What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Madagascar?

By Joseph Kiprop on March 6 2019 in Economics

Rainforest in eastern Madagascar.
Rainforest in eastern Madagascar.

Madagascar is an African nation with a vast array of natural resources such as minerals, arable land, forests, fish, and the country's beautiful scenery. Despite Madagascar's enormous natural resources, the country is still classified as a developing economy. In 2018, according to data from the IMF, the Malagasy GDP was the 135th highest in the world at roughly $12.5 billion. The Malagasy economy is heavily reliant on the natural resources in the country.


One of Madagascar's essential natural resources is fish. Some of the common varieties of fish found in Madagascar's territorial waters include yellowfin tuna, black marlin, bonito, and sea bream. Fishing in Madagascar can be divided into three main categories, subsistence fishing, sports fishing, and commercial fishing. Most of the fishing in Madagascar takes place within the Indian Ocean. In Madagascar, subsistence fishing is mainly carried out by the local communities to supplement their diet. The subsistence fishermen in Madagascar rely primarily on traditional fishing methods such as spearing. The Malagasy fishermen also use smaller traditional vessels. Sports fishing in Madagascar is mainly carried out by visitors to the country. Some of Madagascar's most popular sports fishing areas include the Mitsio Archipelago and the Radama Archipelago. Mitsio Archipelago is popular with sports fishers because of its clear waters. Commercial fishing is one of Madagascar's essential economic activities. Madagascar's commercial fishing sector has attracted investment from foreign organization such as the EU. The Madagascan government allows the members of the EU to maintain a fleet of fishing ships in the country's territorial waters. The EU fleet in Madagascar is made up of fishing vessels from a variety of nations such as France, Spain, and Italy. The government of Madagascar has urged the country's fishermen to practice aquaculture to increase fish production in the country.

Arable Land

In 2016, according to data from the World Bank, arable land made up roughly 6% of the country's entire territory. The data indicated that from 1967 to 2016, the size of arable land in the country increased at an average rate of 1.15% each year. The increase in the size of arable land in Madagascar can be attributed to the importance of agriculture to the country's economy. In 2017, the Malagasy government estimated that the agriculture sector contributed approximately 24% of the country's GDP. Data from the Malagasy government also indicated that the majority of the country's labor force was involved in the agricultural sector. A 2010 study by the FAO indicated that there were roughly 2.4 million farms in Madagascar most of which were owned by small-scale farmers. Some of the most agriculturally productive areas in Madagascar are situated in the country's eastern edge as it receives relatively higher rainfall. Malagasy farmers grow a wide variety of crops such as sweet potatoes, maize, and coffee. Madagascar's agricultural sector faces several challenges such as over-reliance on traditional agricultural methods, poor infrastructure, and land fragmentation.


One of Madagascar's essential crops is rice which has been growing in the country for a long time. Rice in Madagascar is primarily grown to satisfy the local demand as it is one of the country's staple foods. The Betsielo Community is among some of the most famous rice growers in Madagascar. The Betsielo use the same rice growing techniques as communities in the Philippines and Singapore. The irrigation system that the Betsielo use is considered extremely efficient as it uses up almost all the water that is available. Another community in Madagascar which is famous for rice growing is the Merina community.


Malagasy farmers keep a diverse array of livestock such as cattle, sheep, and pigs. The Malagasy government estimated that roughly 60% of the country's rural families were dependent on livestock to provide their income. In 2008, the Malagasy government estimated that the country was home to approximately 2 million goats and sheep and 10 million cows. In 2010, the FAO estimated that Madagascar produced roughly 250,000 tons of meat and more than 500,000 tons of milk. The Zebu is one of the most common breeds of cattle in the country. Malagasy farmers also keep large numbers of poultry, particularly chicken, with the government estimating that the sector produced roughly 19,000 tons of eggs.


In 2015, it was estimated that forests covered approximately 21.44% of Madagascar's land area and from 2005 to 2015, the size of Madagascar's land that was covered in forests decreased rapidly. There are several types of forests in Madagascar such as the lowland forests and dry deciduous forests. The lowland forests are home to a wide variety of trees such as the Dalbergia, Ocotea, and bamboo. A botanical study by the Malagasy government indicated that more than 80% of the trees in the lowland forests are endemic to the country. The lowland forests are also home to a wide variety of endemic animal species such as the lemur and the brown-tailed mongoose. Dry deciduous forests are mainly situated in the northern and western section of the country. The country's dry deciduous forests are considered among the most ecologically diverse in the world. Madagascar's forests face numerous challenges mainly from human activities such as logging, grazing, and burning.


Madagascar has been blessed with a wide variety of minerals which play a critical role in the country’s economy. Some of Madagascar's most important minerals include gold, manganese, and copper. In 1904, it was estimated that Madagascar produced approximately 84,910 ounces of gold and in the following year, the quantity of gold produced in the country decreased to 76,197 ounces. Madagascar's mineral sector faces several challenges such as the country's insecurity and the low prices offered for the country's metals.

Challenges That Face Madagascar's Economy

Madagascar's economy faces several challenges such as the high rate of corruption in the country, insecurity, and the country's high poverty levels. In 2012 it was estimated that almost 78% of Madagascar's population lived below the poverty line. The Malagasy government has put in place several measures to reduce the poverty rate in the country and grow the country's economy.

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