“The extension of the city does not seem to threaten the rice fields, which are not conducive to construction, and in which a hundred and fifty years of efforts have buried too much capital, labor and money to make it wise to make it disappear. Agriculture will maintain a solid position in the life of Antananarivo, “writes the economist Henri Fournier in a thesis presented in Strasbourg. If he can still see the present state of the ancient plain of Betsimitatatra, especially in the rainy season, his hair would rise on his head.
From its foundation, Antananarivo is an important agricultural center. It is estimated that 5,000 or 6,000 hectares of land were developed by the merina sovereigns during the 19th century. However, the wise provisions laid down by Andrianampoinimerina for land management and irrigation are rather quickly neglected. Also, is the system
“Rather dilapidated” and in fact, irrigation is reduced to the upper parts of the valleys when the French administration takes over the network.
Without going into the details of the hydraulic works carried out by the colonial administration in the plain of the Betsimitatatra, we can point out the new excavation works of the Andriantany canal which irrigates and drains the right bank of the Ikopa until its confluence with the Mamba , The construction of numerous works, dams, water intakes, valves, etc., to regulate the distribution of water, the lowering of the threshold of Farahantsana, point where the Ikopa leaves the plain, to facilitate ‘flow.
In all, the plain contains about 10,000 hectares of the 28,000 hectares that comprise the entire river basin. In the territory of the commune of Antananarivo alone, 111 kilometers of canals provide irrigation, while the construction of the Mantasoa dam, 60 kilometers upstream, creates a water reserve, regulates distribution and To regularize the Ikopa regime. The 10,000 hectares which are within a 10-kilometer radius of the near suburb of Antananarivo not only have a direct influence on the supply of the city, but also control the activity of a number of its inhabitants
owners. Some put their paddy fields into sharecropping and retain
For them the third or the half of the harvest, the others exploit directly.
The urban commune itself has about 2,500 hectares of paddy fields, which are among the “richest known”, some of which have a yield of 3.5 tonnes per hectare, comparable to that of the world’s best producers Japan at the time realized 3.2 tons). The first season rice is harvested from January, the intermediate rice from March to April, the second season rice from April to May. “Without doubt, the considerable development of the urban agglomeration proper has lost its primacy to the rural character, but it nevertheless remains and the rural life of Antananarivo, receding from the fact of urbanization, preserves Always very strong positions in the plain. “
At the request of the Europeans, soon imitated from Malagasy, vegetable crops grow around the city, especially in the valleys of the southeast. But these suburban gardens are no longer enough. Vegetables flow into the capital from more remote areas, while old vegetable gardens give way to florists’ crops, fruit trees and the vineyard for which smallholders have a growing predilection.
A few thousand oxen and pigs, a few hundred sheep and poultry-geese, ducks and chickens-are raised around Antananarivo, but the cattle herd “to be considered as an instrument of labor” Is a supplement for rice growers.
Apart from some pleasant properties and some vineyards which belong to the Europeans and are situated on the hills, the rural property is essentially Malagasy. There is only one large area, that of the official agricultural station of Nanisana, which, on about 50 hectares, serves as a control station for the selection of varieties of rice, manioc, potatoes, legumes and trees fruit. About 5 000 Malagasy owners share 10 000 plots of paddy fields with an average area of 23 ares. For other vegetable and floricultural crops, there is even greater fragmentation (3 000 owners cultivate 5 000 plots, mostly clustered in Ambohimanarina and Anosipatrana). The number of professional growers in Antananarivo is estimated at more than one tenth of the population of Antananarivo ‘time.