region
Region is most commonly found as a term used in terrestrial and astrophysics sciences also an area, notably among the different sub-disciplines of geography, studied by regional geographers. Regions consist of subregions that contain clusters of like areas that are distinctive by their uniformity...

s (faritra), the latter created in 2004. The regions became the highest subdivision level when the provinces were dissolved in accordance with the results of the 2007 referendum
Malagasy constitutional referendum, 2007
A constitutional referendum was held in Madagascar on 4 April 2007. The proposed changes, which voters were asked to approve or reject as a whole, included:*expansion of presidential powers in cases of emergency...

. The regions are further subdivided into 116 districts, 1,548 communes, and 16,969 fokontany. The major cities have a special status as "commune urbaine", at the same level as the districts.
Regions and former provinces
New regions Former provinces Population
Diana (1), Sava
Sava Region
Sava is a region of Madagascar. Its capital is Sambava. Until 2009 Sava belonged to Antsiranana Province. The region is situated at the northern part of the east coast of Madagascar. It is bordered by Diana to the north, Sofia to the west, and Analanjirofo to the south. The population was estimated...

 (2)
Antsiranana
Antsiranana Province
Antsiranana is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 43,406 km2. It had a population of 1,188,425 . Its capital was Antsiranana. Notable is Ankarana Reserve.Antsiranana Province bordered the following provinces:...

1,188,500
Itasy
Itasy
Itasy is a region in central Madagascar. It borders Analamanga region in northeast,Vakinankaratra in south and Bongolava in northwest. The capital of the region is Miarinarivo, and the population was estimated to be 643,000 in 2004...

 (3), Analamanga
Analamanga
Analamanga is a region in Madagascar, containing the capital Antananarivo and surrounding metropolitan area.Analamanga means "blue forest". It's also an older name for Antananarivo.*Capital: Antananarivo-Renivohitra.*Area: 17,445 km²*Population: 2,650,000...

 (4), Vakinankaratra
Vakinankaratra
Vakinankaratra is a region in Madagascar.*Capital: Antsirabe*Chief: Lantoniaina RabenantoandroThe region is divided into six districts and 86 communes:-Districts:*Antsirabe I*Antsirabe II*Ambatolampy District*Betafo District*Antanifotsy District...

 (5), Bongolava
Bongolava
Bongolava is a region in Madagascar.*Capital: Tsiroanomandidy*Area: 16,821 km²*Population: 235,000*Population density: 14/km²*Chief: Jean Claude Rabarijaona...

 (6)
Antananarivo
Antananarivo Province
Antananarivo is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 58,283 km². It had a population of 5,370,900 . Its capital was Antananarivo.Except for Antsiranana, Antananarivo Province bordered all of the country's other provinces:*Mahajanga - north...


4,637,000
Sofia
Sofia Region
Sofia is a region in northern Madagascar. It is named for the Sofia River.* Capital: Antsohihy* Area: 50 800 km²Districts:*Mandritsara District*Befandriana-Nord District*Bealanana District*Antsohihy District*Analalava District...

 (7), Boeny
Boeny
Boeny is a region in northwestern Madagascar. It borders Sofia Region in northeast, Betsiboka in south and Melaky in west. The capital of the region is Mahajanga, and the population was estimated to be 543,200 in 2004. The area of Boeny is ....

 (8), Betsiboka
Betsiboka
Betsiboka is a region of Madagascar. It borders Boeny Region in north, Sofia in northeast, Alaotra-Mangoro in east, Analamanga and Bongolava in south and Melaky in west. The capital of the region is Maevatanana. Until 2009 Betsiboka belonged to Mahajanga Province. The population was estimated to be...

 (9), Melaky
Melaky
Melaky is a region in northwestern Madagascar. It borders Boeny Region in northeast, Betsiboka in east, Bongolava in southeast and Menabe in south. The capital of the region is Maintirano. The population was estimated to be 175,500 in 2004 within the area of...

 (10)
Mahajanga
Mahajanga Province
Mahajanga is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 150,023 km². It had a population of 1,896,000 . Its capital was Mahajanga.Except for Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga Province bordered all of the country's other provinces:...

1,734,000
Alaotra Mangoro (11), Atsinanana
Atsinanana
Atsinanana is a region in eastern Madagascar. It borders Analanjirofo region in north, Alaotra-Mangoro in west, Vakinankaratra and Amoron'i Mania in southwest and Vatovavy-Fitovinany in south.Atsinanana region is divided into seven districts:...

 (12), Analanjirofo
Analanjirofo
Analanjirofo is a region in northeastern Madagascar. Until 2009 it belonged to Toamasina Province. It borders Sava Region in north, Sofia in west, Alaotra-Mangoro in southwest and Atsinanana in south.Analanjirofo is divided into six districts:...

 (13)
Toamasina
Toamasina Province
Toamasina is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 71,911 km². It had a population of 2,855,600 . Its capital was Toamasina, the most important seaport of the country....

2,593,000
Amoron'i Mania
Amoron'i Mania
Amoron'i Mania is a region in central Madagascar bordering Vakinankaratra Region in north, Atsinanana in northeast, Vatovavy-Fitovinany in southeast, Haute Matsiatra in south, Atsimo-Andrefana in southwest and Menabe in west. It is divided into four districts: Ambatofinandrahana, Ambositra,...

 (14), Haute-Matsiatra (15), Vatovavy-Fitovinany
Vatovavy-Fitovinany
Vatovavy-Fitovinany is the South-East region of Madagascar.*Capital: Manakara*Chief: Philibert Andriatsimanirinarivo *Dialectical: Antemoro*Transportation mean:-Train -Car Taxi-Brousse -Plane...

 (16), Atsimo-Atsinanana
Atsimo-Atsinanana
Atsimo-Atsinanana is a region in Madagascar.*Capital: Farafangana*Chief: Jhonson Andrianahy The region extends along the southern part of the east coast of Madagascar. It is bordered by Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Haute Matsiatra , Ihorombe and Anosy ....

 (17), Ihorombe
Ihorombe
Ihorombe is a region in Madagascar. It borders Haute Matsiatra region in north, Atsimo-Atsinanana in east, Anosy in south and Atsimo-Andrefana in west. The capital is Ihosy and the population was estimated to be 189,200 in 2004...

 (18)
Fianarantsoa
Fianarantsoa Province
Fianarantsoa is a former province of Madagascar.*Area: 103,272 km2.*Population of 3,366,291 .*Capital: Fianarantsoa.*President: Fidy Mpanjato Rakotonarivo .One of its towns was Andohapatsakana...

3,366,000
Menabe
Menabe
Menabe is a region in western Madagascar. It is named for the 18th century Sakalava kingdom of Menabe. The capital is Morondava.-History:Menabe is the southern part of the Sakalava territory. Tradition holds that it was founded by Adriamandazoala . Its territory was increased under the legendary...

 (19), Atsimo-Andrefana
Atsimo-Andrefana
Atsimo Andrefana is a region of Madagascar. It borders Menabe in north, Amoron'i Mania and Haute Matsiatra in northeast, Ihorombe and Anosy in east and Androy in southeast. The capital is Toliara and the population was estimated to be 1,018,500 in 2004...

