Posted on 10 December 2012 | No responses
Posted on 10 December 2012 | No responses
Gerenette, 12, lives in the rural village of Farafara Vatambe. Puncturing holes into an old plastic bottle, she sprinkles water over her Moringa tree – a routine she has repeated since first planting it two years ago.
Every day she delicately picks a handful of the green leaves to brew tea for herself and her mother. Gram for gram these leaves contain seven times more vitamin C than oranges and three times more calcium than milk - just two examples of the nourishing powers of Moringa oleifera.
Anosy is one of the poorest regions of Madagascar where food security is a major concern. Surviving on an insubstantial diet of cassava, one in two children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
Two years ago Azafady began working with the community of Farafara Vatambe to alleviate malnutrition by supplying Moringa oleifera seedlings, providing cultivation training and setting up a community-run tree nursery. Encouraging school children like Gerenette to participate has helped spread project messages quickly: “We don’t get the same illnesses as before, we are healthier now, and it also helps get rid of stomach ulcers.” The health benefits have quickly become noticeable for the community.
As well as using the leaves to brew tea, Gerenette’s mother also adds them to rice and cassava, and even breathes in the vapours to treat colds, headaches and fevers: “It has made my daughter healthy… and with no brothers and sisters to share her chores, it keeps her strong.”
Gerenette’s mother has attended cultivation workshops held in the village – covering how to propagate new trees from cuttings and seeds – to ensure that people have the skills to germinate their own Moringa trees in the future: “Moringa is valuable so it is important for us to be able to grow our own.” Azafady understands that self-sufficient projects can only be achieved if there is a successful transfer of responsibility to participating communities.
Promoting Moringa isn’t the only work that Azafady has carried out in Farafara Vatambe: “they have been building wells and promoting latrines here… they have also been helping farmers diversify into mixed-vegetable growing… the school at Vatambe is far away but now I can send Gerenette to the school in Farafara that Azafady built,” explains her mother.
Overlooking the lush forests of Tsitongambarika, the impoverished village of Farafara Vatambe is now one of ten rural communities benefiting from Moringa oleifera – a ‘miracle’ tree helping Gerenette and thousands of other children in Anosy stay fit and healthy.
Please donate today to support this vital work – £25 would pay for 100 Moringa seedlings to establish a community-run tree nursery. If you would like your donation to be in support of a specific project area that Azafady is running, such as community health, please provide an appropriate description in the ‘Add a message of support’ box i.e. “for community health projects” and we will allocate your donation accordingly.
Posted on 10 December 2012 | No responses
Regoro, 49, lives on the edge of Emagnevy village with his six children in a house overlooking the land he cultivates.
As a subsistence farmer, he knows that not having enough water is a big problem. He was chosen by his community to attend Azafady’s well maintenance training and is now responsible for looking after one of the two wells in his hamlet. He says, “I didn’t refuse because I wanted to be of service to my village – before we were in the dark but now Azafady has brought change here with wells and latrines.”
Regoro is kept busy because the other well in his hamlet is relatively shallow – the community hit rock when they were digging it – so it regularly dries up in the summer, forcing everyone to use the well in Regoro’s care. With so many people reliant on his well for clean drinking water, it’s vital that he keeps it working. “We really needed the maintenance training. It’s important that we have clean water to drink and cook our cassava so that we stay healthy. If we didn’t have the training we’d have to walk to the river for water which is far away and dirty.”
Maintenance is often overlooked when it comes to infrastructure projects. Something is built in a community – a well, a building, a bridge – but the people who use it lack the skills or resources to keep it operational, and years later it lies broken and unused. Then someone else comes along to build a new one, and so the cycle continues. Azafady’s maintenance training breaks this cycle by enabling communities to take ownership of their infrastructure.
Now the villagers of Emagnevy are no longer reliant on external assistance to keep their wells operational as Regoro and the other water committee members can maintain the wells themselves. As Regoro says, “It’s really important because there will be a time when Azafady won’t be here to fix our wells so if they break we’d be stuck. That’s why the training is so vital because it helps us to be able to repair the wells ourselves.”
