Fianarantsoa province is the heart of Madagascar’s central highlands. At a population of approximately 150,000 people, it is the second largest inhabited region of the country. The local inhabitants consist of the Betsileo tribe, a group of expert rice producers known for their striking terraced rice paddies. The major city, also called Fianarantsoa, is the educational, industrial, and transportation hub of the south-central highlands, lying at the midway point between Madagascar’s capitol, Antananarivo, and the southern city of Tulear.
Due to an unstable political atmosphere, an inability to compete in the world trade market, a growing population, and a lack of economic infrastructure, Madagascar is considered to be one of the poorest countries on the planet. Greater than 70% of its 20 million inhabitants live below the poverty line. Gross Domestic Product for the country was US$8 billion in 2010, while Gross National Income per capita sat at only US$430. While many children attend school at a young age, the adult literacy rate hovers around 65%. This is likely due to discontinued secondary and tertiary education for a large portion of the population. Insufficient access to teachers and materials, as well as challenges with the family costs of formal schooling, have been exacerbated given the current political crisis, making it difficult to obtain higher education. With an increasing interest in participating in the international market and to draw tourism, the people could benefit profoundly from an influx of educational resources and support.