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As we move away from the capital, the country becomes more and more desolate and less cultivated, “notes James Hastie, an English agent, in his Journal describing his trip to Fulpointe with Rafaralahy and part of the merina troops Which accompanies the latter. Their final destination is Foulpointe, but their route passes through Lake Alaotra.
They complete the Antananarivo-Ambatondrazaka route, about 185km, from
24 June to 2 July. This route passes through the north and north-east of the Imerina. On the third day of the trip, in particular, James Hastie mentions that the population appears to be
Surroundings of the village of Ambohimanoa, to become sparse again the next day (read
25 July and earlier).
According to Jean Valette, this description of the Imerina and that of the Antsihanaka also reveal a still unfinished settlement, “characterized by areas populated in the midst of deserted areas”. This idea is already developed by Professor Hubert Deschamps in his Inner Migrations in Madagascar (1959).
The English agent tries to explain this reality. It is based on sites of many abandoned villages to explain the considerable decline in population. Thus he attributes it to two causes, the fevers, and the “frequent invasions destined to feed the slave trade.”
However, Jean Valette does not share this idea. For the archivist palaeograph, for a long time, fevers, endemic, must lead to a kind of balance in the population. “Only by migrating a new form of malaria could new forms of the disease be brought to the fore, to which the populations would not have been accustomed. However, no migration was documented in the region at that date. “Such a circumstance occurred around 1904, during the murderous” epidemic of malaria “in Imamo due, in all likelihood, to a Chinese contribution.
As for the raids destined to feed the slave market, according to Jean Valette, Hastie therefore places them “after the struggles led by Andrianampoinimerina to seize Northern Ambohibeloma, at least twenty years ago.”
Pursuing his idea, the archivist palaeograph indicates that the territory in question has since been, under the merina authority. “These raids would thus have been carried out by the Merina themselves, and if they took place, they should be placed immediately after the conquest, the slaves having somehow constituted spoils of war and this forced emigration being a means of” Eliminate opponents. “
Jean Valette brings another clarification. If this region of the Imerina sees sihanaka infiltrations in the years 1760-1780, its settlement is essentially merina. His conquest is, therefore, fairly easy apart from a few centers of resistance and does not seem to have left any deep traces of antagonism. “The eliminations were, in fact, few in number and, no doubt, should we look elsewhere for the real causes of this weakness
population. “
James Hastie also points out, in the immediate vicinity of Antananarivo, “a large number of small plots of cultivated land in the valleys”. As early as Kaloy, he mentions, besides a nearly complete deforestation, that irrigation, although well known, is very little used. He was surprised that, in the vicinity of Ambohimanoa, many “marshy lands which would suit the mode of cultivation practiced by the inhabitants” were not laid out.
Another interesting point: in the region of Ambatomanoina, there is a change in the habitat. “The security that was born recently of the power of Radama no longer made it necessary to shelter from the fortified heights, the highest ones that remained in the country, built huts in the places that seemed to them the most advantageous. “
Thus, as the Journal d’Hastie implies, the peace established by Radama allows the abandonment of dwellings in heights. This led to the settlement of populations in the valleys, and this change had to have important repercussions on the modes of cultivation. “Irrigated farming – and even marshland cultivation – demands what today would be called investments that are hardly conceivable in times of peace” (Jean Valette).
At the same time, the abandonment of fortified villages will have led to the abandonment of forests by dryland cultivation on the formerly managed slopes of the hills, especially since the disappearance of forests makes it almost impossible to obtain the necessary output in order to obtain an acceptable yield. And the transition from a mode of cultivation to a culture is facilitated by the small number of inhabitants, which makes it possible to rehabilitate only the most rapidly developable lowlands.