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The origins of the Malagasy people

The Malagasy people come from successive immigrations, dating back to the 5th century BC or the beginning of our era.
The first discoverers of the island would be navigators from the south of Borneo (Indonesian archipelago). Indeed, many multidisciplinary research (Archaeological, genetic, linguistic and ethno-historical) all confirm that the whole of the Malagasy people is mainly of Austronesian origin. As a result, the Malagasy lexicon is 90% of Austronesian vocabulary. In addition, morphologically, this South-East Asian origin explains the xanthoderm characteristics in Malagasy. These migrants arrived on the island thanks to their great knowledge of the control of navigation. They brought many plants from Southeast Asia, such as rice, bananas, coconut trees, taro, sugar cane … As well as know-how like metallurgy and silk weaving.
Madagascar has experienced other waves of immigration by the Arabs in the first place. This immigration has allowed the island to develop trade in the Indian Ocean, especially with the export of iron, gold and mangrove wood (used for building houses in Arabia). Thus, Madagascar also receives neighboring countries such as China and India which imports pearls, spices and ceramics. 
In a second time, in the seventh century, Africans from East Africa came to the island to avoid slavery.
Later, in the sixteenth century, the Portuguese Diego Dias is the first European to discover, by chance, Madagascar. In 1527, a Portuguese ship ran aground in Ranofotsy Bay, and the Portuguese tried to settle in Fort Dauphin. Subsequently, the island is the subject of many attempts to implant by the Portuguese, the Dutch (late sixteenth) and the English (seventeenth). The French are also trying to settle there at the end of the 17th century but abandon the island in favor of Reunion. If all these attempts have failed it is thanks to the strong resistance of the indigenous kingdoms already installed for a long time.

The different kingdoms of Madagascar

From the thirteenth century, several kingdoms were created to acquire control of fertile lands, waterways and communications. There are 7 kingdoms   ;

– East of the island, the first kingdom is the kingdom Antemoro, created by Sultan Ramakarano from Mecca. This kingdom is known for its social organization, its control of the trade, the writings, the medicine and its diplomacy.

– Further north-east, the Betsimisaraka kingdoms merge in the eighteenth century and extend from Antogil Bay to Mahajunga.

– In the West, from the 15th century, we have the Sakalava kingdoms, which have almost the entire southern coast of Toliara as far as Mahajunga. This kingdom is known in particular thanks to one of its sovereigns, Andriandahifotsy. Indeed, this one assures its supremacy by alliances with local kingdoms and constitutes a modern army.

– In the South, the kingdoms Mahafaly (XVI °), Zafimanara and Masikoro were created. The latter extends to the north of Toliara in the seventeenth century.

– In the center, the Betsileo kingdoms take place at the beginning of the 17th century.

The most famous kings are Andriampianarana and his successor, Andrianonindranarivo thanks to their solid social organization and their very well equipped army. In the seventeenth and eighteenth, the kingdom is divided and recognizes the tutelage of Imerina. Imerina is at the initiative of Queen Rangita. 
After the reign of Queen Rangita, his successors, Andriamanelo, Ralambo and Andrianjaka, structure the kingdom with a social organization into four classes   : the nobles (called Andriana), the free citizens (Hova), the serfs (Mainty) and the slaves (Andevo).

At the beginning of the 17th century, King Andriamasinavalona extended his kingdom to the West and East and divided it into four to give a territory to each of his sons. 
In the 18th century, King Andrianampoinimeria reunified the Big Island thanks to diplomacy, alliances and military operations. During his reign, from 1786 to 1810, he installed the capital in Antananarivo and created a sustainable state with a territorial administration, justice, taxes … 
His son, Radama 1st, finalizes the projects of his father with the help of England which brings a military, cultural, religious cooperation and especially proclaims him king of Madagascar. In return, England calls for the abolition of slavery on the island. 
In a short time he has at his command the kingdoms Betsileo, Betsimisaraka and Sakalava.

It was in 1825 that the Malagasy language became a written language. Schools are growing fast. Madagascar is experiencing a boom in international trade, particularly with the countries of Europe.

The decline of the Imerina kingdom

Queen Ranavalona I, the first wife of Ramada, will mark the end of the Imerina kingdom. Indeed, she attached to a ritual and executed more than one million Christian subjects and slaves. A nationalist at heart, she broke the country’s relations with England and removed all the English missionaries present in the country. At the same time, she created an armament industry, modernized her army and repulsed an Anglo-French landing attempt at Tamatave. At her death, she leaves a country filled with fear. 
Ramada II regains power from 1861 to 1863 with the ideas of Ramada I but is assassinated in 1863. The power is bequeathed to the Prime Minister, Rainilaiarivony (1865 to 1895). To avoid an invasion of the Europeans, he developed education (1894 was counted more than 200,000 students which made Madagascar the most educated country in the world) and converted to Protestantism with much of his country.

