Located off the coast of Southeast Africa, Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world. Isolated for millions of years, the island today is a biodiversity hotspot with incredibly diverse landscapes and a rich array of unique flora and fauna. 90 percent of it’s wildlife is endemic meaning it is found nowhere else in the world!
The first human inhabitants of Madagascar came from Southeast Asia and were later joined by migrants from the neighboring African continent. Today people retain both Asian and African features which mark an important distinction between the Merina highlanders and the Antakarana whose African origins are more pronounced. Nineteen distinct ethnic tribes exist in Madagascar, all speak a variation of the Malagasy dialect. French, a remnant of the French colonial era, is also widely spoken and remains the language of commerce and administration.
Today Madagascar remains one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (and the world) with the majority of its population living on less than $2 a day. Past political instability has created severe limitations to government services and spurred a mass exodus of foreign aid organisation in the late 2000s, many of which are only now beginning to resurface. Compounded by severe climatic shocks and spikes in global food prices, the Malagasy people have seen their share of adversity. Access to adequate nutrition, health care and education remain part of daily life for far too many families.
Despite these challenges, the mood in Madagascar remains willfully optimistic. Faced with unrelenting challenges, the Malagasy are blessed with remarkable resilience and infectious sense of humor.