Throughout our work in Madagascar, we have focused on the importance of building local capacity to design and implement successful, lasting population, health and environment interventions. First, we have worked with ASOS and MATEZA to help lay the groundwork for broad-based community understanding and awareness of the links between population, health and the environment.
Then we facilitated community mobilization around biodiversity conservation – an area around which it is often difficult to mobilize communities because they fear the potential loss of their traditions and livelihoods.
Our community engagement took many forms, from participating in appraisals of development and conservation needs in some areas, to community engagement approaches such as "Champion Communities." These approaches relied on strong community buy-in and empowerment. The champion community approach achieved widespread recognition in Madagascar, and our partner Voahary Salama played a key role in promoting, testing and refining this model over the past few years.
Using this approach, CI and partners worked with communities to identify and set basic development goals such as increased vaccination rates, understanding of family planning or reduced slash-and-burn agricultural practices.
Community members worked together through a transparent, consensus-based process to determine existing community needs, agree on realistic targets with in a certain time frame, implement achievable activities given limited resources, measure progress in an open and participatory way and celebrate successful achievements.
Increasing Impacts & Participation
Using this approach, we found significant results in raising vaccination rates, monitoring childhood nutritional status, implementing alternative livelihoods such as fish ponds, establishing fruit tree nurseries and planting vegetable gardens.
These efforts have helped us create synergies which increase the impact of interventions in health and conservation sectors, helping to break the "vicious cycle" of poverty and food insecurity which contributes to environmental degradation.
We have found that these approaches have helped to increase women’s participation in agriculture, economic development and natural resource management, as well as increase men’s participation in health and social development initiatives – thereby helping break down traditional gender roles and ensuring more equitable access to community services.
Making effective use of limited financial and human resources for community development initiatives, we have promoted community planning of more comprehensive development interventions than are possible through vertical programming.
Over the life of the project, we worked with more than 60 community based groups or associations to become legally-recognized institutions, and we have fostered the development and implementation of 40 community management plans that include conservation, health and development goals.