 (20), Androy
Androy
Androy is a region in southern Madagascar.*Capital: Ambovombe-Androy*Chief: Andrien Hatrifenjanahary AreaAndroy is the most southern region of Madagascar...

 (21), Anosy
Anosy
-Introduction:Anosy is a region in southeastern Madagascar. It borders Androy region in west, Atsimo-Andrefana in north-west, Ihorombe in north and Atsimo-Atsinanana in north-east. This region runs from approximately Manantenina in the northeast corner of the region, west to Ranomafana, west to...

 (22)
Toliara
Toliara Province
Toliara is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 161,405 km². It had a population of 2,229,550 . Its capital was Toliara...

2,229,550

Military



The rise of centralized kingdoms among the Sakalava, Merina and other ethnic groups produced the island's first standing armies by the 16th century, initially equipped with spears but later with muskets, cannons and other firearms. By the early 19th century, Kingdom of Imerina was able to bring much of the island under Merina control with an army ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers. French attacks on coastal towns in the later part of the century prompted British mercenaries to provide training to the queen's army. However, the Malagasy military proved unable to withstand French weaponry and was declared a colony of France in 1897.

Madagascar regained political independence and sovereignty over its military in 1960. Since this time the Malagasy military has never engaged in armed conflict with another state or within its own borders, but has occasionally intervened to restore order during periods of political unrest. Under the socialist Second Republic, Admiral Didier Ratsiraka declared mandatory national armed or civil service for all young citizens regardless of gender. Ratsiraka would furthermore mobilize elements of the military to pacify unarmed protesters, occasionally using violent means. His order to fire upon unarmed protesters in 1989 was the catalyst for transition to the democratic Third Republic in 1992. The military remained largely neutral during the protracted standoff between incumbent Ratsiraka and challenger Marc Ravalomanana in the disputed 2001 presidential elections. By contrast, in 2009 a segment of the army defected to the side of Andry Rajoelina, then-mayor of Antananarivo, in support of his attempt to force President Ravalomanana from power. It is widely believed that payoffs were involved in persuading these military personnel to change camps in support of the coup d'etat.

Politics



Although the head of state since March 2009 is self-proclaimed, Madagascar is usually a semi-presidential
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 representative democratic
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 multi-party
Diversity (politics)
In the political arena, the term diversity is used to describe political entities with members who have identifiable differences in their backgrounds or lifestyles....

 republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, wherein the popularly elected President is the head of state and selects a Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Madagascar
This page contains a list of the Prime Ministers of Madagascar.-Prime Ministers of Madagascar :-Affiliations:*PSD - Social Democratic Party of Madagascar and the Comoros...

 to form a government. In the Malagasy system, the word government refers collectively to the President, the Prime Minister and all the heads of government ministries (Ministers), the latter being selected by the Prime Minister but serving at the pleasure of the President. According to the constitution, executive power
Executive Power
Executive Power is Vince Flynn's fifth novel, and the fourth to feature Mitch Rapp, an American agent that works for the CIA as an operative for a covert counter terrorism unit called the "Orion Team."-Plot summary:...

 is exercised by the government while legislative power is vested in both the government and the Senate
Senate of Madagascar
The Senate of Madagascar is the upper chamber of the bicameral Parliament of Madagascar. The Senate has 33 members: 22 are indirectly elected, one from each of the 22 regions of Madagascar, and 11 are appointed by the President....

 and the National Assembly
National Assembly of Madagascar
The Parliament has two chambers. The lower house is the National Assembly .The Assembly has 160 members, elected for a four year term in single-member and two-member constituencies...

, although in reality these two latter bodies have very little power or legislative role. The constitution declares the judiciary
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 to be independent of the executive and the legislature, but constitutional provisions empowering the Minister of Justice to interfere in operations of the judiciary branch effectively undermine intended separation of powers, consolidating the strength of the executive branch.

The political situation in Madagascar has been marked by struggle for control. After Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, political transitions have been marked by numerous popular protests, several disputed elections, two military coups and one assassination. Didier Ratsiraka
Didier Ratsiraka
Vice Admiral Didier Ratsiraka is a Malagasy politician who was President of Madagascar from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002.-Second Republic:...

 took power in a military coup in 1975 and ruled until 2001, with a short break when he was ousted in the early 1990s. When Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana is a Malagasy politician who was the President of Madagascar from 2002 to 2009. A member of the Merina ethnic group, Ravalomanana served as Mayor of Antananarivo before becoming President in 2002...

 and Ratsiraka both claimed victory after presidential elections in December 2001, Ratsiraka's supporters tried to blockade the capital, Antananarivo, which was pro-Ravalomanana. After eight months of sporadic violence with considerable economic disruption, a recount in April 2002 led the High Constitutional Court to pronounce Ravalomanana president, but it was not until July that Ratsiraka fled to France and Ravalomanana gained control of the country. Between 2002 and 2009, Ravalomanana and his party Tiako I Madagasikara
Tiako I Madagasikara
Tiako I Madagasikara is a political party in Madagascar founded by a group of individuals on July 3, 2002 to support President Marc Ravalomanana. It is now the largest party in the National Assembly of Madagascar with 106 of 127 seats, after the parliamentary election held on September 23, 2007....

(TIM) dominated political life. Ravalomanana's re-election in December 2006 was met with some protests over worsening standards of living, despite an ongoing government drive to eradicate poverty.

A series of protests
2009 Malagasy protests
The 2009 Malagasy political crisis involved a series of anti-government demonstrations in Madagascar in early 2009, culminating in military involvement and the accession of opposition leader Andry Rajoelina to the Presidency. The protests began in January 2009 and were aimed at the government of...

 against then-President Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana is a Malagasy politician who was the President of Madagascar from 2002 to 2009. A member of the Merina ethnic group, Ravalomanana served as Mayor of Antananarivo before becoming President in 2002...

 in 2009, backed by Andry Rajoelina
Andry Rajoelina
Andry Nirina Rajoelina , born May 30 1974, is the former mayor of Antananarivo who became transitional head of state of Madagascar on March 21, 2009 after the 2009 Malagasy political crisis....

, former mayor of Antananarivo, became violent, with more than 170 people killed. Rajoelina mobilized his supporters to take to the streets of Antananarivo to demand Ravalomanana's ousting on the grounds of his autocratic style of government. After losing support of the military and under intense pressure from Rajoelina, President Ravalomanana resigned on March 17, 2009. Ravalomanana assigned his powers to a military council loyal to himself headed by Vice-Admiral Hyppolite Ramaroson. The military called the move by Ravalomanana a "ploy" and said that it would support Rajoelina as leader. Rajoelina had already declared himself the new leader a month earlier and assumed the role of acting President, appointing Monja Roindefo
Monja Roindefo
Monja Roindefo Zafitsimivalo is a Malagasy politician who was Prime Minister of Madagascar from March 2009 to October 2009. He was appointed on 7 February 2009 by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina at the head of Rajoelina's rival government; later, on 17 March, Rajoelina was installed in power by...

 as Prime Minister. Rajoelina announced that elections would be held in two years and that the constitution would be amended. The European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, amongst other international entities, refused to recognize the new government, due to it being installed by force. The African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

, which proceeded to suspend Madagascar's membership on March 20, and the Southern Africa Development Community both criticized the forced resignation of Ravalomanana.

