Madagascar: Urbanization and Rural Development

Study rapid urbanization and rural development efforts in Madagascar while exploring the country’s diversity and rich cultural heritage.

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Madagascar is an island nation famed for its ecological uniqueness. Less well-known is its rapid urban growth and the dramatic ways in which movements of people and resources from rural to urban areas is reshaping Malagasy social, political, economic, and environmental landscapes. This program  explores contemporary and historical perspectives on processes of urbanization influencing the present and future of Madagascar. The emphasis on urbanization/urbanism and the relationships between rural and urban areas necessarily includes the study of community development and the social capital on which communities thrive, while highlighting the importance of local context throughout. Students can expect to experience the complexity of contemporary Malagasy culture and society while participating in the daily life of host communities.

Coursework includes a seminar on urban and rural perspectives of community development, a course on research methods and ethics, language instruction in both French and Malagasy, and an Independent Study Project (ISP). See program syllabi.

Topics of study include:

  • Urbanization and rural migrations
  • Urban and rural development and corresponding infrastructural challenges
  • Cultural identity, gender and development, and social change
  • Madagascar colonial and postcolonial history, economy, government, and politics, including recent political changes centered in and around the capital, Antananarivo
  • Geography, environment, and natural resources
  • Food and human security, social mobility and exclusion, and community organization

Rural central highlands

Immersion in Tana, Mahajanga, and the central highlands
Students are immersed in the country's dynamic capital city, Antananarivo (Tana), and the coastal town of Mahajanga. The program also has a rural homestay in the Vakinankaratra region of the central highlands. Learn more about the program’s excursions and homestays.

Program lecturers and partners
Lecturers include faculty from local universities, including the University of Antananarivo, as well as experts from other in-country professional and community-based organizations. Program partners include local NGOs and associations such as Malagasy Mahomby (Mahajanga). See select faculty bios.

Hannah Bassett (Tufts University) studied on this program in spring 2013. Read her reflections on her time in Madagascar.
Examining Madagascar's complexity and contemporary challenges

Today, nearly three quarters of Madagascar’s population live in rural areas and practice some form of subsistence agriculture, yet, a rural exodus is occurring at an ever-increasing rate. Within the next ten years, at least half of the country’s population will live in cities. Access to basic infrastructures, such as schools and healthcare facilities, remains a significant challenge for a majority of Madagascar’s people.

Through this program, students consider the multifaceted ways in which ethnicity, language, geography, history, politics, and religion have shaped Madagascar's cities, town, and rural communities. Students look at issues such as group cohesion, social splintering, and empowerment, as well as the role played by global forces, including foreign investment and anti-poverty programs.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research


Costs Dates



Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Antananarivo

Language Study: French,  Malagasy

Prerequisites: 3 semesters French Read more...

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2012 Evaluations (PDF)


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