Salama everyone !
Since my last update, we were here in town for a bit longer than expected due to us coming back a bit earlier from Mahialambo.
While we were in town that week we still did some work which was basically packing soil into seedling containers for Azafady to grow new seedlings and eventually new trees (there is a big reforestation programme here due to the deforestation caused by families cutting down trees for wood for their fires to cook with… which then links to the charity's 'efficient stove building' projects!).
We then headed off for our next project three Saturdays ago to a place called St Luce which is further up the coastal 'road' from where we were on the first project. It is mainly where the conservation programme is based and we stayed there for the weekend and cleared out a new campsite for us when we returned after our project in 'S17'.
On the Monday, we packed up again and headed to 'S17' which is a really remote area of protected land which is only accessible by pirogue (a boat made from a hollowed out tree trunk) and is set behind forest and the ocean. After a beautiful journey across a lake, then a winding river through mangroves, we arrived at the campsite. The aim of the project here was to replant 3000 'Dipsus' seedlings-the species we were planting is extremely rare and literally a handful of actual trees left in existence.
There was no village life, no shop of any sort and just a 'longhouse' with a roof and a floor for our 'social' and eating area (with just mats to sit on) - pretty basic! The first couple of days were really good and we got a lot done but then the bad weather came and there were a few days when we couldn't work full days so sitting in our tents, playing cards or reading were the only forms of entertainment. On the Friday of that week, I asked to go back to help in the office because, as I am sure most of you know, I am not good at sitting around doing nothing! This was all approved so I headed back with Claude, one of our guides, to town.
This journey consisted of the pirogue ride across the lake, a 12K 'hike' to the next main village and then waiting for any form of vehicle to take us back to town. This was in the form of a truck carrying some sort of leaf used in medicines and I sat on my rucksack on the back of the truck amongst the leaves! We picked up 3 children and the obligatory chicken along the way and arrived into town later that day.
That weekend was ok and I met up with some people who work for Azafady, although the weather was horrendous on the Sunday. I then reported into work and did some bits and bobs around the office for a couple of days and then the Wednesday of that week, I went in the 4x4 back to St Luce to stay with the conservation group for a couple of days until my group came back from S17.
I had a brilliant couple of days going out into the forests and on two occasions I saw real life, wild lemurs! I saw a 'Woolly Lemur' in the morning and that afternoon, a 'Brown Lemur' - sure they have more technical names but this is what I was told! We also did some forest floor 'sweeping' to analyse what is going on in certain habitats and we were predominantly looking for frogs. We saw lots of tiny ones and when I upload my pics when I am back, it will be clear just how tiny they are!
On the Thursday, my group arrived from S17 back to St Luce and were all a bit jaded from nearly two weeks in remotesville but it was good to see them all and catch up. Then on the Friday morning, we all packed up yet again and got the crazy big bus back along the crazy bumpy road to Fort Dauphin for our week 'off' until the next project.
This week has been a mixture of time off and work- work was more soil packing and we have also been making cement 'Sandplats' for families who have signed up to Azafady's latrine project here in town. Sandplats are the cement circle you stand on while using the latrine (as some families just have a hole in their back yard or nothing at all and use the beach or a lakeside area as a defecation site).
We had an amazing BBQ on the beach on Sunday night with fresh prawns and fish so we are taking full advantage of our beach location here!
… Which brings me up to this week. It has all been a bit up in the air what our next project will be and where it is because the planned programme has been shelved due to the risk of the Zebu bandits being in the area where we were supposed to be next. After much hear-say and 'you will be told tomorrow' etc, we are heading back to St Luce again tomorrow for just over two weeks to build a longhouse in the new campsite for volunteers and also help with a stove building project.
Although the longhouse isn't directly helping the community, it needs to be built for the next group of volunteers and I guess is all helping indirectly. It will be great to build some stoves also as the benefit it has on families' lives is huge as the need for wood is dramatically reduced with a more efficient stove to cook on.
So, my time here is nearly done. We have been saying a lot of goodbyes as people are leaving and our group is getting smaller but it is quite nice to get to know people a little better.
I should be back in town on the 5th or 6th September and then I am trying to decide how to spend my final few days. I will try to briefly update this when I am back to update how St Luce went!
Hope everyone is well and I would appreciate it if you could reserve sunshine in London for around the 11th September!