Foreign relations



Madagascar was historically perceived as being on the margin of mainstream African affairs despite being a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, which was founded in 1963. France remained the country's closest partner throughout the First Republic, stirring popular resentment and public protests that ultimately toppled the Tsiranana regime. Ratsiraka's socialist Second Republic turned its attention to partnerships with the Soviet Union, China and other socialist states. The weakened political and economic position of these partner states was a contributing factor to the collapse of the Second Republic.

The launch of the democratic Third Republic in 1993 marked a shift toward a capitalist economic growth model necessitating expanded diplomatic and economic ties within the global market. President Zafy, expressing desire for diplomatic relations with all countries, established formal ties with South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 and sent emissaries to Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

. The pressures of globalisation obliged President Ratsiraka to adhere to market-oriented policies and to engage world markets when he was voted into office in 1997. External relations have since reflected this trend, although Madagascar's physical isolation and strong traditional insular orientation have limited its activity in regional economic organizations and relations with its East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

n neighbours. It enjoys closer and generally good relations with its Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 neighbours – Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, Réunion
Réunion
Réunion is a French island with a population of about 800,000 located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France...

 and Comoros
Comoros
The Comoros , officially the Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar...

. Active relationships with Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, especially France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, as well as with Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 have been strong since independence. More recently, President Ravalomanana has cultivated strong links with the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and Madagascar was the first country to benefit from the Millennium Challenge Account. Madagascar is a member of the International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

 with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the United States military (as covered under Article 98
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court . It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002. As of 13 October 2011, 119 states are party to the statute...

). Numerous countries have established and maintain a diplomatic presence in Madagascar. During his presidency, Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana
Marc Ravalomanana is a Malagasy politician who was the President of Madagascar from 2002 to 2009. A member of the Merina ethnic group, Ravalomanana served as Mayor of Antananarivo before becoming President in 2002...

 traveled widely promoting Madagascar abroad and consciously sought to strengthen relations with Anglophone
Anglosphere
Anglosphere is a neologism which refers to those nations with English as the most common language. The term can be used more specifically to refer to those nations which share certain characteristics within their cultures based on a linguistic heritage, through being former British colonies...

 countries as a means of balancing traditionally strong French influence. He also cultivated strong ties with China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 during his tenure.

The Organisation of African Unity dissolved in 2002 and was replaced by the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

. Madagascar was not permitted to attend the first African Union summit because of a dispute over the results of the election in December 2001, but rejoined the African Union in July 2003 after a 14-month hiatus triggered by the 2002 political crisis. However, Madagascar was suspended again by the African Union in March 2009 because of ongoing political crisis.

In November 2004, after an absence of almost 30 years, Madagascar re-opened its embassy in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. On 15 December 2004 Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw
Jack Straw , British politician.Jack Straw may also refer to:* Jack Straw , English* "Jack Straw" , 1971 song by the Grateful Dead* Jack Straw by W...

 announced the closure of the British embassy in Antananarivo to save £250,000 per year. He also announced an end to the government's aid to Madagascar. The embassy closed in August 2005. The British Embassy was previously closed (also for financial reasons) from 1975 to 1980. The Anglo-Malagasy Society are campaigning to have it re-opened.

Human rights



Human rights in Madagascar are protected under the constitution. However the extent to which such rights are reflected in practice, is subject to debate. The 2010 Human Rights Report by the United States Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 noted concerns regarding the suspension of democratic electoral processes as the result of recent political unrest. Furthermore, reports of corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

, arbitrary arrest, widespread underage prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

 and child labor
Child labor
Child labour refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries...

 highlight the prevalence of human rights issues in the country. Accusations of media censorship
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 have risen since 2009 due to the allegedly increasing restrictions on the coverage of government opposition.

Economy



Madagascar's sources of growth are tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

, textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

 and light manufacturing exports (notably through the EPZs), agricultural products, and mining. Madagascar is the world's leading producer of vanilla and accounts for about half the world's export market. Tourism targets the niche eco-tourism market, capitalizing on Madagascar's unique biodiversity, unspoiled natural habitats, national parks and lemur
Lemur
Lemurs are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar. They are named after the lemures of Roman mythology due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species...

 species. Exports from the EPZs, located around Antananarivo and Antsirabe
Antsirabe
Antsirabe is the third largest city in Madagascar and has a population of approximately 183,000. It's the capital of the Vakinankaratra region...

, comprise the majority of garment manufacture, targeting the US market under AGOA and the European markets under the Everything But Arms
Everything but Arms
Everything but Arms is an initiative of the European Union under which all imports to the EU from the Least Developed Countries are duty free and quota free, with the exception of armaments. EBA entered into force on 5 March 2001. There are transitional arrangements for bananas, sugar and rice...

 (EBA) agreement. Agricultural exports consist of low-volume high-value products like vanilla, lychees and essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

s. A small but growing part of the economy is based on mining of ilmenite
Ilmenite
Ilmenite is a weakly magnetic titanium-iron oxide mineral which is iron-black or steel-gray. It is a crystalline iron titanium oxide . It crystallizes in the trigonal system, and it has the same crystal structure as corundum and hematite....

, with investments emerging in recent years, particularly near Tulear and Fort Dauphin
Tôlanaro
Tôlanaro or Tolagnaro is a city in Madagascar. It is the capital of Anosy Region and of Tôlanaro District. It has a port of local importance, and a new port has been built at Ehoala...

.

Natural resources



Madagascar's natural resources include a variety of unprocessed agricultural and mineral resources. Key agricultural resources include vanilla, lychees and shrimp. Key mineral resources include various types of precious and semi-precious stones, ilmenite and petrol. Several major projects are underway in the mining and oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 and gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 sectors that, if successful, will give a significant boost to the Malagasy economy. In the mining sector, these include the development of coal at Sakoa and nickel near Tamatave. In oil, Madagascar Oil
Madagascar Oil
Madagascar Oil SA is a Malagasy company, founded by Sam Malin with South African businessman Michael Smith and Australian businessmen Robert Nelson. Madagascar Oil focuses on the development, exploration and production of petroleum. It is the principal onshore oil company in Madagascar in terms of...

 is developing the massive onshore
Onshore (hydrocarbons)
Onshore, when used relative to hydrocarbons, refers to an oil, natural gas or condensate field that is under dry land or to activities or operations carried out in relation to such a field.-References:* *...

 heavy oil
Heavy crude oil
Heavy crude oil or extra heavy crude oil is any type of crude oil which does not flow easily. It is referred to as "heavy" because its density or specific gravity is higher than that of light crude oil. Heavy crude oil has been defined as any liquid petroleum with an API gravity less than 20°.Extra...

 field
Oil field
An oil field is a region with an abundance of oil wells extracting petroleum from below ground. Because the oil reservoirs typically extend over a large area, possibly several hundred kilometres across, full exploitation entails multiple wells scattered across the area...

 at Tsimiroro
Tsimiroro
Tsimiroro is the name of a large oil field in the onshore Morondava Basin of Madagascar found south of the Bemolanga ultra heavy oil field and south of the town of Morafenobe.. It is estimated to contain as many as of heavy oil...

 and ultra heavy oil
Tar sands
Bituminous sands, colloquially known as oil sands or tar sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen...

 field at Bemolanga
Bemolanga
Bemolanga is the name of a large tar sands deposit in the onshore Morondava Basin of Madagascar discovered in the early 1900s but known to locals for centuries. The field is located north of the Tsimiroro heavy oil field and east of the town of Morafenobe .Madagascar Oil, founded by Sam Malin, is...

