Madagascar – Terre brûle
Republic of Madagascar‘s varied fauna and flora are endangered by human activity.
Since the arrival of humans around 2,350 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest.
Key contributors to the loss of forest cover include the use of coffee as a cash crop, illegal logging, and slash-and-burn activities, locally called tavy. This traditional practice was imported to Madagascar by the earliest settlers and has strong cultural meaning, in addition to its practical value as an agricultural technique.
Deforestation with resulting desertification, water resource degradation and soil loss has affected approximately 94% of Madagascar’s previously biologically productive lands.
70% of the forest cover of Madagascar was destroyed between 1895 and 1925, while Madagascar was under French rule.
Since 1953, half of the remaining forest has been lost.
Largely due to deforestation, the country is currently unable to provide adequate food, fresh water and sanitation for its fast growing population.
One major cause of deforestation has been the introduction of coffee as a cash crop during the French colonial period.
Local timber merchants are harvesting scarce species of rosewood trees from protected rainforests such as Marojejy National Park and exporting the wood to China for the production of luxury furniture and musical instruments.
Madagascar’s natural resources include a variety of unprocessed agricultural and mineral resources.
Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy. Madagascar is the world’s principal supplier of vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang.
Other key agricultural resources include coffee, lychees and shrimp.
Key mineral resources include various types of precious and semi-precious stones, and Madagascar currently provides half of the world’s supply of sapphires, which were discovered near Ilakaka in the late 1990s.
The island also holds one of the world’s largest reserves of ilmenite (titanium ore), as well as important reserves of chromite, coal, iron, cobalt, copper and nickel.
Several major projects are underway in the mining, oil and gas sectors that are anticipated to give a significant boost to the Malagasy economy. These include such projects as coal mining at Sakoa and the extraction of nickel near Tamatave by Rio Tinto, as well as the development of the massive onshore heavy oil field at Tsimiroro and ultra heavy oil field at Bemolanga by Madagascar Oil.
Approximately 69% of the population lives below the national poverty line threshold of one dollar per day.