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Madagascar separated from the African mainland about 160 million years ago and many of the animals of the island evolved into species were seen nowhere else on earth. Tragically, human settlement and the loss of the forests of the island mean that today its soil is the most eroded in the world and no fewer than 127 animal species are considered to be endangered.Most of the people depend on agriculture, though only five per cent of the land can be farmed. People of Madagascar grow rice, sweet potatoes and cassava for food. They raise cattle in the west of the island and fish in the rivers and lakes as well as the sea. Factory workers pack meat, brew beer and refine sugar. Madagascar has rich deposits of graphite, chromite and semi-precious stones such as beryl and garnet. Offshore reserves of oil may point to a more prosperous future, but so far have not proved to be worth exploiting commercially.