. Mining corporation Rio Tinto Group
Rio Tinto Group
The Rio Tinto Group is a diversified, British-Australian, multinational mining and resources group with headquarters in London and Melbourne. The company was founded in 1873, when a multinational consortium of investors purchased a mine complex on the Rio Tinto river, in Huelva, Spain from the...

 began operations near Fort Dauphin in 2008, following several years of infrastructure preparation. The mining project is highly controversial, with Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations filing reports to detail their concerns about effects on the local environment and communities.

International trade


Agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, including fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 and forestry
Forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

, is a mainstay of the economy. Major exports are coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

, vanilla
Vanilla
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, Flat-leaved Vanilla . The word vanilla derives from the Spanish word "", little pod...

 (Madagascar is the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla), sugarcane
Sugarcane
Sugarcane refers to any of six to 37 species of tall perennial grasses of the genus Saccharum . Native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, they have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar, and measure two to six metres tall...

, cloves, cocoa, rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

, cassava
Cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

 (tapioca), beans, bananas, peanut
Peanut
The peanut, or groundnut , is a species in the legume or "bean" family , so it is not a nut. The peanut was probably first cultivated in the valleys of Peru. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing tall...

s and livestock products. Vanilla has historically been of particular importance, and when in 1985 Coca-cola
Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

 switched to New Coke
New Coke
New Coke was the reformulation of Coca-Cola introduced in 1985 by The Coca-Cola Company to replace the original formula of its flagship soft drink, Coca-Cola...

 which involved less vanilla, Madagascar's economy took a marked downturn but returned to previous levels after the return of Coke Classic.

Tourism


Economic development


Structural reforms began in the late 1980s, initially under pressure from international financial institutions, notably the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

. An initial privatization program (1988–1993) and the development of an export processing zone regime in the early 1990s were key milestones in this effort. A period of significant stagnation from 1991 to 1996 was followed by five years of solid economic growth and accelerating foreign investment. Although structural reforms advanced, governance remained weak, and perceived political corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

 was high. During the period of solid growth from 1997 to 2001, poverty levels remained high, especially in rural areas.

A six-month political crisis triggered by a dispute over the outcome of the presidential elections held in December 2001 virtually halted economic activity in much of the country in the first half of 2002. Real GDP
Real GDP
Real Gross Domestic Product is a macroeconomic measure of the value of output economy adjusted for price changes . The adjustment transforms the money-value measure, called nominal GDP, into an index for quantity of total output...

 dropped 12.7% for the year 2002, inflows of foreign investment dropped sharply, and the crisis tarnished Madagascar's budding reputation as an AGOA standout and a promising place to invest. After the crisis, the economy rebounded with GDP growth of over 10% in 2003. Currency depreciation and rising inflation
Inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

 in 2004 have hampered economic performance, but growth for the year reached 5.3%, with inflation reaching around 25% at the end of the year. In 2005 inflation was brought under control by tight monetary policy of raising the Taux Directeur (central bank rate) to 16% and tightening reserve requirements for banks. Thus growth was expected to reach around 6.5% in 2005.

Following the 2002 political crisis, the government attempted to set a new course and build confidence, in coordination with international financial institutions and donors. Madagascar developed a recovery plan in collaboration with the private sector and donors and presented it at a "Friends of Madagascar" conference organized by the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in July 2002. Donor countries demonstrated their confidence in the new government by pledging $1 billion in assistance over five years. The Malagasy Government identified road infrastructure as its principle priority and underlined its commitment to public-private partnership by establishing a joint public-private sector steering committee.


In 2000, Madagascar embarked on the preparation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers are documents required by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank before a country can be considered for debt relief within the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative. PRSPs are also required before low-income countries can receive aid from most major...

 (PRSP) under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
Heavily Indebted Poor Countries is a group of 40 developing countries with high levels of poverty and debt overhang which are eligible for special assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.- History and structure :...

 (HIPC) Initiative. The boards of the IMF and World Bank agreed in December 2000 that the country had reached the decision point for debt relief under the HIPC Initiative and defined a set of conditions for Madagascar to reach the completion point. In October 2004, the boards of the IMF and the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

 determined that Madagascar had reached the completion point under the enhanced HIPC Initiative.

The Madagascar-U.S. Business Council was formed as a collaboration between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Malagasy artisan producers in Madagascar in 2002. The U.S.-Madagascar Business Council was formed in the United States in May 2003, and the two organizations continue to explore ways to work for the benefit of both groups.

The government of President Ravalomanana aggressively sought foreign investment and attempted to tackle many of the obstacles to such investment, including combating corruption, reforming land-ownership laws, encouraging study of American and European business techniques, and active pursuit of foreign investors. President Ravalomanana rose to prominence through his agro-foods TIKO
Tiko
Tiko, Originally called ‘Keka’ by the Bakweris, is a town and important port in the southwest region of Cameroon. The settlement grew as a market town for Duala fishermen, Bakweri farmers and hunters from Molyko, Bwenga, Bulu and Bokova...

 company, and attempted to apply many of the lessons learned in the world of business to running the government. In the latter half of his presidency, concerns arose about the conflict of interest between his policies and the activities of his firms. Most notable among them the preferential treatment for rice imports initiated by the government in late 2004 when responding to a production shortfall in the country.

Demographics



Madagascar's population is predominantly of mixed Austronesian
Austronesian people
The Austronesian-speaking peoples are various populations in Oceania and Southeast Asia that speak languages of the Austronesian family. They include Taiwanese aborigines; the majority ethnic groups of East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Madagascar, Micronesia, and Polynesia,...

 (i.e. South-East Asian/Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander , is a geographic term to describe the indigenous inhabitants of any of the three major sub-regions of Oceania: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, these three regions, together with their islands consist of:Polynesia:...

) and African
African people
African people refers to natives, inhabitants, or citizen of Africa and to people of African descent.-Etymology:Many etymological hypotheses that have been postulated for the ancient name "Africa":...

 origin. Those who are visibly Austronesian in appearance and culture are the minority, found mostly in the highland regions. Recent DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 research shows that the Malagasy people are approximately of half Austronesian and half East African descent, although some Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

, Indian
Indians in Madagascar
Indians in Madagascar form a community of roughly 25,000 individuals according to the statistics of India's Ministry of External Affairs; other estimates of their population range from 15,000 to 30,000. Among them are 867 non-resident Indians, with the rest being locally-born descendants of early...

 and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an influence is present along the coast.

Subsequent migrations
Human migration
Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

 from the East Indies and Africa consolidated this original mixture, and over a dozen distinct tribal groups emerged. Austronesian features are most predominant in the Merina
Merina
The Merina are an ethnic group from Madagascar. The Merina are concentrated in the Highlands and speak the official dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo. Their ancestors, the...

