By Brian Jones, Conservation Coordinator, Toliara, Madagascar

While in Andavadoaka a few months ago for the Velondriake Association’s election and first general assembly of 2013, I was lucky enough to catch the Safidy programme’s quarterly review and reproductive rights training session for its community-based distributors.

Community-based distributors are local women who are trained and supported by Blue Ventures to provide basic information and services relating to family planning, maternal and child health, and hygiene and sanitation within their villages as part of the Safidy programme. They offer various products including different contraceptives for those who wish to use them.

Safidy, which means “choice” or “freedom to choose” in Malagasy Vezo, takes a rights-based approach to reproductive health. This is underpinned by regular training sessions for community-based distributors, emphasising the fundamental right of all couples to be provided with the information and means to freely choose the number, timing and spacing of their children.

I think that the Safidy programme exemplifies BV’s approach to finding integrated solutions to conservation and sustainable development challenges. The hard work and dedication of the Safidy team and the 30 community-based distributors they work with is nothing short of inspirational; some of these women walked the length of a half-marathon through the oppressive heat of the spiny forest to attend this training, which is testament to their commitment to providing their villages with access to much-needed heath services.

In between planning sessions for the Velondriake Association’s meeting, I was able to capture some footage of the two-day training, which Fanja and Caroline explain a bit more about here. As conservationists, we need to realise that if we don’t address important health issues like lack of access to family planning, then our natural resources may not be able to sustain us for much longer.

The Safidy programme is part of Blue Ventures’ integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach which empowers coastal communities in southwest Madagascar to live healthily and sustainably with their unique marine environments. It involves women in fisheries management and aquaculture, in addition to health service delivery.

Posted by Brian Jones

Brian is our semi-nomadic conservation coordinator, currently based in the coastal city of Toliara. He's been working with communities in Madagascar on conservation and sustainable natural resource management since 2006, speaks fluent Malagasy, and is a talented photographer.

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