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#CountryStory Madagascar – Unique in Culture and Nature

John Manantsoa
July 28, 2021

Madagascar, shaped like a left foot in the South East of the African Continent, is the 5th largest island on the planet. With 587,000 km², 400 km away from the mainland, separated by the Mozambique Channel, and the eastern coast opens up to the Indian Ocean. The neighboring islands are Comoros, Seychelles, Mayotte, Mauritius and Reunion. The capital City is Antananarivo (the city of the Thousands) and Madagascar is composed of 23 regions.

The country used to be a monarchy before it was colonised by the French. The “Republic of Madagascar” then obtained its independence in 1960 after 65 years of French colonization. The country is thus part of the Francophone countries but nevertheless opens up to the rest of the world through economic exchanges.

Historically, the first inhabitants of the island came from the Austronesian part and Insulindia together with a wave of migrants from the African continent.

Today the inhabitants of Madagascar, the Malagasy are composed of 18 ethnic groups with their own culture and language, depending on the region. The official language is Malagasy and the French language is used in administrative papers.


Local man from Mahavelona


Local girl from Mahavelona selling food

A Land That Finds Union in Diversity

This population of cosmopolitan origin already presents part of the cultural richness of the big island through their union in diversity. Another cultural good that unites Malagasy is the idea of Fady. These are fixed rules about what one should not do in certain places or at certain times, or at least what one should rather not do out of consideration for expected negative consequences. Fady means “forbidden” and it varies mostly depending on the history, the region, the ethnic group. For a foreigner, following the Fady is showing respect to the local people.

As an example, many regions follow the Fady kisoa where it is forbidden to bring or eat pork meat. One of the reasons for this can be that during the time of Andrianampoinimerina (1800), the Merina’s King forbade people and farmers to bring pigs into the territory because they eat vegetables and products in the fields and as consequence: starvation for his people.

There are also other Fady, like

  • Fady alika: dogs are forbidden;
  • Fady tongolo: for Onion and Garlic.

Common practice among all Malagasy is not only Fady, but also ancestor worship. It is part of the religion for almost all Malagasy people, even though officially only 52 % of the population lives according to indigenous beliefs (animism, ancestor worship). The other religions are Christianity with 41 % and Islam with 7 %.

Another specification of Malagasy Behaviour is to follow “Ohabolana”. These are proverbs said by the ancestor “Ny Ntaolo” where their words are full of wisdom and that everyone could apply or use in their everyday life. Like the Fady, each region and ethnic group also have their characteristical proverbs.

“Ny valala tsy in-droa mandry am-bavahady”: The grasshopper doesn’t stand two times near the gate. This proverb is used to tell someone that an opportunity is offered to him and it won’t come back if he/she doesn’t take it.

“Izay mitambatra vato, izay misaraka fasika”: Those who unite are rocks, those who separate themselves are sand. The message is clear.

City and Countryside

More than 26.97 million inhabitants lived in the country in 2019 with about 1,3 million in the capital city. About 30 % of the population is living in urban areas while 70 % live in rural areas. Life in rural areas is characterized by a picturesque way of life where human values ​​and ancestral traditions are mostly preserved. The means of transportation are carts pulled by zebus. Depending on the region, rural areas are mainly agricultural.

The zebus pull the cart


Zebus stroll around


Carts are the main transportation means in rural areas

Rice – An Important Agricultural Good in Madagascar

The average Malagasy consumes 130 kg of rice per year. The staple food being rice, the main agricultural activity in rural areas is rice cultivation. Madagascar has two large rice granaries: Alaotra and Marovoay. Rice can be grown in naturally irrigated areas (rice fields, basins, terraced rice fields) and there is rainfed rice cultivation (on the land). Despite the extent of cultivable land, rice production is not enough to feed the entire population. Indeed, the cultivation methods are mostly non-motorized, thus limiting the production yield. Through different programs, the government helps farmers to improve the yield and Madagascar imports rice from other countries like India.


Farmers working on the fields


The farmers work a lot with their hands

In urban settings, everyday life is f more strongly influenced by globalization, but cultural identities are brought to light during special ceremonies. Indeed, in cities, economic activities are mainly tertiary activities and the lifestyle of Malagasy closely resembles that of developed countries.

With an electrification rate of 23 %, but only 18 % in rural areas, the inadequacy of infrastructure in rural areas generates an exodus to large cities where farmers aspire to find better conditions. However, cities, such as the capital, are increasingly saturated and people who have not found economic opportunities and a place to stay are becoming homeless, thus showing the contrast between the country’s wealth with all its potential and poverty.


Capital City


Antananarivo is a busy city

Natural Paradise with Rich Flora and Fauna

Madagascar is also known for its tourism potential. Between 80 % to 90 % of the fauna and flora are endemic species.Among the most known endemic species in Madagascar are:

  • the Maki or Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur Catta), 
  • the Babakoto (Indri-Indri),
  • the Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis),
  • the Fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox)

Madagascar also has a special flora. The most known species are the Baobabs and we can find 7 of the 9 species there, of which 6 are endemic to the Big Island. Those trees could reach 40 meters in height and are sacred to the local people. The Baobabs Alley in the west is a very well-known tourist attraction.

The varied climate and geological history creates a unique landscape for each region. We can find several Protected Areas among the National Parks such as The National Park of Andasibe-Mantadia, the Tsingy of Bemaraha, The Ankarafantsika National Park in the North West and National Park of Isalo.

These specific characteristics make the Island a very attractive place for Eco-tourism.
We also have on the East Coast in Sainte-Marie the Whales Festival where we can watch the  yearly migration of whales. Overall, the landscapes of the different regions offer real life-size artistic canvases that must be preserved.


Rural area Mahavelona


People working on the fields

Africa GreenTec Creates Sustainable Impact Through Smart Renewable Energy Solutions

With the “Empower Madagascar’s Rural Areas (E.M.R.A)” project, one of the objectives of Africa GreenTec in Madagascar is to make an impact on rural development. The first phase – electrification – will increase the potential for rural areas and allow the creation of new jobs, thus allowing the rural municipality to flourish while conserving the environment through the use of renewable energies.These projects will bring light both to everyday life and to the intellectual through access to communication and knowledge.


Woman pours out the harvest


People working

Madagascar has different climates: equatorial, humid, sub-humid, subtropical, semi-arid, sub-desertic. At the moment of writing, the world is looking at the South of Madagascar, which has a very big problem of malnutrition and famine. This region has a semi-arid climate and has for several years been experiencing a period of intense drought. Agricultural production always depends on the weather. Because of climate change, the problem has become higher than ever.

The Map shows the different climate zones and the location of our pilot project in Mahavelona.

Climate Change on the Island

Africa GreenTec also addresses the needs of farmers. Using Solar pumps, the fields can be watered with groundwater which helps to harvest more rice and vegetables. The Cooltainer helps to store vegetables and crops, so the farmers can sell it for better prices and we prevent food loss.


Market day in Mahavelona


Local products are sold

Fight for a Sustainable and Fair Future for Coming Generations

Africa GreenTec cares deeply about these harmful effects, which is why it wants to invest in the energy transition of the Big Island towards renewable energies in order to preserve its cultural and environmental values ​​as well as possible. In Madagascar, all the essential aspects of sustainable development are still to be done and to be built.

The young generation is becoming more and more aware of this and wants to work in the right direction for a better future.


School in Mahavelona


The kids have a football match