 (3 million); the coastal people (called côtiers) have relatively stronger African origins. The largest coast
Coast
A coastline or seashore is the area where land meets the sea or ocean. A precise line that can be called a coastline cannot be determined due to the dynamic nature of tides. The term "coastal zone" can be used instead, which is a spatial zone where interaction of the sea and land processes occurs...

al groups are the Betsimisaraka (1.5 million) and the Tsimihety
Tsimihety
The Tsimihety are a Malagasy ethnic group located near the north-central coast of Madagascar. Their name means "those who do not cut their hair," in reference to their refusal to adhere to the customs imposed by the rule of Merina King Radama I., numbering around one million The Tsimihety are a...

 and Sakalava
Sakalava
The Sakalava are an ethnic group of Madagascar numbering approximately 700,000 in population. Their name means "people of the long valleys." They occupy the Western edge of the island from Toliara in the south to Sambirano in the north. The Sakalava denominate a number of smaller ethnic groups...

 (700,000 each). The Vezo live in the southwest. Two of the southern tribes are the Antandroy and the Antanosy. Other tribes include Tankarana (northern tip), Sihanaka and Bezanozano (east), Tanala (south-east), Antaimoro, Tambahoaka, Zafisoro, Antaisaka and Timanambondro (south-east coast), and Mahafaly and Bara (south-west). Chinese
Chinese people in Madagascar
Chinese people in Madagascar form Africa's third largest overseas Chinese population. , roughly 40,000 to 60,000 lived on the island. They constitute a minority ethnic group of Madagascar.-History:...

 and Indian
Indians in Madagascar
Indians in Madagascar form a community of roughly 25,000 individuals according to the statistics of India's Ministry of External Affairs; other estimates of their population range from 15,000 to 30,000. Among them are 867 non-resident Indians, with the rest being locally-born descendants of early...

 minorities also exist, as well as Europeans, mostly French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

. In 1958, there were 68,430 European settlers living in Madagascar. The number of Comorans
Comoros
The Comoros , officially the Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar...

 residing in Madagascar was drastically reduced after anti-Comoran rioting in Mahajanga
Mahajanga
Mahajanga is a city and a district on the north-west coast of Madagascar.- City :The City of Mahajanga is the capital of the Boeny region. Population: 135,660 ....

 in 1976.

During the French colonial administration (1895–1960) and some time after independence, people were officially classified in ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

s. This practice was abandoned in the first census (1975) after independence so any recent classification and figures for ethnic groups is an unofficial estimate. There is for instance no mention of ethnicity or religion in the national identity cards. Also, territorial divisions (provinces, regions) do not follow any ethnic division lines, despite an attempt by the colonial administration in the early 20th century. Ethnic divisions continue, and may cause violence, but their role is limited in today's society. Political tensions between the highlanders and coastal population periodically flare up into limited violent conflict.

The population has grown from 2.2 million in 1900 to 7.6 million in 1975. Only two general censuses, 1975 and 1993, have been carried out after independence. Figures for Madagascar's foreign population in the early 1990s are lacking, but in 1988, such persons were estimated to include 25,000 Comorans, 18,000 French, 17,000 Indians, and 9,000 Chinese.

Maternal and Child Health Care


In June 2011, the United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Population Fund
The United Nations Population Fund is a UN organization. The work of the UNFPA involves promotion of the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. This is done through major national and demographic surveys and with population censuses...

 released a report on The State of the World's Midwifery. It contained new data on the midwifery workforce and policies relating to newborn and maternal mortality for 58 countries. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Madagascar is 440. This is compared with 373.1 in 2008 and 484.4 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 61 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5's mortality is 37. The aim of this report is to highlight ways in which the Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

 can be achieved, particularly Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality and Goal 5 – improve maternal death. In Madagascar the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 4 and 1 in 45 shows us the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women.
Two-thirds of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.

Education


Prior to the 19th century, all learning in Madagascar was informal and typically served to teach practical skills as well as social and cultural norms, including respect for ancestors and elders. The first formal European-style school was established in 1818 on the east coast of Madagascar at Toamasina
Toamasina
Toamasina , meaning "like salt" or "salty", unofficially and in French also Tamatave, is a city on the east coast of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. The city is the chief seaport of the country, situated northeast of its capital and biggest city Antananarivo, near the centre of the eastern coast...

 by members of the London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 (LMS). King Radama I (1810–1828) invited LMS missionaries to establish schools throughout Imerina to teach basic literacy and numeracy to the children of andriana
Andriana
Andriana is a title of nobility in Madagascar and often traditionally formed part of the names of noblemen, princes and kings. Historically, many Malagasy ethnic groups lived in highly stratified caste-based social orders in which the andriana were the political and/or spiritual leaders...

(nobles) who would go on to serve as soldiers or royal aides. Because the missionaries insisted on using the Bible to teach literacy in support of their own agenda to spread Christianity, Radama's successor, Ranavalona I, expelled the missionaries and closed the schools in 1835. This policy was reversed upon her death, and by the end of the 19th century Madagascar could boast the most developed and modern school system in pre-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa.

Limited access and poor quality have plagued the schools of Madagascar from the colonial period to the present. During the post-colonial First Republic, a continued reliance on French nationals as teachers and French as the language of instruction created tension among those desiring a complete separation from the former colonial power. Consequently, under the socialist Second Republic, French instructors and other nationals were expelled, Malagasy was declared the language of instruction and a large cadre of young Malagasy were rapidly trained to teach at remote rural schools under the mandatory two-year national service policy. This policy, known as malgachization, coincided with a severe economic downturn and a dramatic decline in the quality of education; people schooled during this period generally failed to master the French language or many other subjects. Struggling in the competitive local employment market, most remained mired in deepening poverty as they were obliged to turn to low-paying jobs in the informal or black market. Excepting the brief presidency of Albert Zafy from 1992 to 1996, Ratsiraka remained in power from 1975 to 1999 and failed to achieve significant improvements in the sector throughout this time.

Education was prioritized under the Ravalomanana administration. During his first term, thousands of new schools and additional classrooms were constructed while many older buildings were renovated. Tens of thousands of new teachers were recruited and trained. The minimum education standard for the recruitment of primary teachers was raised from a middle school leaving certificate (BEPC) to a high school leaving certificate (BAC). School supplies and uniforms were provided at public schools and official school fees were eliminated, although fees are still commonly charged by parent-teacher associations to pay the salaries of teachers hired locally when demand for education exceeds official capacity. Public expenditure on education was at 16.4% of total government expenditure in the 2000–2007 period with per-pupil expenditure at the primary level at about US$57. As a result, primary school enrollment rates jumped from 63% in 2000 to 95% in 2005. Increased access has posed continuing challenges for quality, however, and Madagascar continues to have extremely high rates of grade repetition and student drop-out. Education policy in Ravalomanana's second term focused on quality issues, including a reformed teacher training program to support the transition from traditional didactic instruction to student-centered teaching methods to boost student learning and participation in the classroom.

Ethnic diversity


The majority of the population of Madagascar is a mixture in varying degrees of Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n, Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 and Bantu settlers from Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 and East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, respectively. Years of intermarriages created the Malagasy people
Malagasy people
The Malagasy ethnic group forms nearly the entire population of Madagascar. They are divided into two subgroups: the "Highlander" Merina, Sihanaka and Betsileo of the central plateau around Antananarivo, Alaotra and Fianarantsoa, and the côtiers elsewhere in the country. This division has its...

, who primarily speak Malagasy
Malagasy language
Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar, a member of the Austronesian family of languages. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.-History:...