Azafady knows that achieving long lasting and sustainable change takes time – there’s no quick fix. Maintenance trainings are run from the very start of a project, engaging the community in the construction of a well, and are repeated regularly in the months and years afterwards to ensure that villagers are confident in carrying out basic repairs. Communities are visited in the early stages of a project to ensure they’re getting the support they need, and are given Azafady’s contact details so that they can ask for extra advice if they run into difficulties later.
Regoro says, “People here in the bush don’t like to be pushed – we want to improve our own lives. Before the training when the well was broken I had to ask one of Azafady’s staff to come here and fix it. But since the training I feel very confident in the work I do – the other well in the hamlet was recently broken and this time I could just go there to fix it myself.”
By equipping villagers with the skills and resources they need to keep their life-saving infrastructure operational, Azafady is supporting Regoro and other trained committee members to take charge of securing their ongoing access to clean drinking water.
Please donate today to support Azafady’s vital work with a general donation – £5 could pay for the basic tools needed to maintain a well pump and thereby ensure the long-term sustainability of a community’s access to clean drinking water.
If you would like your donation to be in support of a specific project area that Azafady is running, such as community health and sanitation, please provide an appropriate description in the ‘Add a message of support’ box i.e. “for community health and sanitation projects” and we will allocate your donation accordingly.
Posted on 10 December 2012 | No responses
A gaggle of Club Atsatsaky kids line up outside the dusty classroom in Sainte Luce for their weekly meeting. The children have named their conservation club after the critically endangered Phelsuma antanosy gecko which is endemic to the region. Instead of firing rocks at the gecko with their makeshift slingshots, the children now sing for its protection.
The Azafady Conservation Programme (ACP) set up and helps run this conservation club with children of Sainte Luce – a generation that will inherit one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world; Madagascar’s littoral forest. Scattered along the island’s southeastern sandy coastal plains, Sainte Luce is home to one of the country’s three remaining stands of littoral forest harbouring staggering biodiversity.
Babaly, a local forest guide and member of the community’s forest protection committee, helps run the club’s weekly sessions: “Since Azafady have come to Sainte Luce and made us aware of how important biodiversity is and the potential our forests hold for us, we no longer hunt the animals, we protect them.”
In March this year the ACP organised a field trip to Nahampoana lemur reserve for Club Atsatsaky. None of the 100 members who went along had been to the park before, let alone seen the ring-tailed lemurs, sifakas and bamboo lemurs that are not found in Sainte Luce. The visit fuelled their interest in environmental issues while making them more aware of just how special the biodiversity within their own community is.
Madame Jacqueline, 51, is a prominent figure in Sainte Luce and mother of eleven. Several of her children are members of the conservation club and she greatly appreciates the impact that this group is having on the younger generation in the village: “Education at Club Atastaky is well-rounded – it teaches our children the importance of respecting the natural environment.”
In June this year a big celebration was held in Sainte Luce to mark World Environment Day. Club Atsatsaky children played in important role; leading a colourful parade through the hamlets, performing a play about ecosystem services, planting 100 trees around the festival site, and organising an exhibition of their conservation-themed artwork to share with the community.
Not only does the ACP focus on environmental education and awareness raising within Sainte Luce, it also helps villagers find practical solutions that support local biodiversity conservation efforts. Fuel-efficient stoves are one such community initiative, reducing firewood consumption by up to 75%, thus relieving pressure on forest resources.
Madame Jacqueline has two improved stoves and explains that there are multiple benefits to her family: “The new stoves help contain the flames so I’m no longer scared about fire risks in my house, and our health has improved as we inhale less smoke with this design and spend far less time collecting firewood each day.”
Amidst all the excitement and screaming answers, the kids at Club Atsatsaky are beginning to truly understand how important the littoral forest is to their livelihoods and for the future of Sainte Luce. Songs about conserving the forest gently echo out from households and colourful drawings of lemurs and chamaeleons line the walls of the village shop. Inspired to preserve their natural heritage, these future community leaders will play their part in stemming the tide of environmental degradation in southeast Madagascar.
Please donate today to support Azafady’s vital work with a general donation – £10 could pay for a selection of teaching resources including paper and pens to help the Club Atsatsaky children learn about the unique biodiversity found in Sainte Luce.
