The Fianarantsoa-Côte Est (FCE) railway is a colonial-built railway in southeast Madagascar that connects the high plateau city of Fianarantsoa to the port-city of Manakara. It is 163 kilometers long and was built by the French between 1926 and 1936 using the forced-labor program SMOTIG. The French used rails and ties taken from Germany as World War I reparations to build the line. Many of the railways still have the date of manufacturing on them dating back to 1893.
This line traverses some of the most threatened habitat in the world. In 2000, back-to-back cyclones caused 280 landslides and 4 major washouts cut service for months until a rehabilitation project was launched with help from USAID, Swiss Railways and others. A study conducted by the Project d'Appui à la Gestion de l'Environnement (PAGE) in 2000 concluded that keeping the train operational helps prevent deforestation to the tune of 97,400 hectares over 20 years. Interviews conducted with villagers during the temporary closure found that they would have no choice but to cut-down their tree-based crops that they shipped to market on the railway and plant rice or cassava instead.
The FCE is currently running, but its aging infrastructure makes it vulnerable to service disruptions caused by broken rails, old rollingstock and landslides caused by cyclones.
Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara [republiˈkʲan madaɡasˈkʲarə̥]; French: République de Madagascar) and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90 percent of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population.
Initial human settlement of Madagascar occurred between 350 BCE and 550 CE by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo. These were joined around 1000 CE by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into eighteen or more sub-groups of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.