, an Austronesian language with Bantu
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

 influences. Most of the genetic makeup of the average Malagasy, however, reflects an almost equal blend of Indonesian and Bantu influences.
Malagasy Ethnic Groups
Peoples Regional concentration
Antankarana
Antankarana
The Antankarana is an ethnic group of Madagascar that inhabits the northern tip of Madagascar around Antsiranana. Their name means "the people of the tsingy," the limestone rock formations that distinguish their traditional territory...

, Sakalava, Tsimihety 
Antsiranana Province
Antsiranana Province
Antsiranana is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 43,406 km2. It had a population of 1,188,425 . Its capital was Antsiranana. Notable is Ankarana Reserve.Antsiranana Province bordered the following provinces:...

Sakalava, Vezo  Mahajanga Province
Mahajanga Province
Mahajanga is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 150,023 km². It had a population of 1,896,000 . Its capital was Mahajanga.Except for Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga Province bordered all of the country's other provinces:...

Betsimisaraka, Sihanaka
Sihanaka
The Sihanaka are an ethnic group in Madagascar concentrated around Lake Alaotra and the town of Ambatondrazaka. Their name means the "people of the swamps" in reference to the marshlands around Lake Alaotra that they inhabit...

, Bezanozano
Bezanozano
The Bezanozano are believed to be one of the earliest Malagasy ethnic groups to establish themselves in Madagascar, where they inhabit an inland area between the Betsimisaraka lowlands and the Merina highlands...

 
Toamasina Province
Toamasina Province
Toamasina is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 71,911 km². It had a population of 2,855,600 . Its capital was Toamasina, the most important seaport of the country....

Merina  Antananarivo Province
Antananarivo Province
Antananarivo is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 58,283 km². It had a population of 5,370,900 . Its capital was Antananarivo.Except for Antsiranana, Antananarivo Province bordered all of the country's other provinces:*Mahajanga - north...

Betsileo, Antaifasy
Antaifasy
The Antaifasy are an ethnic group of Madagascar inhabiting the southeast coastal region around Farafangana. Their name means "people of the sand."...

, Antambahoaka
Antambahoaka
The Antambahoaka are the least numerous ethnic group in Madagascar. They inhabit a small region along the southeastern coast of Madagascar near Mananjary and share their origins with the partially Arab Antaimoro people....

, Antaimoro
Antemoro people
Antemoro people are an ethnic group of Madagascar living on the southeastern coast, mostly between Manakara and Farafangana.Their number is estimated to 427.000...

, Antaisaka
Antaisaka people
Antaisaka are an ethnic group of Madagascar living on the south-eastern coast.The Antaisaka speak a dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in southern Borneo....

, Tanala
Tanala
The Tanala are a Malagasy ethnic group that inhabit a forested region of south-east Madagascar. Their name means "people of the forest." The Tanala speak a dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages, spoken in...

 
Fianarantsoa Province
Fianarantsoa Province
Fianarantsoa is a former province of Madagascar.*Area: 103,272 km2.*Population of 3,366,291 .*Capital: Fianarantsoa.*President: Fidy Mpanjato Rakotonarivo .One of its towns was Andohapatsakana...

Mahafaly
Mahafaly
The Mahafaly are an ethnic group of Madagascar that inhabit the plains of the Betioky-Ampamihy area. Their name means either "those who make taboos" or "those who make happy", although the former is considered more likely by linguists...

, Antandroy
Antandroy
The Antandroy are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group of Madagascar inhabiting the arid southern part of the island called Androy roughly located between Amboasary and Beloha and between the ocean and Bekily. Their name means "people of the thorns" in reference to the spiny thickets of endemic...

, Antanosy people
Antanosy people
The Antanosy are a Malagasy ethnic group who primarily live in the Anosy region of southeastern Madagascar, though there are also Antanosy living near Bezaha, where some of the Antanosy moved after the Imerina conquered Anosy...

, Bara
Bara people
The Bara people are a Malagasy ethnic group living in the southern part of the central plateaus of Madagascar, in the Toliara Province, especially in the Ihosy-Betroka area. They are estimated to account for 3% of the overall malagasy population. Along with Sakalava, Bara are one of the two...

, Vezo
Vezo
The Vezo is the term the semi-nomadic coastal people of southern Madagascar use to refer to people that have become accustomed to live from sea fishing. The Vezo speak a dialect of the Malagasy language, which is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language group derived from the Barito languages,...

 
Toliara Province
Toliara Province
Toliara is a former province of Madagascar with an area of 161,405 km². It had a population of 2,229,550 . Its capital was Toliara...


Language



The Malagasy language
Malagasy language
Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar, a member of the Austronesian family of languages. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.-History:...

 is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is generally spoken throughout the island. The numerous dialects of Malagasy, which are generally mutually intelligible, can be clustered under one of two sub-groups: eastern Malagasy (spoken along the eastern forests and highlands, including the Merina dialect of Antananarivo) and western Malagasy, spoken across the western coastal plains. French became the official language during the colonial period when Madagascar came under the authority of France. In the first national Constitution of 1958, Malagasy and French were named the official languages of the Malagasy Republic. Madagascar is a francophone
Francophone
The adjective francophone means French-speaking, typically as primary language, whether referring to individuals, groups, or places. Often, the word is used as a noun to describe a natively French-speaking person....

 country, and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 is spoken among the educated population. English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, although uncommon, has gradually become more widely spoken.http://orca.byu.edu/download.php?file=jug/docs/2010/Winterton,%20Matthew.pdf

No official languages were recorded in the Constitution of 1992, although Malagasy was identified as the national language. Nonetheless, many sources still claimed that Malagasy and French were official languages, eventually leading a citizen to initiate a legal case against the state in April 2000 on the grounds that the publication of official documents in the French language only was unconstitutional. The High Constitutional Court observed in its decision that, in the absence of a language law, French still had the character of an official language. In the Constitution of 2007, Malagasy remained the national language while official languages were reintroduced: Malagasy, French, and English. English was removed as an official language from the constitution approved by voters in the November referendum 2010
Malagasy constitutional referendum, 2010
A constitutional referendum was held in Madagascar on 17 November 2010, in which voters approved a proposal for the state's fourth Constitution. The Malagasy people were asked to answer "Yes" or "No" to the proposed new constitution, which was considered to help consolidate Andry Rajoelina's grip...

. The outcome of the referendum and its consequences for official and national language policy are not recognized by the political opposition or by the international community
International community
The international community is a term used in international relations to refer to all peoples, cultures and governments of the world or to a group of them. The term is used to imply the existence of common duties and obligations between them...

, who cite lack of transparency and inclusiveness in the organization of the election by the High Transitional Authority
High Transitional Authority
The High Transitional Authority is a provisional executive body that came to power in Madagascar following the coup that forced Marc Ravalomanana to leave the country on March 17, 2009 as a result of the 2009 Malagasy protests...

.

Religion



Approximately 50% of the country's population practice traditional religion, which tends to emphasize links between the living and the dead. The Merina in the highlands particularly tend to hold tightly to this practice. A powerful individual may establish a fady (taboo
Taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

) in his or her lifetime that all their descendents or those of community members will be required to respect well after their death, meaning that when traveling in Madagascar it is advisable to seek out village elders or authorities and inquire into local fady in order not to inadvertently transgress and offend the local population. This veneration of ancestors has also led to the tradition of tomb building and the famadihana
Famadihana
Famadihana is a funerary tradition of the Malagasy people in Madagascar. Known as the turning of the bones, people bring forth the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts and rewrap them in fresh cloth, then dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music.The Famadihana custom...

