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Bill Klipp | profile | all galleries >> "Madagascar -- The 8th Continent" >> People & Culture of Madagascar tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Lemurs of Madagascar | Reptiles & Amphibians of Madagascar | Wildlife & Nature of Madagascar | People & Culture of Madagascar

People & Culture of Madagascar

While photographing Madagascarís array of strange and unique Wildlife was our primary objective, I could not help but to be dramatically impacted by the Malagasy people, their culture and the widespread poverty. Since the island is located only 250 miles off the east coast of Africa, I was expecting the indigenous people to be African in origin. To my surprise the island was one of the last places on earth settled by humans who came not from Africa initially but via outrigger canoes from Indonesia nearly 3,000 miles away.

With a population of 25.7 million people, Madagascar is one of the ten poorest countries in the world and rice is the grain of life here. The island has one of the highest per capita consumptions of rice worldwide, a back breaking task with no mechanization. As we traveled the 1,000 miles from north to south from the remote jungles and countryside villages to the capital city of Antananarivo (Tana), there seemed to be one constant, people working the rice fields, hand making bricks, chipping rocks to make gravel or working small roadside stands selling rice, fruit, vegetables, meat and household goods.
While official languages are Malagasy and French, English seemed fairly common. Unlike neighboring Africa, India and the Middle East which have long histories of competing and warring tribes, religious or ethic groups, Madagascarís peoples have a real sense of national unity considering themselves to all be Malagasy.
Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is a mainstay of the economy, accounting for more than one-fourth of GDP and employing roughly 80% of the population. The island was conquered by the French in 1896 who colonized it until regaining independence in 1960.

Today the island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats. Deforestation and erosion, aggravated by bushfires, slash-and-burn clearing techniques, and the use of firewood as the primary source of fuel, are serious concerns to the agriculture dependent economy. It is said that Madagascar has lost 80 or 90% of its 'original' or 'pre-human' original forests, although that is hard to verify. What is true though, is from 1950 to 2000 around 40% to 50% of the forest cover has been lost. Truly an environmental tragedy.

Madagascar Baobab Sunset Time Lapse:

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Rice Fields, Saha Forest Camp, 3
Rice Fields, Saha Forest Camp, 3
Village Life, Saha Forest Camp  1
Village Life, Saha Forest Camp 1
Saha Village Scenics  4
Saha Village Scenics 4
Butcher, Antananarivo  1
Butcher, Antananarivo 1
Antananarivo Street Scene   13
Antananarivo Street Scene 13
Butcher, Antananarivo  2
Butcher, Antananarivo 2
Antananarivo Rice Paddies  3
Antananarivo Rice Paddies 3
Rice Fields, Saha Forest Camp 11
Rice Fields, Saha Forest Camp 11
Diego Suarez,  8
Diego Suarez, 8
Tsingy Hiking, Iharana Bush Camp  1
Tsingy Hiking, Iharana Bush Camp 1
Masoala Village  1
Masoala Village 1
Baobab Tree, Mandrare  1
Baobab Tree, Mandrare 1
Butcher, Antananarivo  3
Butcher, Antananarivo 3
Antananarivo Street Scene   1
Antananarivo Street Scene 1
Mandrare River Camp  1
Mandrare River Camp 1
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