The local Organisation, Coopération MarGas pour le Développement Madagasikara (CMGDM)

1. The General Objective of CMGDM:

The reduction of poverty and the development of rural communities in the region Atsinanana and the town Toamasina, in East Madagascar and at the same time contribute to the preservation of the culture and the unrivalled nature of this country.

2. The Philosophy of CMGDM – tools to fight poverty

The main philosophy of the non-profit institution CMGDM is that it is possible to reduce the poverty of man – be it in the countryside or in the city – and stimulate the development for a better live in a sustainable way, only if one succeeds to involve the people concerned whose interest it is to leave behind their poverty. Once they realise their own forces, capacities and possibilities, it is necessary to provide them with the means to improve their lives.

This principle regards a multilateral approach:
a. To use the entire potential of the people as they always can do more than they ever imagined;
b. To strengthen the awareness of the people of what they can achieve, also with respect to the authorities, be it local or other;
c. To use the initiatives of the population and encourage them to do all what is necessary to achieve their goals, and at the same time provide them with the means they lack.

3. The Method of CMGDM – participate and share

CMGDM uses a participative method: the organisation only gets into action after the basis has organised themselves in a democratically functioning structure, including equal participation of women and men. They take the initiative and, subsequently, agree to contribute with the means at their disposal. The contribution of CMGDM is limited to what the applicants cannot achieve, be it with respect to equipment or professional expertise, education/training or consciousness-raising. For the same reason CMGDM seeks to collaborate with local organisations and institutions, state or non-state, to make a maximal use of their knowledge, contacts, and influence.

4. The Strategy of CMGDM – eco-tourism as leverage

As said, the nature of Madagascar is unrivalled and one of the main touristic attractions of the country. It works two ways: ecotourism contributes to the structural development of the communities and it helps to preserve nature. Tourism in the Atsinanana region is underdeveloped compared to other parts of the country. But the region has an enormous potential with its virgin rainforest, its diversity of animals and plants, its overwhelming impression of the jungle with enormous trees, plants with medical uses, waterfalls, lemurs, chameleons, the Pangalanes canal, and etcetera. And there are also many interesting sights from a cultural or historic point of view. To attract tourists by ecotourism is of economic interest to the entire region.

So far, tourism in this region has been lagging behind compared to other parts of Madagascar, especially regarding tourists from abroad. The regional tourism office works hard to promote the region, but under the present political circumstances progress is slow.

The beaches and hotels in the region are popular with the Malagasy from the capital and other parts of the country, but except for beach pleasure there are few other possibilities presently being exploited.

Still, the region does have much potential. There are several national nature reserves, including three of the four marine parks of Madagascar. The Pangalanes Canal – an intricate web of rivers, canals and lakes with a total length of 300 km – could draw many more visitors than it does at present. The great variety of cultures and traditions in the province offer many important and interesting possibilities for those keen to know more about the development of Mankind. There are historic sites that could be more than so far be of interest to Malagasy who want to know more about their history.

5. The Approach of CMGDM

(i) In general
Although much of CMGDM’s work is in the countryside, CMGDM is based in town, because a centre in the main town of the region is essential for its work and sustainability of this. The Centre has several purposes including the development of certain target groups in town as will be explained below.

Thus CMGDM is a non-profit institution but does have some profit making activities (the bar, the renting out of meeting rooms, the organisation of tourist tours and the bungalows at the Centre in town) to ensure the continued existence of the project without donor help.

The future aim is that profits from its ’commercial’ activities compensate the ‘charity’ activities, as to assure a sound long term financing. The balance sheet shows this equilibrium between earnings and expenses, as this also has to be justified towards the donors.

(ii) The villages:

(a) The introduction of alternative and more durable agricultural practices will give higher yields and thus a higher income; a surplus will be produced to be sold at the market. Thus the villagers will be self-supporting with respect to their daily food and will earn some money to buy those things they cannot produce themselves.
The alternative agricultural practices will also put an end to the slash-and-burn (tavy) practices, and that helps to preserve the forests. And as the average income will go up, their will no longer be a need to log the trees and hunt the animals in the forests.

(b) Ecotourism provides the villages with a new source of income; and it gives them the opportunity to develop in a sustainable way, by organising themselves, by training and by investments. The facilities necessary to receive tourists also improve the health situation of the villagers: safe drinking water and hygienic facilities are essential for the tourists, but at the same time serve the needs of the villagers; the training in hotel and catering industry includes consciousness-raising with respect to hygiene and food, and avoiding undesirable liaisons (child exploitation; AIDS – which is not as omnipresent as on the African continent, and awareness raising will help to keep it that way – and other STDs); which also increases their knowledge of staying healthy and prevent illnesses.
The solar energy for hot water and panels for electricity for light and devices the tourists may have (camera, mobile phone, electric razor, and etcetera) can also be used for the health clinic and the school (evening courses). All these experiences contribute to the empowerment of the villagers and a better prospective with regard to public health.

