The Republic of Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, with a population of approximately 23 million people and 18 Malagasy tribes of different ethnic make up. These groups include the Merina, Betsileo, Antaimoro, Sakalava, and Betsimisaraka. Although there are racial differences, Malagasy people share a common language and culture because much of the Malagasy culture is influenced by the Asian-African origin of the island’s people, which has lead to a unique and diverse society with complex customs.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with poverty increasing substantially over the last two decades. The poverty assessment estimates that about 70 percent of the population is categorized as poor, leading to many individuals not having the access to quality food and suffering with malnutrition.
of the country’s population lives below the poverty line
From Madagascar: Meet the Artisan
Madécasse Chocolate & Vanilla was founded by two former Peace Corps volunteers in Madagascar. They fell in love with the country and the people after teaching English there from 1999 to 2001. In the years following, they started to make chocolate and vanilla in Madagascar, gained some outside business experience, and launched the company in 2008. A main goal behind the company is making chocolate where the cocoa grows, as this helps to create jobs in some of the poorest communities in the world. Approximately 70 percent of the cocoa in the world comes from Africa, while less than 1 percent of the world’s chocolate is made there. Their goal is to make chocolate from start to finish in Madagascar and help the industry, farmworkers, and those who love chocolate. Madécasse works closely with cocoa farmers to train them and provide necessary equipment to enhance their output, giving the farmers an opportunity to invest in their own future. To this day, more than four million bars have been made start to finish in Madagascar by Madécasse.
Mar Y Sol, founded in 2003, works with several communities of artisans and family businesses in Madagascar to develop their products. Approximately several hundred artisans are involved in the production of their work, 80 percent of that being women. Each basket is woven from natural, organic and sustainable materials and is inspired by Madagascar’s vibrant culture. The Mar Y Sol team is committed to benefiting the communities of their artisans. Depending on the nature of their work and business, many of their artisan partners are given the leisure to work in their homes and offices, allowing families to stay together while supporting themselves. The company has worked on a variety of projects in Madagascar and Kenya, such as developing clean water wells, providing education funds for school supplies, and donating eyeglasses as well as art supplies whenever given the opportunity.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
For years, the Malagasy people have suffered with human rights violations. Until 2013, Madagascar had been ruled under an illegitimate civilian regime run by former president Andry Rajoelina. Although the country has now established a democracy, the government has yet been unable to provide rule of law, leading to unlawful killings and mob violence. Other human rights problems include restrictions on freedom of speech, violence against women, human trafficking, child labor, and discrimination among the LGBT community.
Discrimination based on gender is unlawful by the Constitution of Madagascar; however, there are still reports of inequality in inheritance laws. Although women legally have equal ownership rights, they are still unable to own land along locations within the east coast of Madagascar. Moreover, as the poverty level has risen over the years, there has been a spike in reports on domestic violence, with drug and alcohol abuse increasing as well. Due to their lack of resources, impoverished women have even less options to escape violence and fewer opportunities to fight for the safety of themselves and their children.