History of the Peace Corps in Madagascar
Despite political and economic reform measures, Madagascar continues to face many development challenges. The education system is burdened by overcrowded classrooms, poorly trained teachers, and a severe shortage of teaching materials. Widespread poverty, a poorly educated population, food insecurity, unsafe water supplies, and inadequate health services have resulted in a high rate of infant mortality. Madagascar has one of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth, but its natural resource base is severely threatened by deforestation, soil erosion, and the decline in overall land productivity. Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagascar teach English, train teachers, conduct health and HIV/AIDS education, and work on natural resources management and community development.
The first 10 Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Madagascar in September 1993 to initiate the teacher training project, which eventually became the English education project. In August 1994, the environmental project kicked off with the arrival of 13 trainees. The health project began in September 1995. Since reopening in 2002, the Peace Corps has been providing approximately 75 new Volunteers per year in this country. Since the beginning, the program has had a close working relationship with the government of Madagascar.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Madagascar
Peace Corps/Madagascar focuses on three main areas of vital need: health, education, and natural resources management. These projects have evolved over the years based on the needs of the government and the communities with which we work.
Volunteers in the community health project help communities address health issues through behavioral change methodologies and the effective dissemination of health messages. Volunteers work to promote prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), prevention of childhood illnesses, family life skills, and reproductive health. Volunteers also work with community leaders and organizations to disseminate health messages that are critical to mother and child survival.
Volunteers in the English as a foreign language (EFL) project are posted to underserved rural communities and work with students, teachers, and the larger community to improve their capacity to speak English. In 2005, President Ravalomanana stated that he wanted English to become the second offical language of this country. In collaboration with central and regional curriculum professionals, Volunteers support the government’s initiatives to raise the standards of teaching, develop teaching resources, and strengthen the links between schools and their communities. Using the community-content-based instructional approach as well as project design and management training, Peace Corps/ Madagascar Volunteers model the belief that teachers, by definition, are community development workers. As such, Peace Corps teachers and their counterparts use English as a vehicle to promote awareness of community issues, to encourage using schools as a base for community activities, and to develop the future community development workers of Madagascar—its young, school-age population.
Madagascar has several national parks and protected natural areas. Volunteers in the natural resources management project provide training for managers of protected areas, community members, and groups to improve conservation in these areas. Volunteers are engaged in environmental education, income-generation activities, trail construction, ecotourism, ecological monitoring, community development, construction of fuel-conserving stoves, forestry, and gardening. Their goals are to reduce the degradation of natural resources, to develop the capacity of local individuals and institutions, and to enhance the management capabilities of responsible governmental and nongovernmental organizations.