(c) The development of the villages will stop the young generation from leaving for the big city. Thus problems may be prevented both in the villages (no youth, no future) and in the cities (unemployment, illnesses and diseases, loafing about, and criminality).

(d) Ecotourism and richer harvests will help the economy of the entire country, and reinforces the position of the participating villagers towards the authorities.

(iii) The town
Centre Lambahoany, headquarters of CMGDM, has several functions:

(a) For tourists: tourists are welcomed and they receive information about the touristic sights in the country and the region. Internet access will be realised. A small library with books, brochures, audiovisual information on Madagascar and the region Atsinanana is already in place. The information is available in different languages.

And above all, there is specific information on the villages CMGDM co-operates with, stimulating to pay these and the forests around them a visit. When the tourists want to visit such a village a tour is organised to meet their demands. The bungalows at Centre Lambahoany are available to spend the night.

(b) For the villagers: the centre is a training centre, where the villagers attend classes (hotel and catering, hygiene, management, civics, English, etcetera). Also meetings and seminars take place here. Representatives of different villages can thus exchange experiences, opinions and ideas.
Furthermore the centre offers the opportunity to the villagers to sell their agricultural products and their arts and crafts products.

(c) For the town: a socio-cultural, musical and educational centre. The talented of the town can show their abilities here. A stage is available. The educational centre accommodates the English Club, where people can practise their English. A small English library is at their disposal, and every now and then English films are on screen. Internet access gives people the possibility to be well-informed, and that contributes to their consciousness raising with respect to their situation. Moreover a qualified teacher is attached to the Centre to teach meditation for well-being, self defence for women and girls, and the Indonesian Martial Art Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen. Everything contributes to a better future for the participants, which will contribute to the development of the region. The different rooms can de rented out for classes, meetings, seminars, and parties, which reinforces the economic exploitation of the Centre.

(d) The Centre guarantees employment for several women and men; the commercial activities of the centre in town (bungalows, bar, renting out rooms) are a guarantee for a continued existence.

6. The Conditions of CMGDM for Participation/ Ownership/ Sharing

(i) The villages
Co-operation with shared responsibilities; all parties contribute their best for the agreed goal, by manpower, materials, tools, or knowledge. The long term and short term goals are decided upon in a democratic fashion by both parties concerned (villagers and CMGDM); and both parties work together to realise these goals. Thus, the villagers familiarize themselves with the project, get accustomed to democratic procedures (including gender equality) and look upon it as their project as they will own the project and will be responsible for the results.

Most of the responsibilities lie with the villagers, as it is their village, their environment, their future, their culture to be exploited, and, most of all, they will continue with the activities once the outside involvement is terminated. CMGDM supports, contributes knowledge, network and facilities.

(ii) In town
The Centre is being managed by two Dutch co-ordinators and three Malagasies Malagasy who receive training how to manage the project, and how to make it profitable to guarantee the continuation of the project. A consultative group (Conseil d’Administration) and the collaboration with the authorities, be it national, regional, or local, with other organisations, associations and NGO’s assures that the project is part of the local community. Once the outside interventions have ended, the Centre will be run by an association. This Association Lambahoany, already in existence, in which the villages are represented as well as townsmen, is an assurance that in the long run the work will continue in a responsible way.

The long-standing experience of both co-ordinators with the issue (20 years in Moçambique; 15 years with European minorities) has made clear that only active participation will give permanent results, and diminishes the risk that the project will collapse once the outside intervention and aid stop.

(iii) « Stichting Vrienden van Toamasina »
CMGDM co-operates with an organisation, The « Stichting Vrienden van Toamasina » (Association Friends of Toamasina), a Dutch NGO, based in the Netherlands, with the aim to promote the awareness and the enthusiasm of the Dutch general public with respect to development co-operation in general and the project in Toamasina in particular. They promote eco-tourism in Madagascar, using their website, direct contacts, and other marketing strategies. De Stichting also helps CMGDM to find financial donors and helps with advice and the control of the use of the funding.

7. Pursuing Millennium Objectives

CMGDM aims at and helps to realise the following Millennium Goals:

  • To end extreme poverty and hunger
  • Equal rights for women and men.
  • Diminish child mortality
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases
  • Basic education for girls and boys
  • Preservation of nature

8. Expertise

For all activities in the project, in particular for the contacts and collaboration with the villages, the education and training for participating in EC tourism, improved agriculture, replanting trees and the application of solar energy, CMGDM wants to closely cooperate with experts of the available governmental services, such as ANGAP , MinAgr , the University of Toamasina, as well as with regional and local authorities and other N.G.O.s in these fields. Although, at the moment cooperation with authorities is rather problematic, due to the political situation.