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Madagascar Ethnic Groups

Madagascar Ethnic Groups

Explanation of Madagascar Ethnic Groups

Madagascar people
Madagascar people

Most of population of Madagascar lives on the eastern half of the island; significant clustering is found in the central highlands and eastern coastline. More than 90 percent of Madagascar population is Malagasy, which is divided into about 18 ethnic groups all of whom speak the same Malagasy language. 

Most Malagasy are multi-ethnic, however, reflecting the island’s diversity of settlers and historical contacts. Madagascar’s legacy of hierarchical societies practicing domestic slavery most notably the Merina Kingdom of the 16th to the 19th century is evident today in persistent class tension, with some ethnic groups maintaining a caste system. 

Slave descendants are vulnerable to unequal access to education and jobs, despite Madagascar’s constitutional guarantee of free compulsory primary education and its being party to several international conventions on human rights. Historical distinctions also remain between central highlanders and coastal people.

Madagascar Map
Madagascar Map

Madagascar Ethnic Groups Economy

  • Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo)
  • Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava)
  • French
  • Indian
  • Creole
  • Cormoran
Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is the lifeline of Madagascar economy, accounting for more than one-fourth of GDP and employing nearly 80 percent of the population. Madagascar produces around 80 percent of the world’s vanilla supply; although supply was interrupted by hurricane-related damage in 2017, international demand drove prices to record highs, increasing export earnings for Malagasy vanilla. Other major industries on Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island are meat processing, seafood, soap, beer, leather, sugar, textiles, glassware, cement, automobile assembly plant, paper, petroleum, tourism, and mining.

Ifaty Beach Madagascar
Ifaty Beach Madagascar

About Madagascar

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. Because of its location, Madagascar developed in isolation, the African island nation is famed for its unique wildlife. Madagascar was one of the last major regions on earth colonized. The earliest settlers from present-day Indonesia arrived between A.D. 350 and 550. 

The island attracted Arab and Persian traders as early as the 7th century and migrants from Africa arrived around A.D. 1000. Madagascar was a pirate stronghold during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and served as a slave-trading center into the 19th century.

Madagascar, also known as the Republic of Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean found off the southeastern coast of Africa. Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French colony in 1896 but regained independence in 1960. The year 1960 witnessed the independence from France of 17 Sub-Saharan African countries and 14 French colonies.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo and the home for around 5 percent of the world’s plants and animals. Madagascar has hundreds of types of animals and plants which exist nowhere else such as ring-tailed lemurs.

The World Bank in 2011 estimated 92% of Madagascar’s residents live on less than $2 per day, $430 per household a year. Poverty has put pressure on the island's dwindling forests, home to much of Madagascar's unique wildlife. Losing around 3 acres of forest in Madagascar has a greater impact on global biodiversity than losing 3 acres of forest anywhere else on Earth.

Madagascar is important to the environment of the world. Nearly 80 percent of Madagascar’s population depends on making their living and eating day to day through agriculture. Using slash and burn cultivation techniques, farmers often destroyed what made their home so ecologically important.


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