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The Betsimisaraka, the second largest ethnic group, is the most numerous group pursuing trading, seafaring, fishing, and cultivation.
The Southwest is defined by the Ivakoany Massif to the east and by the Isala Roiniforme Massif to the north and includes the Mahafaly Plateau and the desert region.
It was once, like much of the island, thickly forested.
Sakalava is the dominant ethnic group in this region.
To some extent internal migration has resulted in sharing some customs such as spirit possession ( tromba ).
The West Coast is characterized by deciduous trees on dry, open savanna grassland sloping toward the sea.
The High Plateau (Central Highlands) contains a wide range of topographies: round eroded hills, granite outcroppings, extinct volcanoes, and alluvial plains and marshes.
French emerged as the dominant language during the colonial period (1896–1960) and Malagasy became secondary.
The predominant ethnic groups are the Merina and the Betsileo.
The capital, Antananarivo, located in this region, is the largest town, with over one million people, and is an ethnic melting pot.
A common regional division is between those ethnic groups living on the high plateau and the côtiers , who inhabit coastal areas (or live outside of the high plateau region).
Historically, the largest ethnic group is the Merina located on the high plateau.
Consulting with, and reflecting upon, dead ancestors ( razana ) guides the living in making choices about social, moral, and religious aspects of everyday life.