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Mahajanga and Toliara, with an area of ​​319,450 km², have only 1,459,500 inhabitants in 1960. The other four provinces, on the other hand, with a smaller area (217,340 km²) have a population three times denser (3,840,000 inhabitants).
The provinces of Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa were at the time the most populated – and still are – and one is tempted to believe that people love the heights and, in particular, cling to the backbone of Madagascar, This chain of mountains which crosses it from North to South. This is confirmed by the depopulation of Mahajanga and Toliara, where the mountainous regions of Mandritsara and Befandriana-avaratra are more populated than the plains of Morafenobe or Ihosy.
On the other eastern slope, people also cling to the heights and the establishment of dense populations on the coastal plains is consecutive to the major periods of the rushes to vanilla, coffee, clove and perfume plants, That is to say, in a more recent period.
History, however, reminds us of the prosperity of certain antanosy, bara, vezo or mahafaly dynasties in the South. And for a long time, the sakalava kingdom takes precedence over the merina kingdom. Moreover, the pre-1925 statistics still consider the Sakalava to be the most numerous among the population. It is believed that alcohol and venereal diseases are responsible for this robust breed.
However, these facts should not be considered as the only causes of depopulation in the southern and western regions.
These peoples have long been peasants. Their climax is at the time of the prosperity of the India Company, of which they are the great providers of cattle and also of slaves.
Great breeders, the Sakalava, the Bara, the Antandroy … only care to have a good pasture. This explains their semi-nomadic life in search of good herbs for the herds, and also the periodic burning of large wooded areas, in order to have young shoots, whose beasts are very fond. But at the same time, the great vegetations are destroyed, the earth loses its natural protections against the bad weather. The water then flows and gets lost.
“And already, when the soil is chalky, its drying is only accentuated. The rain itself is scarce, while the sun darts from its finest rays, burning what remains of vegetation, leaving scarcely any brambles. The country is stripping. The water points become scarce and dry. The semi-desert climate becomes inevitable “(Dr. Germain Rakotoarivelo, 1966).
The beautiful forest of the West, as in a supreme effort to avoid its destruction
“Pick up its debris and hide it in the valleys,” on the banks of the great rivers. But unconscious of the devastation he is committing, man goes, “as if to follow this forest,” to set up his dwelling where there is still water, and therefore vegetation. Certainly, it is devoted to the culture, but this one is preceded by great clearing.
If in the 1960s forest fires did not reach the catastrophic state of the western and southern regions of the island in central and eastern Europe, it was “no less serious” .
“In some regions of the Plateaux, rivers that are still important forty years ago, have dried up to dry completely in 1966. And there are innumerable ancient mountain streams that are now only Dry gorges and waterless gullies. “
For decades, leaders have understood the danger caused by the destruction of forests and are striving to protect them, better to develop them and expand them. “But curiously, the intensive planting of trees that absorb a considerable amount of water, such as filaos and, in particular, eucalyptus, have been imposed and favored. “
Later however, it is the planting of pines that becomes fashionable. “But perhaps, somewhere, we also thought of trying to replant the natural trees of the country on their land of election. This would be infinitely more logical and desirable. Especially when in the region of Périnet and elsewhere, the natural forest is destroyed to make way for the eucalyptus. “We are somewhat perplexed. “