I have recently come back from an incredible couple of weeks in Madagascar. It's a land full of contrasts with unique wildlife and beautiful landscape, but it's also home to some of the poorest people in the world.
During my time there I visited Project Lanirano run by Azafady on behalf of the Innocent Foundation. Azafady are a small NGO based in the south east of Madagascar and they do some fantastic work to alleviate poverty in the area and create more sustainable livelihoods for the local people.
Project Lanirano is an initiative that has two main aspects: an urban side, and a rural side. The urban element of the project assists women in making their small businesses more profitable, and the rural side teaches farmers new agricultural methods.
I think the best way to tell the story of my visit is to talk you through some good ol' pics:
Here are some women receiving small business training. Many of the group were illiterate before they started so their progression has been immense.
I met a number of women who had already benefited from the small grants for their business. They told me their stories and it was incredible to hear how such a small amount of money can have such an enormous impact on their lives. The lady on the right gave me a zebu statue as a gift, which I clearly seem happy about but not sure she was quite so pleased by the look on her face.
This woman told me that because of the business grant she was now able to afford to feed her family 3 meals-a-day.
I spent the afternoon looking at a flash spreadsheet that held some frightening data about the women's income & expenditure. The average member of the group is living on 4p per day.
This is me and Latena (Head of Sustainable Livelihoods for Azafady), just before we embarked on a bumpy mission out to the bush. Despite my smile I was feeling rather ill, having been up all night being sick. Not ideal.
This didn't deter me from visiting the rural side of the project where I watched a lesson in how to compost.
The locals have also started to grow their vegetable patch to get more variety in their diet.
After chatting to some of the locals about the new methods, my illness had finally caught up with me and I needed to go back to the Jeep to crash out.
The work Azafady are doing is making a huge impact on people's lives in Madagascar. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see their efforts first-hand.
I recommend checking out their range of volunteering programs, including the community conservation I undertook prior to visiting the foundation project.
I would also like to take the opportunity to say a massive thanks to Samm & Latena and everyone at Azafady - you were amazing.
P.S I couldn't write a blog about Madagascar without including some pictures of Lemurs. So I bid you farewell with a few new friends of mine.
And this happy chap.