Situation and cooperation

Villagers from Ankirikiriky in southern Madagascar are replanting deforested land in return for food rations from the World Food Programme.

In 1960, when Madagascar gained its independence from the colonial power France, the island state ranked among the world’s middle-income countries. From 1972 onwards, the country charted a socialist course and large companies were nationalised. Madagascar sealed itself off from the western world, and the country’s economic and social decline began.

From 1992, during what is referred to as the "Third Republic", Madagascar became more open. This had a positive effect on the country's development. However, politics continued to be dominated by power struggles.

Since the military coup in March 2009, poverty among the population has increased dramatically, partly due to the country’s many years of political isolation, international donors’ withdrawal from development cooperation with the then government and the suspension of budget support. Social services (for example schools, health services and disaster preparedness) were largely maintained over a number of years with the help of humanitarian aid and development cooperation activities that benefited the people of Madagascar directly.

Today Madagascar is one of the least developed countries in the world. In the Human Development Index (HDI 2015) Madagascar is ranked 158th out of 188 states.

Over 90 per cent of the population have to manage on less than the equivalent of two US dollars per day. Poverty is particularly prevalent in rural areas. More than a quarter of the population count as undernourished, and average life expectancy is only 64 years (as at 2012). Income from fisheries, gemstone production, the tropical timber industry and the export of vanilla is unequally distributed. Around half the national income is in the hands of the wealthiest 10 per cent of the population.

School children in Madagascar. Copyright: GTZ

Madagascar's economy is dominated by ag­ri­cul­ture. Agri­culture provides a living for more than three quarters of the popu­la­tion but accounts for only around one quarter of gross domestic product (GDP). The majority of ag­ri­cul­tur­al land is used for sub­sistence farming. Soil erosion and the silting of fields are major problems. In the 1970s, Madagascar was an exporter of rice, but today the coun­try no longer produces enough to feed its own people. Moreover, marketing often fails on account of transportation problems. The infrastructure is in a very poor state, especially in rural areas. 

De­vel­op­ment potential

Madagascar's natural beauty and diversity are among its greatest assets. Tourism is already an im­por­tant economic factor and can be further developed – on a sus­tain­able basis. Eco-tourism in particular is a potential new source of income for the people. Research into and the use of medicinal and healing plants also offer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Mining (nickel/cobalt, mineral sand) is another engine for growth. However, these areas of de­vel­op­ment potential can only be tapped if the political situ­a­tion is stable.

Priority areas of German de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion

Lemur in Madagascar. Copyright: Noémie BürklGerman development cooperation with Madagascar began in 1962. It was suspended at governmental level in 2009 in response to the change of government, which lacked any democratic legitimacy. After the country had returned to constitutional order, development cooperation was resumed in 2014. In government talks with Madagascar, Germany committed funds amounting to 32 million euros to its partner country.

Development cooperation between Germany and Madagascar focuses on programmes in the priority area of "Environmental Policy and Protection of Natural Resources” – programmes that were launched before the illegitimate change of government. In order to provide a visible sign of Germany's strong support for the new government, it was agreed also to launch a programme aimed at improving the basic infrastructure and reducing poverty.

The BMZ also supports projects run by non-governmental organisations, political foundations and churches, and it finances disaster preparedness and food security measures as part of its programme of transitional development assistance.

Environmental policy and protection of natural resources

Forest. Copyright: BMZOne of the biggest challenges facing the country is protecting the environment. Madagascar is endowed with a unique biodiversity, but rapid population growth, widespread poverty and inappropriate traditional farming methods are jeopardising the country’s natural resources.

Madagascar’s natural assets are acutely threatened by logging and slash-and-burn clearances. The result is soil erosion and a deteriorating hydrological balance, which in turn result in declining agricultural productivity and worsening poverty in rural areas. Madagascar is also one of those countries that is most severely affected by global climate change. It is frequently hit by cyclones, which not only destroy the country's harvests but also large parts of its infrastructure.

Improving people’s living conditions through the sustainable use of natural resources is therefore at the heart of development cooperation between Germany and Madagascar. Before the coup, Germany assisted the government in reforming its environmental and forestry policies and further extending the national parks network. This cooperation is now being resumed with the new government.

At local level, farmers are being introduced to erosion protection measures and ecological cropping methods, and reforestation schemes are being facilitated. In order to reduce the consumption of wood for fuel, Germany and Madagascar have introduced environmental programmes that foster the use of modern techniques in the production and marketing of charcoal.

Local communities are being advised in regard to land use planning. Awareness is being raised among young people in schools for the issue of environmental protection. Non-governmental organisations working in the environmental sector are receiving advice on networking and generally building their capacities. Assistance is further being provided in regard to the management of Madagascar’s national parks and the country’s Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity.

Debt relief

Madagascar qualified in 2000 for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC Initiative). Four years later the coun­try reached completion point and was able to benefit from the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) as well. Madagascar was granted debt relief totalling 4.3 billion US dollars.

Germany was one of the countries that assisted Madagascar in reducing its debt burden to an economically sustainable level, cancelling debts amounting to almost 230 million euros. Interest payments no longer have to be made on the cancelled loans, and the national budget funds thus released can be used to reduce poverty and protect the environment.

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