If you would like your donation to be in support of a specific project area that Azafady is running, such as environmental education, please provide an appropriate description in the ‘Add a message of support’ box i.e. “for environmental education projects” and we will allocate your donation accordingly.
Posted on 10 December 2012 | No responses
Malala, 20, was a pregnant single mother when Hoby, one of Azafady’s research assistants, started regularly visiting her as she progressed through pregnancy and birth. Malala is one of twenty-five women who was followed as part of Azafady’s maternal and child health research project with the aim of better understanding the health issues affecting pregnant women, mothers and young children in Fort Dauphin.
The Anosy region suffers some of the highest levels of maternal and child mortality in Madagascar, with only 36% of births being assisted by a skilled attendant (doctor or nurse), and 55% of mothers receiving no care after giving birth. Lack of access to information, poor quality health services and common diseases including malaria heavily impact on women and children’s health.
Malala, like many local women, had her first child at a young age. Hoby followed Malala throughout her second pregnancy and found that her antenatal consultations at the public health centre were characterised by a worryingly inconsistent delivery of services and medicines. She wasn’t given a syphilis test (vital in a town like Fort Dauphin where local doctors estimate that at least 40% of women are living with a STI) and only occasionally received important nutritional supplements such as iron tablets.
Women in Anosy tend not to openly discuss their pregnancy with anyone other than close female family due to a fear that jealous people could use such information to harm them. This, combined with a general lack of information giving by health professionals and low education levels, creates a very difficult situation for pregnant women as they lack the knowledge necessary to keep themselves healthy.
Another issue is the relatively high cost of delivering in a facility: Malala explained to Hoby, “I would prefer to give birth at the public hospital because in the worst case if there were any complications then the hospital is the best place to be,” but lack of state funding and proper accountability means that services are not freely available and staff can be uncooperative. For this reason Malala ended up giving birth at home with a private midwife, away from the moderate safety net offered by an ill-equipped hospital.
Once her baby was born, Malala discarded her first batch of colostrum (high protein breast milk which contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease) and fed her baby water, coffee and herbal liquids in accordance with local norms and her family’s advice: “The old people don’t like it if you don’t give water to your baby”.
Malala understands that she is very lucky that both her and her baby are alive and healthy. Like most women in the community, she knows others who have been less fortunate: her aunt died from a postpartum haemorrhage on the way home from hospital and the newborn baby passed away just a few hours later.
Azafady recently conducted a survey with over 375 women of reproductive age in Fort Dauphin, finding that 25% of mothers had at least one child who had died before reaching their fifth birthday. This is just the beginning for Malala as her newborn baby will face various health risks over the coming years – from diarrhoeal illnesses and malaria to acute respiratory infections and malnutrition. Malala’s own health risks will also surely multiply during future pregnancies given prevailing lack of birth spacing, high rates of miscarriage and complications arising from untreated STIs.
Thanks to women like Malala who are sharing their lives with Azafady, the research team has gained an in-depth understanding of the complex factors affecting maternal and child health within Fort Dauphin. They are sharing this vital information with local stakeholders and have established a coordination platform to improve maternal and child health. Azafady has also developed a series of targeted intervention projects that will provide women with the life-saving information they need to protect their and their children’s health – from family planning and what to expect at antenatal consultations through to birth preparedness and good breast feeding practices.
Please donate today to support Azafady’s vital work with a general donation – £5 could pay for a comprehensive information pack including pictorial flashcards that would help a woman in Fort Dauphin to make informed choices about her health practices.
If you would like your donation to be in support of a specific project area that Azafady is running, such as community health, please provide an appropriate description in the ‘Add a message of support’ box i.e. “for community health projects” and we will allocate your donation accordingly.
Posted on 5 December 2012 | No responses
While visiting the remote and beautiful hamlet of Tsihalanga to work at the school, we October 2012 Pioneers had the opportunity to get a deeper insight into people’s lives in the bush. For a change from our construction work and painting, we surveyed households to identify local needs and explore possible projects that Azafady could deliver in the future.
