Deforestation in Madagascar
Deforestation in Madagascar is an ongoing environmental issue.
Deforestation with resulting desertification, water resource degradation and soil loss has affected approximately 94% of Madagascar's previously biologically productive lands. Since the arrival of humans 2000 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90% of its original forest. 70% of the forest cover of Madagascar was destroyed between 1895 and 1925, while Madagascar was under French rule. Since 1953, half of the remaining forest has been lost. Largely due to deforestation, the country is currently unable to provide adequate food, fresh water and sanitation for its fast growing population. One major cause of deforestation has been the introduction of coffee as a cash crop during the French colonial period.
Primary causes of forest loss include slash-and-burn for agricultural land (a practice known locally as tavy) and for pasture, selective logging for precious woods or construction material, the collection of fuel wood (including charcoal production), and forest clearing for mining.
Illegal logging in Madagascar has been a problem for decades and is perpetuated by extreme poverty and government corruption. Often taking the form of selective logging, the trade has been driven by high international demand for expensive, fine-grained lumber such as rosewood and ebony. Historically, logging and exporting in Madagascar have been regulated by the Malagasy government, although the logging of rare hardwoods was explicitly banned from protected areas in 2000. Since then, government orders and memos have intermittently alternated between permitting and banning exports of precious woods. The most commonly cited reason for permitting exports is to salvage valuable wood from cyclone damage, although this reasoning has come under heavy scrutiny. This oscillating availability of Malagasy rosewood and other precious woods has created a market of rising and falling prices, allowing traders or "timber barons" to stockpile illegally sourced logs during periodic bans and then flood the market when the trade windows open and prices are high.
Some reforestation efforts have been conducted by Rio Tinto, a mining organization. This effort includes the set-up of 2 tree nurseries near Fort Dauphin. The nurseries are called the Rio Tinto QMM's nurseries. The nurseries plant some 600 tree species native to Madagascar. However, in 2003, Rio Tinto also announced plans to mine ilmenite (used to make toothpaste and paint) in southern Madagascar. These plans included the creation of a new port, roads, and other facilities. Mostly migrant workers would be employed, despite high levels of unemployment in the region. This unemployment and poverty drives charcoal production, which is a major factor in deforestation in that region.
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