, a practice whereby a deceased family member's remains may be taken from the tomb to be periodically re-wrapped in fresh silk shrouds known as lamba
Lamba (garment)
A lamba is the traditional garment worn by both men and women in Madagascar. This textile, highly emblematic of Malagasy culture, consists of a rectangular length of cloth wrapped around the body....

before being replaced in the tomb. The event is an occasion to celebrate the loved one's memory, reunite with family and community, and enjoy a festive atmosphere. Residents of surrounding villages are often invited to attend the party, where food and rum are often served and a hiragasy
Hiragasy
The hiragasy is a musical tradition in Madagascar and particularly among the Merina ethnic group of the Highland regions around the capital of Antananarivo....

 troupe or other musical entertainment is typically present.


About 45% of the Malagasy are Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, divided almost evenly between Catholics
Roman Catholicism in Madagascar
The Catholic Church in Madagascar is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome....

 and Protestants. In 1818 the London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 sent the first Christian missionaries to successfully install themselves on the island, building churches, translating the Bible into Malagasy language and winning over numerous converts. Beginning in 1835 Queen Ranavalona I
Ranavalona I
Ranavalona I , also known as Ranavalo-Manjaka I, was a sovereign of the Kingdom of Madagascar from 1828 to 1861...

 vigorously persecuted early converts to Christianity in an attempt to halt European cultural and political influence on the island. In 1869 a successor, Queen Ranavalona II, converted the court to Christianity and encouraged Christian missionary activity, burning the sampy
Sampy
A sampy is an amulet or idol of spiritual and political importance among numerous ethnic groups in Madagascar. Amulets and idols fashioned from assorted natural materials have occupied an important place among many Malagasy communities for centuries...

(royal idols) in a symbolic break with traditional beliefs. Today, many Christians integrate their religious beliefs with traditional ones relating to honoring the ancestors. For instance, they may bless their dead at church before proceeding with traditional burial rites or invite a Christian minister to consecrate a famadihana reburial. Many of the Christian churches are influential in politics. The best example of this is the Malagasy Council of Churches comprising the four oldest and most prominent Christian denominations (Roman Catholic, Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar
Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar
The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar is the second-largest Christian denomination in Madagascar. The FJKM is the national church of Madagascar, but it is not the established church of the state....

, Lutheran
Malagasy Lutheran Church
The Malagasy Lutheran Church is a Christian denomination in Madagascar and France, established in 1950 by the unification of 1,800 Lutheran congregations in central and southern Madagascar...

, and Anglican).

Eastern religions are also present on the island. Islam was first brought to the island in the Middle Ages by Arab and Somali Muslim traders who established several Islamic schools along the eastern coast. While the use of Arabic script and loan words and the adoption of Islamic astrology would spread across the island, the Islamic religion failed to take hold in all but a handful of southeastern coastal communities. Today, Muslims constitute 7% of the population of Madagascar and are largely concentrated in the northwestern provinces of Mahajanga
Mahajanga
Mahajanga is a city and a district on the north-west coast of Madagascar.- City :The City of Mahajanga is the capital of the Boeny region. Population: 135,660 ....

 and Antsiranana
Antsiranana
Antsiranana , named Diego-Suarez prior to 1975, is a city at the northern tip of Madagascar.Antsiranana is the capital of Diana Region.-Transports:...

 (Diego Suarez). Muslims are divided between those of Malagasy ethnicity, Indians
Demographics of India
The demographics of India are inclusive of the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people , more than a sixth of the world's population. Already containing 17.5% of the world's population, India is projected to be the world's most populous country by 2025, surpassing...

, Pakistanis and Comorians
Comoros
The Comoros , officially the Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar...

. More recently, Hinduism was introduced to Madagascar through Gujarati
Gujarati people
Gujarati people , or Gujaratis are an ethnic group that is traditionally Gujarati-speaking and can trace their ancestry to the state of Gujarat in western India...

 people immigrating from the Saurashtra region of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in the late 19th century. Most Hindus in Madagascar speak Gujarati
Gujarati language
Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language, and part of the greater Indo-European language family. It is derived from a language called Old Gujarati which is the ancestor language of the modern Gujarati and Rajasthani languages...

 or Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

.

Culture



Malagasy culture reflects a blend of Southeast Asian, Arab, African and European influences.

Houses in Madagascar
Architecture of Madagascar
The architecture of Madagascar is unique in Africa, bearing strong resemblance to the construction norms and methods of Southern Borneo from which the earliest inhabitants of Madagascar are believed to have emigrated...

 are typically four-sided with a peaked roof similar to those commonly seen in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, rather than the circular style of hut more commonly found in Eastern Africa. Malagasy architecture varies widely depending on locally available materials and practical needs. Most traditionally, homes are built from plant materials; this form of construction remains prevalent outside of the central Highlands and major urban areas. In the Highlands, houses are most often two-story brick structures, occasionally with pillars supporting a front veranda. The orientation and interior layout of homes in traditional communities often followed certain cosmological norms. This tradition has been increasingly abandoned over the past century, as has the use of traditional building materials among the upper classes for whom imported materials and foreign construction styles are associated with modernity and prestige. Tombs are culturally significant in many regions and tend to utilize stone in their construction.

The zebu
Zebu
Zebu , sometimes known as humped cattle, indicus cattle, Cebu or Brahmin cattle are a type of domestic cattle originating in South Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent. They are characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders, drooping ears and a large dewlap...

 (humped cattle), introduced to Madagascar by Bantu-speaking East African migrants around 1,000 years ago, have come to occupy an important place in traditional Malagasy culture. The animal can take on sacred importance and constitutes the wealth of the owner, a tradition originating on the African mainland. Cattle rustling, originally a rite of passage for young men in the plains areas of Madagascar where the largest herds of cattle are kept, has become a dangerous and sometimes deadly criminal enterprise as herdsmen in the southwest attempt to defend their cattle with traditional spears against increasingly armed professional rustlers. Where African influences are strongest, as in the southern region around Tulear, wealth and social status are traditionally measured in cattle.

The Malagasy names for seasons, months, days, and coins are Arabic in origin, as is the practice of circumcision, the communal grain pool, and different forms of salutation. The Antaimoro people of southeastern Madagascar claim to be direct descendants of early Arab immigrants, and over at least the past five hundred years, the acclaimed ombiasy (astrologers) of this ethnic group have served as privileged counselors to the nobles of various communities across the island.
The cuisine of Madagascar likewise reflects diverse influences from around the world. Rice forms the basis of every meal in most parts of Madagascar, which has the highest per capita rate of rice consumption in the world. The dishes prepared to accompany the rice vary depending on local availability of food products and are known as laoka. Many of these dishes reflect the culinary influences of Indian, Chinese, French and other arrivals to the island. A wide variety of snacks and street foods are eaten, particularly mofo (fritter or cake-like treats). In the arid south and west, rice may be supplanted by cassava (yuca), sweet potatoes and corn and supplemented with curdled or fresh zebu
Zebu
Zebu , sometimes known as humped cattle, indicus cattle, Cebu or Brahmin cattle are a type of domestic cattle originating in South Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent. They are characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders, drooping ears and a large dewlap...

 milk. Rum (toaka gasy) and betsabetsa are two forms of traditional spirits produced on the island. Wine and beer are also locally produced, as are cocoa, tea and coffee, the latter widely consumed throughout the island. Herbal teas, sodas and fruit juices are also popular drinks.