Working with our guides as translators we were welcomed into people’s homes, or joined them on a woven mat under a shady tree, and asked them about their household, education, livelihoods, health, access to food, water and sanitation and their environment. The community was keen to talk to us and shared their time, and often their food; offering lychees, jackfruit or cassava for a snack. Often the whole family would gather, and the neighbours too, with everyone contributing their views. We spoke to 54 households, representing 375 people.
Priorities included access to seeds for planting different crops and better access to health care when people are sick. Ideas like growing moringa, a very nutritious plant, and learning how to build latrines and efficient cooking stoves were greeted with enthusiasm. Hopefully, the data we gathered will help build the case to deliver beneficial projects. Tsihalanga’s remote location makes it a beautiful place to visit, but is also the source of hardship for the people who live there, even though they face it with such good humour. As almost complete strangers, we were incredibly lucky to see the people’s lives and homes at such close range.
Posted on 4 December 2012 | No responses
I was told by the ex-Chef Cartier in Tsihalagna that the meaning of the word Tsihalagna is related more to a feeling or concept. Tsihalagna is a place that was made to define the feeling of being welcomed. That if you are there, even for just a few moments of one day, you are then part of Tsihalagna and will always be so even if you leave. The community there certainly lives up to the word, which made our work on the school even more rewarding.
We arrived in Tsihalagna, a more remote hamlet tucked in the valley of the Southeast, on the 2nd of November via camion. Unfortunately, the bridge which would normally carry us into the community was washed out and we had to stop about an hour’s walk from the campground. On arrival, almost every member of the Tsihalagna community arrived to help us carry our things the rest of the way to camp. Once there, the adults greeted us kindly and the children followed us from place to place, taking in their new visitors and at times helping us carry heavy loads from here to there—always giving, smiling and contributing.
While there we were able to replace the rotted wooden board of the walls around the school, repaint the outside and inside of the school, and build out the Veranda in order to preserve the structure and provide a place for the students to spend time during and after school. Members of the community arrived to help us with the work throughout the day. Taking time out of their own endeavors to help us with sawing and concrete mixing and provide the sand and rock necessary to build out the veranda, and at time offering us fresh fruit from their own farms. It was clear that the school was not only much needed, but that the space itself provided an important and proud landmark for the community.
It was through this collaboration that we began to feel like part of thecommunity as opposed to visitors. Of the sites I have visited with Azafady so far, I felt the most at home in Tsihalagna. It was a great experience to be able to work alongside the people there, to learn the faces and names of adults and children and offer friendly hellos as we walked to and from the worksite. Tsihalagna lived up to its name and I’m so honored that I am in some small way part of their community.
Posted on 3 December 2012 | No responses
I was stood at the front of the classroom, 50 faces looking at me waiting to be taught. All I had in my ‘teacher’s arsenal’ was a big black board (half of which was too high for me to reach!) and a few pieces of chalk. Ready? GO!
Teaching in Fort Dauphin’s Lycee is so different from any teaching I have done before. All my previous classrooms have been busting with colours and ‘stuff’ – revision posters on the walls, shelves full of interactive games, noticeboards of students’ work… My classroom here couldn’t be more different - bare walls and minimal materials. Learning here takes place through sheer determination and dedication from the students. Education is certainly not taken for granted. Over the years many students in my classes would have seen their friends forced to leave school for a variety of reasons, but sadly most often because of poverty. It is not unusual for children to leave education and enter into work at a very young age. It is estimated that in some rural areas up to 30% of children are involved in economic activities, while 1 in 10 children aged 5 -10 have a job (UNICEF 2011).
Talking to some of the students in my classes, I felt like I started to get a sense of what getting an education means to them. School is not just something that you are forced to do; it is something that you want to do. In the Anosy region, where Fort Dauphin is located, 48% of children aged 7-16 have never been to school, and 71% of young people aged 17-22 have less than 4 years of schooling (GMR-UNESCO 2012). The students in my class are the minority. I was quite taken-aback by the desire many of them have to learn.
