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Fianarantsoa province is the heart of Madagascar’s central highlands. With 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 by the current political crisis, making it difficult to obtain higher education. With an increasing interest in participating in the international market and drawing tourism, the people could benefit profoundly from an influx of educational resources and support.

Funding for proper housing and schools is a significant issue in Madagascar, especially in rural areas. A school in the Tsaranoro Valley in the central highlands of Madagascar was in need of a great deal of repair since its roof was a simple thatched one, made of straw and wood, and it leaked when it rained so that the children were unable to attend school in the rainy season. ICO was able to raise the money to replace this roof with a metal one and donate other funds that could go towards school supplies.

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ICO Initiatives

September 17, 2014
ICO’s Instruments4Africa provides opportunities to underprivileged children in Mali, one of Africa's poorest countries, to get an education and reach their potential. Building on Mali’s rich artistic culture, children receive performing arts training, and are part of a performing arts troupe guided by professional dance and music teachers.