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The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar which is the fourth-largest island in the world, as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which include Nosy Be and Nosy Boraha.
Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot in which over 80% of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth. These are dispersed across a variety of ecoregions, broadly divided into eastern and south-central rain forest, western dry forests, southern desert and spiny forest. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are severely threatened by human settlement and traditional slash-and-burn practices (tavy) which have denuded Madagascar of 95% of its original forest cover.
In 2010 the population of Madagascar was estimated at around 20 million, 85% of whom live on less than two dollars per day. Ecotourism, agriculture, expansion of international trade and greater investments in education, health and private enterprise are key elements of Madagascar's development strategy.
Current and future generations in Madagascar are faced with the challenge of striking a balance between economic growth, equitable development and natural conservation.