Arriving from Mozambique, where he pleaded for peace and the renunciation of violence in a country ravaged by 16 years of civil war and now jihadist attacks, Francis warned of the dangers of deforestation and the impact of environmental degradation. 

The pontiff told faithful Madagascans that they should “create jobs and money making activities which respect the environment and help people escape poverty”.

In his first speech on the island-nation, the pope added that there “were many causes driving excessive deforestation which benefits just a few people...and compromises the future of the country”.

He also said that the authorities must ensure social justice, echoing concerns about the global environment highlighted by massive fires across the Amazon forest.

Madagascar is home to 25 million people, the many of whom live in poverty on an income of less than two dollars a day.

More than half of the young people on the world’s fifth-largest island are unemployed, even if many have qualifications.

Political instability has hindered the development of an economy largely dependent on agriculture, in particular the export of vanilla and cocoa.

Liberal-leaning president Andry Rajoelina was elected to a second term last year, mainly on promises of employment and housing.