I realise that this is a Q&A forum so this doesn’t necessarily fit here but I wanted to give a little bit of advice to anyone thinking of volunteering in Madagascar. Azafady is a sustainable development and conservation NGO based in south-east Madagascar and volunteering with them is a great way to experience the uniquely beautiful country.
Madagascar has one of the world’s most species-rich environments. 8 out of every 10 species in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world. Azafady works in partnership with local communities to alleviate poverty and support environmental conservation. With 12 years experience in the region, the Azafady volunteer projects are sensitively built around what are directly expressed to be the most pressing needs of marginalised communities. They have developed strong relationships with the local population, maximising their participation in all stages of project development so the benefits are long-term.
They won the award of “Best Volunteering Organisation” in the 2007 Responsible Travel Awards and you can see why. Throughout the planning of your trip and before departure, you will receive great communication and total openness about finances, sustainability of the projects etc. Azafady creates the perfect environment for their volunteers to experience the reality of life in the poorest area of the country while maintaining safety and fun. The staff are extremely energetic, passionate, helpful, and generous. They ensure that the volunteer schemes are diverse so things never become repetitive and everyone gets the chance to show their own strengths making you feel that your work is really valued.
Volunteers on Azafady’s Pioneer programme work on a range of projects depending on local needs at the time. Typical projects include building schools in rural villages, constructing wells to improve access to clean drinking water, teaching local children crucial health education, and planting trees and building fuel-efficient stoves to help combat deforestation.
Volunteers on Azafady’s Conservation programme focus on lemur and biodiversity research, to investigate the impact of forest fragmentation on lemur, reptile and amphibian populations by collecting data in the littoral (coastal) forests in Sainte Luce. Volunteers may choose to get involved in more of the community conservation side of things which focuses on environmental education with the children in Ambandrika village combined with the implementation of the fuel-efficient stove project and the planting and evaluation of the critically endangered palm, Dypsis saintlucei.
For Azafady’s short-term volunteers, there is work on community projects such as building schools or building wells and latrines in rural villages. You may get involved in digging a schools foundations and the construction of the walls, all the way through to painting the classrooms and building the classroom furniture. Or you may work on health and sanitation projects building wells and latrines in areas with poor sanitation, increasing access to safe drinking water and educating about the importance of hygiene.
Madagascar is a very poor country where sadly the government do very little for its vulnerable people and the threatened environment. It’s a wonderful thing to witness real changes and differences being made to peoples’ lives. Nothing glitzy, just a hands-on, genuine and worthwhile cause.