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Volunteering in Madagascar…

Volunteer Project 2 – Madagascar

THANK YOU!

Before we provide an overview of our experience volunteering in Sainte Luce, Madagascar, we wanted to firstly thank all those that donated to this cause. Madagascar is one on Africa’s poorest nations and endangered ecosystems. The life expectancy for men is 52 and women is 55. Roughly 12% of people die before the age of 5.

65% of the population in Madagascar fall below the recognised International poverty line of $1.25USD per day.

<p>This man carries wood into Sainte Luce and sells it as firewood to the locals. He earns approximately $1 USD per day. The weight of this log is probably around 40kg. Pete couldn't hold it for more than a few minutes. This man can sometimes carry it for 15km each day...</p>

This man carries wood into Sainte Luce and sells it as firewood to the locals. He earns approximately $1 USD per day. The weight of this load is probably around 40kg. This man can sometimes has to carry this 15km each day into the villages ...

Local Fisherman walk their catch into town and fetch about $10USD for one of these large fish..

Local Fisherman walk their catch into town and fetch about $10USD for one of these large fish..

With your help we were able to raise almost £1000 for the community of Sainte Luce. In this particular village 90% of the community earn below the International poverty line.
<p>Sainte Luce is divided up into 3 separate Hamlets. There is no running water and no electricty in this village...</p>

Sainte Luce is divided up into 3 separate Hamlets. There is no running water and no electricty in this village...

We were really pleased to help out the community of Sainte Luce. The money raised from these volunteer projects is invested right back into Azafady projects in Madagascar rather than into a private company – so at least we know where the money is going. It’s certainly not going through 5 sets of hands before reaching the ground like a lot of other NGO’s in Africa (but that’s another story).
OUR LOCATION

Getting to our project was not an easy journey. We flew into the capital, Antannarivo (Tana), spent a night there and then flew down to Fort Dauphin (also known as Taolagnaro) the following day. After an overnight stay here, we were picked up and transferred to the project which was located in the small village of Sainte Luce.
Aerial view of Madagascar...

Aerial view of Madagascar...

N.B. Flights into Madagascar are extremely expensive in addition to the internal flight from Tana to Fort Dauphin. Most flights are through Air Madgagascar and without a doubt, they are the worst airline we have ever flown with. Driving through this country is not a viable option either. You can’t (really) hire a car without getting a local driver to drive you. You have to pay for the driver, and his accommodation is part of the cost. Oh, and the roads are in terrible condition.
This part of raod was in good condition comparatively. Notice the tree species? Eucalypts are grown as a quick fuel source. Although they are going a little out of control...

This part of road was in good condition comparatively. Notice the tree species? Eucalypts are grown as a quick fuel source. Although they are going a little out of control...

Sainte Luce is only 50km from Fort Dauphin town yet the drive took nearly 3 hours due to the poor condition of the gravel roads made worse by recent heavy rainfall.
<p>Passing through another village on our way to Sainte Luce...</p>
A village on our way to Sainte Luce. The roofs on these houses is made from ‘travellers palm’. A vital plant for construction.
<p>... on the way back to town at the end of our stay, we were all transported in this truck and let us tell you that along bumpy roads, and very basic seating, well there was some severe bruising...</p>

... on the way back to town at the end of our stay, we were all transported in this truck and let us tell you that along bumpy roads, and very basic seating, well there was some severe bruising to follow...

Pete outside our home...for the next 10 days

Pete outside our home...for the next 12 days

WHAT WE DID

The Conservation Program (Pete’s Project)
In Saint Luce and surrounding area the forest has been descimated. It has been cut down for fire food and construction. Often the technique of Slash and Burn was used so it didn’t stand a chance. Today what was once a vast forest is now numerous small fragments of forest, some only a hundreds of square metres.
Cleared land with one of our study sites (forest fragments) in the distance.

Cleared land with one of our study sites (forest fragments) in the distance.

Our project involved surveying a couple of these small fragments for any animals and a couple of endangered plants. The more data we can collect about the forest the more protection we can hopefully give it. Especially protection against Rio Tinto, who are planning on mining the forest fragments for ilmenite which is whitening agent found in paint and toothpaste among other things.
The billboard for Rio Tinto, displaying their current mining projects in the area and their proposed mining sites - THE VILLAGE/FOREST WHERE WE LIVED.

The billboard for Rio Tinto, displaying their current mining projects in the area and their proposed mining sites - THE VILLAGE/FOREST WHERE WE LIVED.

Each day and night we conducted studies of either the reptiles and amphibians (“herpes”)  in the area or we surveyed the fragments for what Madagascar is most famous for, its Lemurs. Most of Madagascar’s fauna is endemic (found nowhere else on earth) and this is no more apparent than with its lemurs.
<p>Collared Brown Lemur...</p>

A curious Collared Brown Lemur...

