World Bank loans Madagascar $52 million for conservation

ANTANANARIVO Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:39am EDT

A schoolboy walks on a bridge in Mamba village outside Madagascar's capital Antananarivo November 22, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A schoolboy walks on a bridge in Mamba village outside Madagascar's capital Antananarivo November 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - The World Bank said it had approved a $52 million loan to help Madagascar protect its rare biodiversity that has come under increasing threat during a protracted political crisis.

Famed for its towering rain forests and leaping lemurs that are major pulls for tourists, the Indian Ocean island witnessed a surge in illegal logging and poaching after a military-backed coup in 2009.

"The additional financing has been approved in the context of a 2-year, socio-political crisis in Madagascar that has exacted a heavy human, economic, and environmental toll," the Washington-based body said in a statement dated June 21.

The World Bank suspended its program in Madagascar, the biggest producer of vanilla globally, in 2009 due to its policy of not dealing with governments that come into power by unconstitutional means.

The bank said the loan did not signal its re-engagement with Madagascar.

"This additional financing was approved as an exception on environmental and humanitarian grounds given the global significance of Madagascar's biodiversity," it said.

Separately, in the country's south, farmers were battling against swarms of locusts that threatened to devour the crops of thousands of people.

Some 200,000 hectares infested by locusts have been sprayed with pesticide in the past few months while another 27,000 hectares are being treated at the moment.

(Reporting by Alain Iloniaina; Editing by Richard Lough)

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