This unique and innovative programme offers volunteers the opportunity to contribute on-going conservation work in the critically endangered costal forests of southeast Madagascar. It combines practical, hands-on conservation research on endangered flora and fauna – in particular lemurs, reptiles and amphibians – with community initiatives and environmental education, building the community’s understanding of the complex habitats of which they are the stewards.
Organisation You will be working for a UK registered charity and Malagasy NGO whose aim is to eradicate poverty, suffering and environmental damage in Madagascar. The organisation’s approach is one of co-operation and participation with local communities living in the southeast of the country and its work aims to alleviate the effects of poverty and to support viable, environmentally-sensitive development. The charity works for a better future for people, communities and the environments in which they live.
Project Location Set in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island and is recognised as one of the planet's top conservation priorities. Eighty per cent of the island's plant and animal species (including 71 species of lemur) are found nowhere else on earth.
Volunteers will be working with the staff of the NGO around Sainte Luce, in the Fort Dauphin regain, an area which has been substantially deforested but retains fragments of some of the most important tropical forests in the world. These fragments of littoral (coastal) forest are home to multiple endangered and endemic species of flora and fauna, which makes this area a huge conservation priority.
Project Activities Volunteers can choose from two core options in Lemur & Biodiversity Research, or Community Conservation, which can be taken individually, or combined, so your programme can be between 2 to 10 weeks long and tailored to your interests and needs. Whilst we endeavour to offer you this preference, you can expect to do elements of both modules during your time in Madagascar. You are welcome to stay for just one 2-week module, but the program has been planned so that volunteers may combine modules to stay longer and get a real overview of the holistic way this project approaches the conservation of biodiversity.
Lemur and Biodiversity Research The focus of this module is 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 collect data on many Lemur species including the collared brown lemur, woolly lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur and the brown mouse lemur. Additionally, biodiversity work involves "sweeping" the forest floor searching for reptiles and amphibians - many of which are categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Community Conservation The Community Conservation module encompasses the human dimension of conservation in the Sainte Luce region. It focuses on environmental education of the children in Ambandrika village (one of the three hamlets in Sainte Luce) with volunteers preparing and presenting environmental education lessons, as well as implementing the fuel-efficient stove project and planting and evaluating the critically endangered palm, Dypsis saintelucei.
This volunteer project seeks to minimize its impact on the environment and work in a sustainable manner which benefits the community. Wherever possible only local suppliers are used and local people are employed. In addition, group sizes, water usage and motorized transport are all kept to a minimum. Volunteers are taught some of the local dialect of Malagasy and made aware of local customs before starting work.
Accommodation You will camp in one of the most beautiful and remote sites in the Madagascar - Sainte Luce, and will wake up to deserted beaches and forests teeming with wildlife on your doorstep! Volunteers will camp for the duration of their placement and basic campsite facilities are provided but you will need to bring your own tent, especially if staying for more than 4 weeks. When in Fort Dauphin, volunteers camp at the lake-side site of Lanirano, which is fully equipped with flush toilets and showers and electricity. Laundry services are also available locally. Whilst working at the project site, in St Luce, the facilities will be more basic but there is always a latrine and private washing amenities. Water is primarily collected as rainwater and will be treated for drinking. Water for washing is available at the well, located just beside the campsite.
Food All meals are provided throughout the scheme. Meals mainly consist of rice, beans, vegetables and fruit. Fish (or eggs for vegetarians) are provided when possible. All meals are prepared by a cook who travels with the group. The best possible treated drinking water is always available.
Costs £600: First 2-week module £550: Second 2-week module £500: All further 2-week modules
Don't let the size of the required fee put you off! The project managers have a dedicated office to support volunteers, with a wealth of fundraising experience and resources including manuals, raffle tickets, posters, sponsor forms, online donation facilities, collection boxes and even a lemur suit!
The cost of the programme is essentially a donation to support the charitable work of the organisation. Funds generated by the programme support projects in Madagascar, with over 90% of all donations being spent in direct pursuit of our charitable aims and providing vital support to our ongoing projects in the areas of health and sanitation, sustainable livelihoods and conservation.
The donation covers you for all in-country travel costs (excluding flights), project costs, training, meals and plenty of safe water, use of basic campsite facilities, orientation and a dedicated team to guide you in Madagascar. It does not include flights or any pre-departure expenses, such as visa fees, travel insurance and medical expenses.
Departure Dates There are on-going start dates for all module options each month of the year. Programmes can be 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 weeks long depending on individual needs.
Likely Weather Conditions January to March – Hot and humid with rain. April to July – Drier. Hot in April then growing noticeably cooler July to September – Dry. Cooler in July then growing noticeably warmer October to December – Windy. Progressively hotter and more wet.
Sorry this is not for Children - Minimum age is 18
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This trip: Volunteer on the Madagascar Conservation Project
Overall experience: “the place and people made it a very special experience and the feeling that at the end of the day you were contributing to important projects that will benefit the local communities and wildlife was great… I would recommend [this program] to anyone who is interested in volunteering in Madagascar. I liked the small community feeling of the organisation and as a volunteer I really felt part of the team and hope to stay in touch with the great friends I have made during my stay. I’ll keep a look out for any other opportunities to visit again! Thank you.”
Support from the staff in Madagascar: “very good – they were all wonderful, patient and obliging even though they must come up against the same issues with volunteers time and again. It really felt like we could have been the first and only group of volunteers in terms of friendliness and enthusiasm!”
Highlights: “Camping in St Luce – although basic conditions, the people and the place make it a very enjoyable experience. Meeting the local people and hearing their opinions on [the NGO] and conservation. Teaching and being in the forest everyday. The wildlife!”