One of the main differences I noticed between education in the UK and Madagascar was the teaching method used. At home, emphasis is often placed on problem-solving; students are encouraged to speak up and really ‘get involved’ in the lessons. Here in Madagascar, that is not the case, nor is it always possible when you have a class of 60 or 70 or 80 students, and not many resources. Lessons are often more like lectures, where the teacher tells them information that they then write down and try and remember. This is something I will have to take into consideration and will be able to experiment with when planning my lessons. It will be an interesting challenge to attempt to merge both teaching styles to come up with something quite new. Just last week there was talk in the Azafady office about schools and education in Madagascar, and why exercise books here are referred to as ‘copy books’. It then dawned on us, it’s because they’re used for copying. Students copy information from the blackboard into their books.
I am really excited to be here and to be teaching in the Lycee this year. I know it’s not always going to be easy and that I am going to have to alter my, often quite resource-heavy, teaching methods into something more suitable for here, but I’m definitely up for a bit of a challenge! I think it is going to be incredibly rewarding to teach students who really want to learn, knowing that my time here will really make a difference.
Posted on 7 November 2012 | No responses
Tuesday 23rd October was an exciting day for Azafady’s Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) team as they hosted their first multi-stakeholder site visit. The visit had been requested by UNICEF who were keen to learn how Azafady had achieved such success in an area where so many were still struggling. In total, twenty eight visitors from eight organisations – including UNICEF, the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and the Regional Ministry of Water – made the bumpy journey out to the village of Beandry where Azafady has been running the innovative CLTS approach for the last year, with the hope that they could learn from Azafady and take this learning back to their own teams.
The chef fokontany (village leader) welcomed the visitors and launched into a detailed account of the CLTS process and the effects it has had on his community. He explained how Azafady’s CLTS agents had prompted the community to examine the extent of open defecation and faecal-oral disease transmission in the village, and the way the process had ignited a sense of disgust and shame amongst them as they collectively realised that, with so many flies around, as long as they continued to defecate in the open they were quite literally ingesting one another’s tai (shit). Despite the enormity of this realisation, he described his amazement at the way the community, who are usually extremely resistant to change, altered life-long and culturally rooted behaviours almost overnight to address the problems they had identified with Azafady’s help. For many Malagasy, the concept of storing something as dirty as tai in a hole close to your house is totally alien and far more dangerous than defecating in the open where the smell, and the diseases that are thought to be caused by it, disperses much more easily. Yet, as a result of CLTS, the people of Beandry have built 96 latrines in the last year which are now being used by over 1,000 people – 100% of the population. And all this in a community that for many years refused to have a primary school because it was too big a change…
It was fantastic to see the chef fokontany speak enthusiastically and answer questions confidently on a subject that a matter of months ago was so taboo in Beandry it was hardly talked about, let alone acted on. The visitors asked a number of pertinent questions about the CLTS process and were particularly interested in how they could be applied to the areas they work in; some had travelled over three hours from Androy, the region immediately west of Anosy (where Azafady works), and were keen to see how CLTS might work in the local context there.
After hearing the process described, everyone was excited to see the results and split into groups to visit the latrines that have been built and the open defecation sites that have been cleared since Azafady began the CLTS process almost a year ago. Walking through the village, it was noticeably cleaner than on any previous visit and it was easy to believe the chef fokontany’s claim that old open defecation sites beneath the coffee trees are now clean enough to have a picnic in. It turns out that clearing these sites has had another unexpected benefit: the community’s coffee and mandarin harvests – two important sources of local income – have increased significantly now that the area beneath the trees is clean and people can collect the produce more easily!
Whilst two groups of visitors were taken on a tour of the community’s latrines, a third group had the opportunity to talk to women from the village about the CLTS process and what it meant to them. Women are often particularly vulnerable to the dangers of open defecation as many wait until dark to defecate in order to seek somewhere private to go; this can cause health problems in terms of repeated delays to the body’s need to defecate, as well as through the increased security risk as women leave the home after dark in search of isolated, private areas. As well as being thankful for a cleaner environment to harvest the coffee and fruit in, all the women said that they appreciated the privacy, convenience and safety that their new latrines afford them. They have noticed a marked improvement in the general health of the community since the CLTS project, and in particular of the village’s children, who they said were healthier than they used to be, with a decreased incidence of illness and death noticeable even within this short period of time. With as many as 4 in 10 children in the Region dying before their fifth birthday from diarrhoea and other easily preventable diseases, this is an incredible testimony to the power this project has to transform lives.