French colonization

It was initially thanks to an act of protectorate, initiated by France in 1885, that they settled in Madagascar. This protectorate is confirmed in 1895 by the Treaty of October 1, 1895. If the French settled at first to guarantee security, the free installation of Europeans, in a second time, the arrival of General Gallieni in 1896 leads to direct colonization and the abolition of the monarchy (February 28, 1897). (This will result in the exile of Queen Ranavalo III in Algiers). The general, endowed with full power pacifies the island with force (about 200 000 dead). He then sets up a colonization policy in all areas: replaces the merina governors by French administrators, encourages Europeans to come by giving them lands, realizes infrastructures (roads, railways, ports …), develops the lay teaching to promote the French language, creation of school of medicine, hospitals to give the natives medical assistance, it removes the privileges of   rich   And distributes land to former slaves. And finally, in 1902, is created the Malagasy Academy, charged with promoting the preservation of the Malagasy cultural heritage … 
From Galliani, the main ideas of colonial politics are in place. The local governors created the 6 regions (since 2004, there are 22) of Madagascar. Subsequently, an enhancement of the Malagasy territory is desired. For this, we extend the communication routes (roads, rails, aviation, ports …), export crops (coffee, vanilla, tobacco, sugar cane …). Mining of graphite, mica and other minerals is exploited   semiprecious   “. A policy of health and urbanization allows a strong increase of the Malagasy population (it doubles). European companies are multiplying networks of activities (rice fields, sugar factories, forestry operations, cotton plantations …). However, all the benefits of these farms accrue only to Europeans.
The departure of 45,000 soldiers in the First World War, and subsequently the spread of Spanish flu create a trauma. 
The excessive presence of the French leads to a drop in school drop-out and nationalism is gaining ground along with the discontent of the Malagasy.

The independence of Madagascar

Since 1913, nationalists have been creating a militant association “Vy vato sakelika” (“Iron stone network”) but no project has come to fruition. It is from 1946, that the fight for the restoration of the independence is led by the Democratic Movement of the Renovation Malagasy with as leaders Raseta and Ravoahangy who win the first general elections of 1947. In March of this same year, an uprising erupts causing enormous repression, tens of thousands of missing persons and the arrest of the two leaders. 
From 1956 to 1960 the Independence of the country is set up. In October 1958, Tsiranana was elected president and on June 26, 1960, Independence was proclaimed. 
The choice of the flag : The red horizontal band represents Merinas, the dominant ethnic group. The green, the inhabitants of the coast. And the white vertical band marks the establishment of the Autonomous Republic in 1958.
The Malagasy Republic

Madagascar has 3 different republics.

– The first Malagasy Republic chaired by Tsiranana from 1960 to 1972 (3 mandates) establishes a neo-liberal policy which allows a general boom of the country. After various demonstrations against his policies, strikes etc, Tsiranana withdrew from the presidency and left the power to General Ramanantsoa. 
The presidency is therefore left to General Ramanantsoa, ​​from 1972 to 1975. However, after having obtained the evacuation of the French forces in 1973 and the exit of Madagascar from the franc zone, the opposition too present leads him to resign 28 months after his presidency begins. The reins are given to Colonel Ratsimandrava who is assassinated soon after. 
In June 1975, the Supreme Council of the Revolution, chaired by former Foreign Minister Didier Ratsiraka, formed part of the political life.
-The Second Republic “democratic“  from 1975 to 1993, led by Ratsiraka, a struggle for the establishment of popular power at all levels and against imperialism. He reigns as dictator on the island. In 1982, a popular movement broke out following the deterioration of the country’s economy (income of inhabitants decreased by 25 %, corruption and insecurity. He did not win the next election.
-The Third Republic chaired by Zafy. This Republic accompanies a new constitution. Zafy was dismissed in September 1996. Ratsiraka was re-elected president and developed relations with France, the industrial free zones (textile). 
In 2001, Marc Ravalomanana proclaimed himself president after winning the first round of elections. This one fights against the corruption and for the fast and durable development of the country. He presides over Madagascar until his resignation in 2009. 
From 2009 to 2010, it is Rajoelina who chairs Madagascar.
-The Fourth Republic begins with the last President, Rajoelina, and remains in power until 2014. 
Henri Rajaonarimampianina has succeeded him since 2014.


Ethnic groups

Madagascar is composed of 18 ethnic groups since 1896   :