These amazing creatures are related to Lorises and other prosimians. It is thought that around 65 million years ago a common ancestor sailed across from mainland Africa on debris or vegetation mats and evolved into the 97 or  so species found on the island today. The species we find in the area are Collared Brown Lemur, the Southern Whooley Lemur, Fat Tailed Dwarf Lemur, Mouse Lemur and Dwarf Lemur.

Mouse lemur hiding in a pandanas. It was great to see them and very lucky as they are nocturnal.

Mouse lemur hiding in a pandanas. It was great to see them and very lucky as they are nocturnal.

Southern Woolley Lemurs snuggled together. Another bonus sighting as they are noctural as well.

Southern Woolley Lemurs snuggled together. Another bonus sighting as they are noctural as well.

We also carried out lemur behaviour studies. Watching these animal for an hour and half was good fun but often tricky, as they can fly (almost literally) through the forest at great speeds – certainly speeds we can’t muster.

Brown Lemur leaping from the tree to tree. They can leap unbelievably well.

Brown Lemur leaping from the tree to tree. They can leap unbelievably well.

There were plenty of amazing reptiles and frogs on the Herpe transects.

The smallest Chameleon species in the world.... this is an adult - so cool. Brookesia nasus

The smallest Chameleon species in the world.... this is an adult - so cool. Brookesia nasus

<p>Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon...</p>

Another larger Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon... Furcifer verrucosus

<p>No this is not just a lizard, it is in fact the... Phelsuma Antonosy</p>

No this is not just a lizard, it is in fact the... Phelsuma Antonosy. A rare an endemic species to the local area.

<p>Ohh the little munchkin...</p>

Ohh the little munchkin... We think these animals were the basis behind the move Gremlins. This is 'Gizmo'.

A beautiful ground boa was a huge highlight... for Pete

A beautiful ground boa was a huge highlight... for Pete

There were plenty of frogs that call the forest home. Heterixalis boettgeri

There were plenty of frogs that call the forest home. Heterixalis boettgeri

Leaf Tailed Gecko. The mosted wicked lizard ever... More photos in gallery.

Leaf Tailed Gecko. The mosted wicked lizard ever... More photos in gallery.

Collecing data often involved tredging through swamp or walking through the forest for hours at night, but it was rewarding and interesting every time.

The Community Program (Elissa’s Project)

While most of Azafady’s work from our campsite focused on Conservation Research, there were some initiatives in place to help the local community. These initives included fuel-efficient stove building, environmental classes for the local kids and just recently Azafady commenced English Lessons for anyone in Sainte Luce that wanted to learn.

The first step in building a stove is refining the clay by sifting it...

The first step in building a stove is refining the clay by sifting it...

After mixing the clay with Zebu dung and water, the mixture is ready to be transported into the village and built...

After mixing the clay with Zebu dung and water, the mixture is ready to be transported into the village and the stove can be built...

This family received the fuel efficient stove we prepared. In order to receive a stove, the family must have a separate kitchen hut. The reason for this is that one of the main causes of death among women in rural villages is smoke inhalation. The stoves are built with vents...

This family received the fuel efficient stove we prepared. In order to receive a stove, the family must have a separate kitchen hut. The reason for this is that one of the main causes of death among women in rural villages is smoke inhalation. The stoves are built with vents... The only problem with this is that poorer families that don't have a separate kitchen hut are still on the waiting list to receive a stove...

in this particular environment class, we taught the kids about species endemic to Madagascar and Sainte Luce. For a bit of fun the kids all made a Crested Ibis...

In this particular environment class, we taught the kids about species endemic to Madagascar and Sainte Luce. For a bit of fun the kids all made a paper Crested Ibis...

Attending the 2nd english class in Sainte Luce where the community learnt to count...

Attending the 2nd english class in Sainte Luce where the community learnt to count.... It was incredible to walk down the street after the first class and here people confidently say 'Hello, How are you, My name is....'

An additional project that was in very early planning stages when we arrived was World Environment Day – an event that Azafady are hosting in Sainte Luce on Sunday 5th June.

This event aims to achieve several goals:

1. To inform the local community about the work Azafady is currently doing in Sainte Luce;

2. To educate the local community about the importance of conserving the remaining rainforest and how they can help;

3. To reiterate important daily processes and demonstrate how this can be implemented into the community’s daily routine. Eg. Simple things such as how to wash hands or teach the locals how to create their own compost station…

This worked quite well as having some experience in planning events, Elissa was able to get started on scheduling, resources required, planning of logistics and allocating tasks to all the volunteers.

