Rita, Jem and I had a very fun morning visiting the local village school, meeting the kids and their teacher and pacing out where the new school will be built.
Befasy village school has very basic facilities with mixed age groups in one class. Some of the kids sitting with their notebooks & pencils on the floor. The upside, the kids were very polite, the local teacher seemed to provide a good level of education despite the lack of facility. The school caters for 100 children with 10 teachers when compared to many European schools is an enviable student teacher ratio.
We have given much thought to the Madagascar Surf Lodges impact on the Befasy village community. Begging is a problem in many of the main tourist areas of Madagascar. With a national wage for 50% of the population falling under €1 per annum, money is a real issue and in a small self sustaining fishing community a potential destabilising factor. Most of the local village economy is based around goods or labour exchange. With larger scale community projects the whole village contributes towards the effort. The giving of “gifts” with good intention can actually create many problems.
The local fishing pirogues (boats) are designed and built traditionally using wooden paddles and stitched recycled sail material. The children play in the shore break with hand made toy pirogues, sailing them during the afternoon onshores. The young men seem to have the smaller pirogues and search inshore with diving masks scanning the lagoon bed for octopus or lobster. Medium sized pirogues work in teams driving & surrounding schools of fish into a large net. The largest pirogues fish further offshore into the Mozambique channel with line and hook for bigger pelagic species.
There is a natural harmony where man & wind powered crafts take just enough fish for the survival of the village but not too much to affect fish stocks. What would happen to this balance if one or two of the fishing families purchased an outboard engine and caught more fish and charged the community to buy fish from them? My thoughts, it would lead to greater inequality, force the community into a monetary system and more unfortunate ways of securing an “income”.
So how best to help the community? We donated an outboard to the village supply boat so freshwater can be delivered more easily and patients can be transported to the neighbouring village medic faster. Construction of a new school and in addition to the national curriculum of teaching French Rita will teach English. I will teach the kids some touch rugby!
Medical supplies is an important asset to a rural community such as this. The community seems very healthy in comparison to the people living in squalid inner city districts & major tourist towns where plagues run through the population as in mediaeval Europe. The isolation and the healthy seafood diet of our local community saves us from risk of disease.
We ask all our guests to not give any gifts, tips or money to the local people. We aim to sustain the village harmony and reduce our impact. If you feel like you want to help the local community we have a collection box that will contribute to local community projects such as medicine, emergency evacuation, school equipment and in the future an internet connection and computer station for the new school build.
We invite donations to our community projects via PayPal by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org describing your donation as “Madagascar Surf Lodge Community Projects”.
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