Madagascar

In Madagascar, The Democratization Of French Cheese

In one of the world's poorest countries, cheese is still a niche market. And yet, little by little, even the working class are starting to getting a taste.

ANTSIRABE — Sam Mimouni holds out his artisanal Fourme d'Ambert, a semi-hard, French blue cheese. "The more it stinks, the better it is," he jokes.

The gray rind, the visible mold, the melting texture: This is the perfect example of the Auvergne specialty, but without the official French designation of origin. There's a reason for that. Sam doesn't live in central France; he's in Madagascar, in the town of Antsirabe, 172 kilometers south of the capital, Antananarivo.

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Madagascar, Islamists Exploit Poverty To Gain Converts In Christian Land

Islamism is gaining ground on the island historically dominated by Christianity and traditional religions by offering free Koranic education in exchange for conversion.

VOHIPENO — At first sight, Vohipeno is a poor, but charming rural town covered with bougainvilleas and enveloped in the spicy fragrance of cloves, the main product of this southeastern stretch of Madagascar's coast. Without electricity and shaded by palm trees or traveler's trees, the houses are all made of wood, their rough facades faded by the weather.

Heading down toward the shoreline, we come across the white minaret of a worn mosque, attached to a brand new building of grey concrete. A furtive silhouette in a black abaya sees us, and disappears inside. Built adjacent to the Vatomasina (Sacred Stone) mosque, and originally paid for in 1990 by Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, is the new Islamic School of Success. It towers over a dusty soccer pitch surrounded by wobbly shops, where laughing young boys in rags chase behind a half-deflated ball amid strewn garbage.

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The Exploitation Fueling Madagascar's Sapphire Trade

Madagascar supplies 40% of the world sapphires. Pink, yellow, blue or purple, these stones are dug up and sold illegally, with those doing the hardest job earning the least and taking the most risk.

ILAKAKA — The rush first started in October. With nothing but muscle power, some 100 holes, 10 to 20 meters deep, were dug in the red, dry ground. No one really knows who found the first sapphire in the locality of Ankiliabo, a bush area in southern Madagascar. But they all came running to this new El Dorado, which is accessible with a simple zebu and cart or on foot.

Among the fortune seekers is 27-year-old Jean-Louis Damlinbesoa, who traveled 15 hours in a bush taxi to come and start digging. "I need to find 30 to 50 grams of sapphire to finally be able to build a concrete house for my wife and two children," he says. "It's a hard job, but do I have a choice?"

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Madagascar
Sébastien Hervieu

In Madagascar, Where Climate Change Comes In Cyclones

TOLIARA — The heat and the years have taken a heavy toll on Rebokane Mahatsanga's frail, scaly-skinned body. Squatting, almost prone, among a few bad-looking ears of corn on his patch of land, he doesn't quite know his age anymore. "I think I'll be 100 soon," he says, his eyes half-closed. People don't really celebrate birthdays around here. We're told that's "more of an ex-French-colonizer sort of thing."

A few kilometers south of Toliara, in the small village of Bekoake, where there's no water or electricity, this farmer doesn't recall the year 2013 or the name of the tropical cyclone Haruna either. But he remembers the devastation. That morning, when the cyclone came, he'd "never seen anything like it before," he says in dialect. "The wave of water came, and it destroyed all the crops and all the houses. I had to shelter on top of a rampart and wait until the evening for the water level to decrease."

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Madagascar

Is The World's Rarest Bird About To Go The Way Of The Dodo?

The Madagascar pochard, the world's rarest bird, is at a serious risk of extinction.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), which led a study on the species, estimates that only 25 individual birds now remain in the wild. Human activity has driven the birds to just one remaining wetland in northeast Madagascar, but even that that site now has insufficient food for the ducks.

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