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Madagascar officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara [republikan madaaskar̥]; French: République de Madagascar) and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90 percent of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population.

Geography At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi), Madagascar is the world's 47th largest country and the fourth-largest island. The country lies mostly between latitudes 12°S and 26°S, and longitudes 43°E and 51°E. Neighboring islands include the French territory of Réunion and the country of Mauritius to the east, as well as the state of Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte to the north west. The nearest mainland state is Mozambique, located to the west.

Economy During Madagascar's First Republic, France heavily influenced Madagascar's economic planning and policy and served as its key trading partner. Key products were cultivated and distributed nationally through producers' and consumers' cooperatives. Government initiatives such as a rural development program and state farms were established to boost production of commodities such as rice, coffee, cattle, silk and palm oil. Popular dissatisfaction over these policies was a key factor in launching the socialist-Marxist Second Republic, in which the formerly private bank and insurance industries were nationalized; state monopolies were established for such industries as textiles, cotton and power; and import–export trade and shipping were brought under state control.

Cuisine Meals in Madagascar are invariably based around rice. Rice with this.........rice with that. The national dish is called Ramazava and is made from beef (zebu) and mixed greens sauteed with ginger tomato and onion. We have eaten it and it comes highly recommended. Very filling after a hard days walking. Malagasy food is not very spicy, as in hot and spicy, although they do have a highly charged pepper paste called Sakay or Piri-Piri which should carry a health warning because it is so hot! The first time we tried it at least 3 of us nearly had a heart attack, all while our Malagasy guides were having a good giggle at our sufferings. We tried it again on our second trip, this time adding it in tiny quantities to soup and it was delicious. The cuisine is predominately French in style and some restaurants along the coastal areas provide simply stunning sea food dishes. The Bamboo Club in Ifaty is a particular favourite of ours.

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