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|Madagascar' s isolation has provided at least one bonus: it has protected its people from HIV/AIDS.
Over on the mainland, one in five adults has the virus, while less than 1% of Malagasies are infected.
If mining and tourism take off, that may change.
So far, the government has shown commendable foresight.
The president himself went through a very public HIV test earlier this year and educational campaigns are in full swing.
Most of the nearly 19m Malagasies barely survive off tiny plots of land for which they often hold no title, growing rice the old way.
Just outside Ambohibary, a little village east of Antananarivo, a farmer labours on a tiny rice plot with four of his eight children.
His grandparents once owned several hectares, he explains, but they were divided among ten children, each with seven or so descendants.
The rice he grows cannot feed his family; he must also earn cash as a bricklayer and lumberjack. |