2008 World Monuments Watch
The Fianarantsoa Old City occupies a dramatic hilltop setting once topped with a palace used by the Merina royal family during state visits. While the palace is no longer there, some 500 homes built between 1870 and 1900 by those affiliated with the royal retinue still line the city's picturesque cobblestone streets. Buildings dating from this period survived because a royal edict forbidding commoners from using durable building materials was lifted in 1868. Moreover, the Old City is the only place in Madagascar where nineteenth-century buildings form a coherent architectural ensemble. Some of the buildings included in this listing are still occupied by descendants of their original builders who—because of Madagascar's current economic situation—have been unable to maintain their homes. Although the conditions of some houses appear dire, the conservation problems are relatively easy to address. Roof tiles need to be replaced to avoid water ingress, and a sanitation system needs to be provided, as waste is currently buried in shallow pits on each property. The local government has indicated interest in protecting the city's architectural heritage by passing a municipal decree requiring new construction and renovation to be consistent with traditional methods. A local foundation has already repaired 15 significant buildings, built several public gardens, and implemented a micro-credit program to help residents pay for home repairs. WMF believes Watch listing will encourage this process and local support for it.