An event like this requires a lot of planning and assistance from all the volunteers...

An event like this requires a lot of planning and assistance from all the volunteers...

OUR LIVING QUARTERS

Now before going into detail about our accommodation, let us preface by saying ‘we were warned’ about what camp life would be like. The manual explained that we would be camping in tents, that we would collect water from a well to use for showering and that the toilets would be a latrine drop. HOWEVER one of us just thought that this was Azafady’s way of preparing us for the worst, so that on arrival we were pleasantly surprised.

The manual was entirely correct!

Camping in tents was…Fine

Dome Home...

Dome Home...

Eating rice and beans for each meal was… consistent.

Breakfast each morning was sticky rice, banana bread and fried dough... We bought sachets of porridge which we highly recommend...

Breakfast each morning was sticky rice, banana bread and fried dough... We bought sachets of porridge which we highly recommend...

Lunch and dinner was served in big pots - usually rice and beans and occasionally Spaghetti

Lunch and dinner was served in big pots - usually rice and beans and occasionally Spaghetti

The showers and toilets was…. a whole other issue.

Pete embracing the 'Bucket Shower'..

Pete embracing the 'Bucket Shower'..

Do you think there is hot water?????????????????

Do you think there is hot water?????????????????

Wow when they said bucket shower, they really meant it... oh and the water is just this colour because of the minerals in the water...

OK! When the manual said bucket shower, it really meant it... oh and the water is just this colour because of the minerals in the water...

We greatly admire those volunteers that signed up for the 10 week program and we admire even more the Coordinators/Field Research Assistants who sign a 12 month contract to do this. Yes we are aware that this is all in the name of a good cause and that we are helping people but that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy – everything.

DOWN TIME

While there was a schedule with 3 different activities allocated to each day – morning work, afternoon work and night work, there was plenty of time in between for us to walk through the 3 hamlets, visit the beaches and interact with the locals.

We visited Madame Jaqueline's home to ask if she would give the volunteers a lesson in basket weaving... Um Pete do you think you could cheer the little one up?

We visited Madame Jaqueline's home (and met all her grandchildren) to ask if she would give the volunteers a lesson in basket weaving... Um Pete do you think you could cheer the little one up?

Madame Jaqueline arrived with her 5 daughters and taught us all how to weave bracelets...

Madame Jaqueline arrived with her 5 daughters and taught us all how to weave bracelets...

We ventured out one night for beers in the local bar... we would have been happy in candlelight but the owner insisted on using his generator. Here we also tried the local spirit/cocktail - Moonshine.. Let's just say it is an aquired taste...

We ventured out one night for beers in the local bar... we would have been happy in candlelight but the owner insisted on using his generator. Here we also tried the local spirit/cocktail - Moonshine.. Let's just say it is an aquired taste...

Saturday night is Bush Party where the locals come to our campsite and entertain us with their incredible dance...

Saturday night is Bush Party where the locals come to our campsite and entertain us with their incredible dance...

We all then had to get up and give it a go...

We all then had to get up and give it a go...

Sunday is a day of rest for volunteers, so we took this wooden boat across the river to a beautiful beach...

Sunday is a day of rest for volunteers, so we took this wooden boat across the river to a beautiful beach...

Although a little overcast, the water temperature was beautiful and there were some good waves for body surfing...

Although a little overcast, the water temperature was beautiful and there were some good waves for body surfing...

After finishing our program we made our way back to Fort Dauphin. After another bumpy ride back, we made a stop at Nahampoana Reserve. A beautiful park built by French Colonists that is now almost a shelter the most well known of all Lenur species.

The Sifaka Lemurs are beautiful and have very funny personalities...

The Sifaka Lemurs are beautiful and have very funny personalities...

...Particularly when they run, they leap sideways.

...Particularly when they run, they leap sideways.

King Julian lookalikes also live at the reserve...

King Julian lookalikes also live at the reserve... The famous Ring Tailed Lemur.

This boat ride through the reserve was perfect relaxation after a bumpy ride from Sainte Luce....

This boat ride through the reserve was perfect relaxation after a bumpy ride from Sainte Luce....

After spending 10 days in the rural community of Sainte Luce we were back in Fort Dauphin. With news that Air Madagascar had delayed our flights by 12 hours, we had some time to look around Fort Dauphin, enjoy a night out with the volunteers and then the following day make our way back to Antannanarivo before flying out to Mauritius.
There are plenty of photos in our gallery of Madagascar, so enjoy…

Hot Air Ballooning, Cappadocia

Tigers in India
MADAGASCAR VOLUNTEERING
GORILLA TREKKING
Ace Way to See Photos:Click
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