Nature shines in Madagascar. From the coastline of the Indian Ocean to the baobab trees, to the nearly 100 species of lemurs, this country’s uniqueness and beauty are unmatched. Welcoming people and a diverse culture only make going to Madagascar even more amazing. Despite its natural and cultural allure, however, Madagascar is a country in desperate need.
Drought has impacted more than a million Malagasy people in the south. Rivers, often the lifeblood of a village, are completely dry or so low the water barely reaches an adult’s knees. Stalled rainy seasons – rain that begins months too late and ends too soon – brings with it failed crops, malnutrition, and dwindling drinking water supplies.
In October 2017, U.S. Ambassador Robert T. Yamate redeclared a disaster in Madagascar for the fourth consecutive year because of drought.
Rainfall increased in November 2017, however, it’s a case of too little, too late. As a result of climate change, people are traveling more than four hours to water sources, like the Mandrare River, to fill plastic jugs and pails with water. Some people can’t complete the journey, so they scoop up muddy water – somewhat jokingly referred to as “chocolate water” – from potholes along the way.
And when weather emergencies do occur, such as flooding with Cyclone Enawo in March 2017, Madagascar’s poor roads make it difficult, if not impossible, to respond quickly. As a result, 100,000 people were affected, 183 were injured, and 50 died.
Still, volunteering in Madagascar is an excellent option for travelers who want a unique, meaningful trip, as the large island nation offers you a variety of impactful opportunities to get involved in the communities that welcome you. Use this article as your resource for choosing the right program!
Know Before You Go
Madagascar separated from the mainland of Africa roughly 160 million years ago. Its long isolation has resulted in entirely unique plants and animals. The island nation has attracted a wide range of peoples, making it incredibly diverse today. The first humans arrived about 2,000 years ago and were Austronesian. Arab merchants arrived around 1,000 AD, as did migrants from Africa. Madagascar continued to grow, and over time, other humans reached the island, including those from China and India. The country is a distinct blend of African and Asian cultures. Malagasy and French are the official languages of Madagascar. It’s advised to learn some Malagasy before coming, as it will be much appreciated by the local people and make your stay much smoother.
Types of Volunteering Opportunities in Madagascar
Volunteering in Madagascar is a popular choice for nature lovers and those who find the culture fascinating. The island nation faces serious challenges when it comes to poverty, hunger, environmental destruction, and access to quality education and healthcare. Fortunately, when it comes to volunteering, Madagascar has a number of options for service-minded visitors.
Conservation efforts are perhaps the most popular, with everything from beach conservation to outreach programs. With so many options for volunteering in Madagascar, you can find a program that matches your passion and skills quite easily.
A few more examples of popular volunteering projects in Madagascar include:
- Lemur conservation: Conserve the natural habitat of lemurs, an endangered species.
- Healthcare: Provide basic medical service to communities in need and increase awareness of key health issues.
- Childcare: Work with disadvantaged children at community centers, and provide them the educational and social support they need.