Madagascar is a huge island state off the southeast coast of Africa. Once lushly covered by rainforest and known for its endemic fauna, only a few rainforest areas remain, mainly along the east coast. Madagascar's almost legendary island vegetation is now limited to very small areas, mostly national parks, in which people and organisations oppose the progressing deforestation and environmental destruction. Primary forest has been mostly cleared for timber and firewood or to make room for mining. This has severe consequences. Deforestation leads to water shortage and drought, especially inland. The effects of climate change are also hitting Madagascar very hard: hurricanes, rising temperatures and lack of rain are making life difficult for many farmers.
As a result, Madagascar is witnessing rapid urbanization. It is estimated that in a few years half of the island's total population will be living in the capital Antananarivo or other urban areas. This poses enormous challenges for urban planning, not least because the government is already completely overwhelmed. More than two thirds of Madagascar’s townspeople live in the slums.
In light of this situation, the country is making efforts to mobilize an urban platform to upgrade slums. Moreover, Madagascar is aiming for significant improvements in the water and sanitation sectors. The Population and Social Ministry is also making efforts to address the important question of land. The Development and Urban Planning project is implementing a radical reform to stop the current insecure land tenure.
Aiming at addressing the issues of slums, PSUP was initialized at country level and in the cities of Antananarivo, Manakara and Moramanga. The activities contributed to a better understanding of the slum situation, explained the importance of upgrading as an alternative to evictions, and laid out the alarming realities of precarious housing for the ‘Big Island’.
Antananarivo’s population of 2,200,000 is rapidly growing due to an urbanization rate of 4.6 per cent. Therefore, the Madagascar PSUP team, which is headed by the Vice-President of the Development and Planning Office (VPDAT), recommends an urgent initiation of an urban policy for Antananarivo. The policy targets land and housing regulations, including updating plans, as well as the development and initiation of a social housing program and basic services for sanitation. Local capacities have been developed in cartography to share vital geographic information with all stakeholders. This ensures an equitable dialogue. PSUP additionally identified the relevant stakeholders for upgrading informal settlements and created a platform amongst these stakeholders for analysing legislative and institutional frameworks. These methods are crucial to meeting the priority goal of developing a strategy that improves the planning regime. This is especially relevant in the capital city, where the inflow of migrants is significant.