Madagascar is the fourth biggest island on earth and because of its relative geographical isolation off the east coast of Africa, much of its flora and fauna exists nowhere else on earth.
It is defined as a low income country, ranking 155th out of 187 countries in the 2014 Human Development Report (UNDP). Poverty in Madagascar has increased and today 72 percent of the country’s estimated 22 million people live below the national poverty line.
Madagascar is prone to natural disasters such as cyclones, flooding and drought. Nearly a quarter of the population – some five million people – lives in areas that are vulnerable to frequent natural disasters. Due to their impact on agriculture, these are a major threat to food insecurity. The increasing fragility of the ecosystem, due to deforestation and poor land management, is a major cause of increased vulnerability to shocks and related food insecurity. Deforestation has become a major concern: 85 percent of the rainforests have been lost due to the use of wood and charcoal for cooking, and slash and burn agricultural practices.
The 2014 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission found that 35.8 percent of the rural population in eight surveyed areas was food insecure. Stunting due to chronic malnutrition affects 47.3 percent of children under five years of age or nearly two million children (Millennium Development Goals National Survey 2012) while the average national global acute prevalence is 8.2 percent.
More than five years of political crises (2009 – 2013) and international sanctions have affected government institutional capacity, economic growth and development efforts, impacting on vulnerable people’s access to basic social services and their ability to prevent, adapt to and recover from recurrent shocks.
Farming, fishing and forestry form the backbone of Madagascar’s economy, accounting for 25 percent of its Gross Domestic Product and 77 percent of employment (National Statistical Institute 2013). Agriculture is dominated by rain-fed, small-scale subsistence farming and 70 percent of smallholder farmers are growing crops on 1.2 hectare parcels of land on average. Rice is the preferred staple and although it ranks first in national agricultural production, the country is a net rice importer. Agricultural production remains low due to the use of traditional techniques. Main barriers include limited access to agricultural inputs, credit and technical support services; gender inequality, poor farming and post-harvest techniques; lack of access of smallholder farmers to markets and market information.