| ||For centuries, traditional slash-and-burn agriculture, called tavy, has been practiced on the island. The intensification of the agriculture responds to a strong population growth (the island’s population has multiplied by four in 30 years), but degrades soils and ecosystems. Without any plant cover, the soil organic matter and loose ground are stripped by rainfall which exposes a permanently sterile layer of clay and erodes the ravines, the lavakas, on the slopes of the hills. Faced with the disappearance of arable land, farmers exploit more hilly areas. In the past few years, the government has undertaken a land reform to protect farmers’ rights on their parcels. But at the end of 2008, the Korean company Daewoo announced that an agreement had been reached with the Malagasy authorities to rent 3.2 acres (1.3 million hectares) to produce corn and palm oil for South Korea. Following a wave of protests, the project seemed to have been abandoned in February 2009. Since the explosion of food prices throughout the world at the end of 2007, many agreements of the same sort have been reached between foreign investors and African countries, especially for the cultivation of plants that are used to produce biodiesel, thus threatening the food sovereignty of local populations and farmers’ fundamental rights.
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