The way of life and traditions

In Madagascar, the way of life remains diversified, between the agriculture, the industry, the craft industry or the zebu farms. Indeed, the majority of the population lives farming thanks to the many plantations and rice fields that can be found in almost all regions. Of course, each region and ethnic group is specific to one type of activity. The Malagasy peasants work in a traditional way and keep an imprint of their culture in their daily life. Due to lack of electricity in most of the island, the inhabitants have adopted the rhythm of the sun and the rooster. 
The family is an important value for Malagasy, grandparents are important in the education of children, the father has authority over children. 
In addition, many traditions are part of their daily lives as the importance of the zebu for the Malagasy man since it is a symbol of wealth, the day of a wedding, the man must have a zebu in saying dote towards his bride, the day of a funeral they sacrifice a zebu, the day of the ceremony of circumcision practice in all ethnic groups, which allows boys to become men, they sacrifice a zebu sacrificed. In Madagascar, fady means prohibition-taboos and this enters the Malagasy culture, since it is they who define what is allowed or not allowed. In the ethnicity of Antambahoaka, by their origin in Mecca, we find an Islamic influence, such as abstinence from eating pork or unshelled meat   ; do not point fingers; in some villages foreigners cannot enter ; or for example, food is prohibited during pregnancy. There are traditional games like the katro which is equivalent to the African awele, the katra tanisa a juggling game, there are also female games like the tantara which consists in doing a role play with pebbles where they tell each other events of their daily lives, the dihim-bazaha which is a principle of rope-to-skip playing on French nursery rhymes. There are also male games like vitsilia which is an equivalent of the hawk or the policeman and the thief called fanenjika.

Calendar of ceremonies   :

May   : Alahamady Be = New Year Malagasy

April May   : Santabary = 1st rice harvest

June   : Fisemana = cultural purification ceremony of the inhabitants of Antakarana

June to September   : Famadihana = Reversal of the dead

June-December   : Sambatra = Ceremony of Circumcision

Religions and beliefs

Madagascar is a state “layty”, many beliefs exist, and two great monotheistic religions are represented. First of all you have to know that traditional beliefs are numerous; ancestors worship very important in Madagascar there are 50% animists, this cult practiced by the Merinas, means that the Malagasy do not deny the existence of a God creator but they invoke their ancestors who are the intermediary between the living and God, during rituals for the protection of their children, moreover through this belief, they see in death a stage only of life, there is no cemetery in Madagascar, the tombs are erected on the most upland families for the view. Other beliefs are related to the ancestors, like the reversal of the dead, which aims to appease, consult, venerate the ancestors, the tromba is through the trance the intermediary between the living and the dead. The belief in the diviners and astrologers remains important for the Malagasy, they advise for the important stages in the life of the consultant, but it still remains in the service of people of nobility. Moreover, the two monotheistic religions present are Christianity with 50% of whom 26% of Catholics and 24% of Protestants, Islam remains in the minority with 5-8% of faithful.

Some observations on Madagascar

Madagascar is famous for its curious animals and magnificent forests. However most of the country suffers from serious environmental degradation such as deforestation, land degradation (less and less fertile because of erosion), overexploitation of living resources. The daily survival of the Malagasy people depends on the use of natural resources. Most Malagasy people must live off the land around them, using the resources they can access. This poverty therefore has a cost for the country and the world in terms of biodiversity. Madagascar must also face problems such as the corruption of the military forces, to a deplorable hygiene due to the omnipresent poverty on the island.

Deforestation and habitat destruction

Deforestation is the cause of 3 main activities: slash and burn, logging, and the production of fuel and coal for domestic use. 
- What is slash and burn cultivation? 
Also called “tavy”. This form of cultivation is used to convert a space from the tropical forest to rice fields. We burn a forest perimeter and plant rice. After one or two years of production, the soil is left to rest for 4 to 6 years and then the process is renewed. After 2 or 3 cycles, the nutrients in the soil are exhausted. The new vegetation being insufficient, we observe a phenomenon of landslide and erosion. These lit fires are not controlled, it happens very often that they are spread on adjacent plots thus degrading a little more the forest. 
-Forest exploitation   : 
There is a very high rate of forest exploitation in the forests of eastern Madagascar. Indeed, Malagasy wood has a very high financial value such as ebony and rosewood which can reach up to 1500€ per ton! There is also an increase in illegal logging in some protected areas. 
- Fuel and charcoal production   : 
The endemic forests of Madagascar are cut in mass to produce charcoal. Indeed, for the Malagasy, selling small piles of coal is a way to get a little more money. They use the most common tree species.

Soil degradation, erosion

Erosion is a natural degradation of the soil. However, with overexploitation of soils, deforestation this degradation is accentuated. This is why the colors of some rivers of Madagascar are reddish.
Overexploitation of living resources
The indigenous species of Madagascar have suffered from hunting and trafficking of the inhabitants in order to provide for the needs of their families. Since 1964, even though hunting for lemurs is illegal, in unprotected forests, it is still hunted for its meat. As well as for the tenrec (an insectivorous mammal resembling both a hedgehog and a rat) which is a species threatened by hunting.

Extreme poverty, corruption

Poverty in Madagascar can be explained and expressed in different ways. Indeed, the most obvious cause of poverty is corruption. Madagascar needs tourism to hope to develop the country.


Madagascar has 70% illiterate. Indeed, even if schools are not lacking, the level of education is very low, and is really not comparable to developed countries. Class conditions are not conducive to good learning. There are 30 students minimum in one class against 30-35 max in France. 
Many children do not finish school, often for economic reasons. Girls can also leave school because they get pregnant, get married (even in CM1 …).

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