| || As if scarred by great claw marks, these plateaus bear deep grooves scooped out by flowing rainwater. These ravines, or lavakas, carry laterite, a red sediment scoured from the hills by erosion, to the river. There are no longer any trees to retain the loose earth, for the forest has disappeared, cleared by slash-and-burn farming and overgrazing. Although these practices are now forbidden, they have increased in recent decades as a result of the doubling of the country’s population over the last 30 years. Farmers suffer the consequences. Since the eroded areas are no longer fertile, the land that can be farmed has been reduced to 5 percent of the island’s total surface. They are sometimes obliged to work in the damaged areas, when they are not burning more forest to gain further space. Almost 5 billion acres (2 billion ha) of land are degraded in the world; in 30 percent of cases, deforestation is to blame.
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