Madagascar Travel Information

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Andringitra National Park
Conservation International in Madagascar
Madagascar National Parks
 

Facts About Madagascar

Background: Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French colony in 1886, but regained its independence in 1960. During 1992-93, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held, ending 17 years of single-party rule. In 1997 in the second presidential race, Didier RATSIRAKA, the leader during the 1970s and 1980s, was returned to the presidency.
Government type: republic
Capital: Antananarivo
Currency: 1 Malagasy franc (FMG) = 100 centimes

Geography of Madagascar

Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique
Geographic coordinates: 20 00 S, 47 00 E
Area:
total: 587,040 sq km
land: 581,540 sq km
water: 5,500 sq km
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 4,828 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or 100 nm from the 2,500-m deep isobath
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical along coast, temperate inland, arid in south
Terrain: narrow coastal plain, high plateau and mountains in center
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Maromokotro 2,876 m
Natural resources: graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 4%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 41%
forests and woodland: 40%
other: 14% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 10,870 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: periodic cyclones
Environment - current issues: soil erosion results from deforestation and overgrazing; desertification; surface water contaminated with raw sewage and other organic wastes; several species of flora and fauna unique to the island are endangered.
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: world's fourth-largest island; strategic location along Mozambique Channel

People of Madagascar

Madagascar's population is predominantly of mixed Asian and African origin. Recent research suggests that the island was uninhabited until Indonesian seafarers arrived in roughly the first century A.D., probably by way of southern India and East Africa, where they acquired African wives and slaves. Subsequent migrations from both the Pacific and Africa further consolidated this original mixture, and 18 separate tribal groups emerged. Asian features are most predominant in the central highlands people, the Merina (3 million) and the Betsileo (2 million); the coastal people are of African origin.

The largest coastal groups are the Betsimisaraka (1.5 million) and the Tsimihety and Sakalava (700,000 each).

The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is generally spoken throughout the island. French also is spoken among the educated population of this former French colony.

Most people practice traditional religions, which tend to emphasize links between the living and the dead. They believe that the dead join their ancestors in the ranks of divinity and that ancestors are intensely concerned with the fate of their living descendants. This spiritual communion is celebrated by the Merina and Betsileo reburial practice of famadihana, or "turning over the dead." In this ritual, relatives' remains are removed from the family tomb, rewrapped in new silk shrouds, and returned to the tomb following festive ceremonies in their honor.

About 41% of the Malagasy are Christian, divided almost evenly between Roman Catholic and Protestant. Many incorporate the cult of the dead with their religious beliefs and bless their dead at church before proceeding with the traditional burial rites. They also may invite a pastor to attend a famadihana.

Population: 18,040,341 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  45.02%
15-64 years:  51.77%
65 years and over:  3.21% 
Population growth rate: 3.02% 
Birth rate: 42.66 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 12.42 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 83.58 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  55.35 years
male:  53.08 years
female:  57.68 years 
Total fertility rate: 5.8 children born/woman 
Nationality:
noun: Malagasy (singular and plural)
adjective: Malagasy
Ethnic groups: Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran.
Religions: indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%
Languages: French (official), Malagasy (official)
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 80%
male: 88%
female: 73% (1990 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Madagascar > Map Economy History