It is obvious that the people of Beandry are immensely proud of their transformation over the last year and rightly so: on 9th November 2012 they will be celebrating their achievement in becoming the first totally Open Defecation Free (ODF) fokontany in the whole of Mahatalaky Rural Commune. The Mayor of Mahatalaky, who participated in the visit, was full of praise for the community and urged them to lead the rest of Mahatalaky in becoming Anosy Region’s first Open Defecation Free Commune. He also acknowledged Azafady’s role in facilitating the CLTS process in Beandry and helping them to reach this stage, and thanked them for their long-term support to both Beandry and the rest of the commune. It was touching to hear him recount the projects Azafady has implemented in the area over the last decade – which include livelihoods, community health, water and sanitation, and education initiatives – and to hear him describe Azafady’s relationship with the people of Mahatalaky as having become “beyond just a partnership”.
Azafady are incredibly excited to be expanding its CLTS work to more communities across the region and by the prospect of potential collaborations with the organisations who participated in this visit so watch this space for further updates…
MORE FROM OUR CLTS WORK:
Posted on 10 October 2012 | No responses
English Teaching Coordinator,
Lucia Manville, arrives in Fort Dauphin
This time last month I was on a countdown – ‘10 days until Madagascar, 9 days until Madagascar…’. The days were ticking away faster and faster, whilst I frantically tried to get everything ready on time. When I finally arrived in Fort Dauphin I was told that time does a funny thing over here, and I would soon be caught in the Madagascar bubble where the sun shines and time moves more slowly. Well, I think I can say that I too have been caught in that bubble: The two and half weeks I have been here feel so much longer.
As my airplane flew into Fort Dauphin airport, and I got a first look of my new home, I was struck at just how green and incredibly beautiful the place was. The colours were amazing. The sky was just so blue, the mountains in the distance so green, the ocean a deep indigo, and this is where I would be living! I couldn’t wait for my life in Fort Dauphin to begin.
The first few days were a blur of new sounds, new smells and new words. My first weekend was spent on a white sandy beach having a BBQ in the sunshine, just a 10 minute walk from my house. I had to stop and pinch myself several times that weekend just to check that I was really there. Cold, grey London felt a long way away…
Over the next few days, as I watched my new colleagues and friends navigate their way around the town with ease, chatting away in Malagasy, I became eager to start learning Malagasy and to orientate myself with the town. I can’t wait for the day (in the very near future I hope!) when I too will be able to walk down the road and understand and respond to all the smiling faces who call out to me as I pass by.
Life in Fort Dauphin is so different from everything that I am used to back home, and even though I’ve not been here long it’s already starting to feel familiar. It seems that living here you can’t help but absorb the friendliness that’s all around you, and to relax into your new surroundings easily. Even after only one language lesson I’ve noticed that I’m already using the little Malagasy I know, and managed to buy mangoes in the market all by myself this morning - A very proud moment for me!
I’m really excited to be working with Azafady on Project Mampianatra. Over the next year I will be responsible for coordinating the project as well as teaching baccalaureate students in the Lycee, C.E.G middle school teachers and ONG Azafdy staff.
It seems as if I’ve arrived just at the right time. The summer holidays are now over and it’s back to school. I always love this time of year as, whatever country you’re in, the first week back is always exciting and full of enthusiasm. This morning Kamila (the long-term English teacher) and I went to the Lycee to meet the students. I don’t think either of us were quite prepared for the great cheer from the crowd of students as the Proviseur introduced us, and then the loud sigh when some of them realised that they wouldn’t be in our classes.
These last few weeks have been an amazing introduction to my new life in Fort Dauphin. I am really keen to get working on Project Mampianatra and I’m excited about all the new people I will meet and all the new places I will go. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very busy, but very fun year…
If you are interested in teaching English in Fort Dauphin and volunteering with Project Mampianatra, please get in contact with Lucia, or for general information on volunteering with Azafady, please contact Joe.