Arts


Artistic traditions on the island of Madagascar are highly diverse and distinctive.

One of the island's foremost artistic traditions is that of its oratory
Hainteny
Hainteny is a traditional form of Malagasy oral literature and poetry, involving heavy use of metaphor. It is associated primarily with the Merina people of Madagascar. In its use of metaphor and allusion it resembles another type of poetry, the Malay pantun, and Fox suggests "it seems likely the...

 as expressed in the forms of hainteny (poetry), kabary (public discourse) and ohabolana (proverbs). An epic poem showcasing these traditions, the Ibonia
Ibonia
The Ibonia is an epic poem that has been told in various forms across the island of Madagascar for at least several hundred years. The Ibonia predates the introduction of the printing press in Madagascar in the early part of the 19th century and as such has long been part of the poetic and...

, has been handed down over the centuries in several different forms across the island and offers insight into the diverse mythologies and beliefs of traditional Malagasy communities. Storytelling and proverbs enabled traditional communities to express and preserve their histories and worldview and transmit it to future generations. The supernatural is featured in many of these stories, including witchcraft, the intercession of god or the ancestors, and the existence of a variety of fantastical creatures. Chief among these are the vazimba
Vazimba
The Vazimba , according to popular belief, were the first inhabitants of Madagascar. While beliefs about the physical appearance of the Vazimba reflect regional variation, they are generally described as smaller in stature than the average person, leading some scientists to speculate that they may...

, the supposed first inhabitants of Madagascar who have in popular memory been transformed into capricious spirits that, if angered, will interfere in the lives of the living.

Madagascar has also developed a distinctive and rich musical heritage
Music of Madagascar
The highly diverse and distinctive music of Madagascar has been shaped by the musical traditions of Southeast Asia, Africa, Arabia, England, France and the United States as successive waves of settlers have made the island their home...

. The early Austronesian settlers brought with them the predecessor to the bamboo tube zither known as the valiha
Valiha
The valiha is a tube zither from Madagascar made from a species of local bamboo. It is played by plucking the strings, which may be made of metal or the bamboo skin which is pried up in long strands and propped up by small bridges made of pieces of dried gourd...

—considered the national instrument of Madagascar—as well as numerous other instruments that constitute the foundation of traditional Malagasy music. The influence of African musical tradition manifests in certain drumming and polyharmonic singing styles, particularly among the western and southern coastal communities, while the tendency toward minor chords in these regions reflects an Arab musical influence. Europeans likewise contributed to Malagasy musical traditions, importing the guitar, accordion, piano and the instruments used in hiragasy
Hiragasy
The hiragasy is a musical tradition in Madagascar and particularly among the Merina ethnic group of the Highland regions around the capital of Antananarivo....

 performance including the violin, trumpet and clarinet.

Sport and recreation



A number of traditional pastimes have emerged in Madagascar. Moraingy or lutte malgache, a type of hand-to-hand combat, is a popular spectator sport in coastal regions. It is traditionally practiced by men, but women have recently begun to participate. The wrestling of zebu is also practiced in many regions. In addition to sports, a wide variety of games are played. Fanorona
Fanorona
Fanorona is an abstract strategy board game indigenous to Madagascar.-Introduction:Fanorona has three standard versions: Fanoron-Telo, Fanoron-Dimy, and Fanoron-Tsivy. The difference between these variants is the size of board played on. Fanoron-Telo is played on a 3×3 board and the difficulty of...

is a board game that is associated with the Merina sovereigns and is widespread throughout the Highland regions. According to folk legend, the succession of King Andrianjaka
Andrianjaka
Andrianjaka reigned over the Kingdom of Imerina in the central highlands region of Madagascar from around 1612 to 1630. Despite being the younger of King Ralambo's two sons, Andrianjaka succeeded to the throne on the basis of his strength of character and skill as a military tactician...

 after his father Ralambo
Ralambo
Ralambo was the ruler of the Kingdom of Imerina in the central Highlands region of Madagascar from 1575 to 1612. Ruling from Ambohidrabiby, Ralambo expanded the realm of his father, Andriamanelo, and was the first to assign the name of Imerina to the region...

 was partially due to the unhealthy obsession that Andrianjaka's older brother may have had with playing fanorona to the detriment of his other responsibilities.

Western sports were introduced to Madagascar over the past two centuries. Football and rugby are especially popular. Pétanque
Pétanque
Pétanque is a form of boules where the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet or jack. It is also sometimes called a bouchon or le petit...

, a French game similar to lawn bowling, is also widely played in urban areas and particularly throughout the Highlands. Madagascar has produced a world champion in pétanque.

Scouting
Scouting
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

 is popular among boys and girls alike and is represented in Madagascar by its own local association
Firaisan'ny Skotisma eto Madagasikara
The Firaisan'ny Skotisma eto Madagasikara, the national federation of three Scouting organizations of Madagascar. Scouting in Madagascar was started in 1921 under the auspices of the respective French organizations. The federation was founded in 1959 and became a member of the World Organization of...

.

External links


Government

General information
  • Country Profile from BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

  • Madagascar from UCB Libraries GovPubs


News media
  • Madagascar Humanitarian news and analysis from IRIN United Nations
  • Madagascar news headline links from allAfrica.com


Ecology

Miscellaneous
  • The Madagascar Project, Project set up to help Malagasy communities tackle the causes and effects of poverty
  • Old maps of Madagascar by CEGET library (CNRS, France)
  • Azafady UK charity and Malagasy NGO working in southeast Madagascar to alleviate poverty, improve well-being and protect beautiful unique environments with the help of its award winning volunteering programmes.
  • Shama Foundation of Madagascar charitable organization providing scholarships for underprivileged students in Madagascar
  • Opinions of La Haute Cour Constitutionelle du Madagascar
  • Blue Ventures award winning not-for-profit organisation dedicated to facilitating projects and expeditions that enhance global marine conservation and research. Based in Andavadoaka
    Andavadoaka
    Andavadoaka is a small fishing village located on the southwest coast of Madagascar. It is located in the Morombe division of Toliara Province, 45 km south of the town of Morombe...

    , South West coast of Madagascar.
  • Foko-madagascar not-for-profit organization and Rising Voices grantee project dedicated to the use of ICT as a tool to promote sustainable development, especially combining human development and the protection of the environment.
  • The Palmarium reserve, is situated on the East coast of Madagascar.
  • Keelonga, keelonga
    Keelonga
    is an initiative started by Leila and Karim Pirbay in 2007. "Kilonga" means children in Malagasy, the language of Madagascar.The goal of Keelonga is to make it easy for every child to get elementary education in all rural areas in Madagascar....

     is an organisation dedicated to assisting rural primary schools with infrastructures and teachers
  • The State of the World's Midwifery - Madagascar Country Profile