top of page

Problems we face

Deforestation in Madagascar

Madagascar, an Island located in the Idian Ocean is one of the biggests Island of the earth.

Since its geographical isolation from the African continent over 88 million years ago, Madagascar has evolved into an incredibly biodiverse island. 90% of Madagascar’s species are endemic and are found nowhere else in the world.

The natural forest cover of Madagascar is not only home of a uniquely diverse plant and animal culture but also the root of a natural and healthy ecosystem - the origin of fresh air and a balanced climate.

As in many other parts of the world, Madagascar experiences a massive decrease of its forest. Over 90% of primary forest has been destroyed through: 

Tavy or slash-and-burn agriculture 

Tavy is the lifeblood of Malagasy culture and the rural economy. Tavy is mostly used for converting natural vegetation into rice fields. Typically an acre or two of forest is cut, burned, and then planted with rice. After a year or two of production the field is left fallow for 4-6 years before the process is repeated. After 2-3 such cycles the soil is exhausted of nutrients and the land is likely colonized by scrub vegetation or alien grasses. On slopes, the new vegetation is often insufficient to anchor soils, making erosion and landslides a problem. 

Tavy is the most expedient way for many Malagasy to provide for their families, and for people where day-to-day subsistence is a question there is little concern for the long-term consequences of their actions. From their perspective, as long as there is more forest land freely available for clearing, you might as well use the land before a neighbor does. Tavy for rice also has spiritual and cultural ties that transcend the economic and nutritional value of rice as a crop. 

Logging for timber 

Logging for timber is especially a problem in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar, particularly on the Masoala peninsula. The high value for Malagasy

hardwoods (mostly ebony and rosewood which are in high demand in international markets) makes illegal logging a significant problem in some protected areas. 

Timber extraction generally doesn't drive deforestation directly, instead it degrades forests and increases the likelihood of future clearing for subsistence agriculture or other use. 


Fuelwood and charcoal production 


The endemic spiny forests of Madagascar are being cut at an alarming rate for charcoal production. In eking out a living selling little piles of charcoal along roads in southwestern Madagascar, local people turn towards the nearest plant source which in this case is often Alluaudia trees. 

For the production of charcoal, wood is carbonised - heated up to high temperature in a charcoal pile or kiln.

Especially in Madagascar where 40% of the rural population lives in poverty and has no access to electricity, fuelwood is the only available source to complete daily tasks.


Consuming approximately 100kg of charcoal monthly, Malagasy households use this energy for cooking, heating and lighting.


Both practices, the slash and burn agriculture-method and the charcoal production continuously use up large areas of primary forests in Madagascar. The high demand and therefore big pressure laying on Madagascar’s forest, outpaces its ability to regenerate from deforestation.


Deforestaion in Madgascar and all over the world is followed by serious problems! The destruction of the forest is followed by erosion and land slides, water loss and decrease of quality, the decline of biodiversity and extinction of endemic species as well as the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the acceleration of global warming.


Madagascar and its biodiversity


A dizzying range of plants and animals make their home on the island. More than 11,000 endemic plant species, including seven species of baobab tree, share the island with a vast variety of mammal, reptiles, amphibians, and others. From 1999 to 2010, scientists discovered 615 new species in Madagascar, including 41 mammals and 61 reptiles.

As of 2012 Madagascar has over 200 extant mammal species, including over 100 species of lemurs, about 300 species of birds, more than 260 species of reptiles, and at least 266 species of amphibians. The island also has a rich invertebrate fauna including earthworms, insects, spiders and nonmarine molluscs.

2012 there were officially 103 species and subspecies of lemur, 39 of which were described by zoologists between 2000 and 2008. They are almost all classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered.Since the arrival of humans on Madagascar, at least 17 species of lemur have become extinct; all of them were larger than the surviving lemur species.

A number of other mammals, including the cat-like fossa, are endemic to Madagascar. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded on the island, of which over 60 percent (including four families and 42 genera) are endemic. The few families and genera of reptile that have reached Madagascar have diversified into more than 260 species, with over 90 percent of these being endemic (including one endemic family).The island is home to two-thirds of the world's chameleon species, including the smallest known, and researchers have proposed that Madagascar may be the origin of all chameleons.

Endemic fish of Madagascar include two families, 15 genera and over 100 species, primarily inhabiting the island's freshwater lakes and rivers. Although invertebrates remain poorly studied on Madagascar, researchers have found high rates of endemism among the known species. All 651 species of terrestrial snail are endemic, as are a majority of the island's butterflies, scarab beetleslacewings, spiders and dragonflies.

More than 80 percent of Madagascar's 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including five plant families. There are several endemic families including the AsteropeiaceaeSarcolaenaceae and Sphaerosepalaceae. The humid eastern part of the island was formerly covered in rainforestwith many palmsferns and bamboo, although much of this forest has been reduced by human activity. The west has areas of dry deciduous forest with many lianas and with tamarind and baobabs among the dominant trees. Subhumid forest once covered much of the central plateau but grassland is now the dominant vegetation type there. The family Didiereaceae, composed of four genera and 11 species, is limited to the spiny forests of southwestern Madagascar.

Four-fifths of the world's Pachypodium species are endemic to the island. Three-fourths of Madagascar's 860 orchid species are found here alone, as are six of the world's eight baobab species. The island is home to around 170 palm species, three times as many as on all of mainland Africa; 165 of them are endemic.

bottom of page