90% of the original forests have already been cut down. The cleared forest grounds are used for the planting of manioc, rice and maize, or for pastures for the approximately 10 million zebus. These, however, are not used to supply people with meat or milk, but are considered as status symbols or used as work animals.
Some wood is exported as tropical timber, and large quantities are used as construction timber on Madagascar itself, for the fast-growing population needs housing. For the production of bricks a fire has to be kept going for a whole week. But by far the largest quantity of wood, about 80%, is used for cooking on open fires. As the forest belts around the cities have all been cut down long since, charcoal burning was moved further and further away and average city-dwelling families now have to spend about a quarter of their monthly income on charcoal for cooking.
This is where the ADES solar cooker project sets in. Alternative cooking devices will enable the population to be more independent of wood and charcoal.
Often deforestation is just a first step to far-reaching negative consequences.
After just a few years the soil is usually depleted, calling for the clearing of a new patch of forest. In addition, the thin humus layer is washed away by the tropical rains, and brown rivers across the country carry the precious soil to the sea.
Floods are the result, and the few roads become impassable. The erosion process continues, leaving permanent, ugly scars in the countryside and rendering the soil unproductive for any kind of cultivation. And in case of heavy storms there are no longer any forests to offer protection.