Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blowing in the Wind...

Just a few days ago, Cyclone Haruna swept by on the West coast of Madagascar. This is very unusual, most cyclones, hurricanes, and tropical storms take place on the East coast.

Man-made disaster?
We happened to be on the West coast of Madagascar, in Morondava - more than 200 km above the eye of the storm. The cyclone, impressive as it was, did not do much damage there, but in Tulear it created massive flooding. It killed 13 people and affected over 17.000 poor souls. Not so much because of the winds themselves but because of a dyke which... had not been maintained for years. Sadly, that is how natural disasters become man-made ones...

Lot of rain in paradise
Stranded during this unexpected beach vacation, we heard 150 km winds hauling over our 5-star beach bungalows. The horizontal rains gushed under our doors. The swimming pool turned into a wave pool. But our hotel had taken precautions and no major damage was done. Air Madagascar cancelled all flights and let us wait three more days in windy beach paradise. Every day we'd walk the Morondave strip, 80% of its restaurants and hotels closed.

Sardine tins
The winds, still strong on Saturday, brought great pleasure to the children. Armed with: an empty sardine tin, four plastic bottle tops, and a plastic bag they held amazing car races that would make John Travolta long back to Grease! The T-birds against the Scorpions!

Watch the T-birds against the Scorpions on the Morondava strip:

Enjoy this little movie! I'm sure it will make you smile...and isn't that what we need after this horrendous Haruna?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cyclo Pousse

Had to try it out....
After my adventure at the silk worm farm, I visited the Cyclo Pousse Project in Anstirabe, another UNDP  project. A cyclopousse is a pousse pousse but with a bicycle. So instead of running their legs from underneath their body (to freely use a Dutch expression), the drivers can cycle their passengers around. It's less labor-intensive, and can earn more income. Win-win, right?

Zidane and Ronaldo
In 2008, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo donated 80.000 USD to Madagascar.  The two football vedettes are UNDP good-will Ambassadors, a bit like the Angelinas of the UNDP, so to say.  The money had to be used to fight poverty, and mean something to young people. The Cylco Pousse Project was born.

Proud owners of cyclo pousses
Dream come true
In Madagascar most pousse-pousses are not owned by their drivers. They are rented for a small daily fee (2000 to 3000 Ariary). Their chauffeurs do not earn much from them. With this project, drivers  are leasing their bikes from a facility, called Le Parc, for 2.500 Ariary per day. Regular market price but with one difference: after having leased it for 14 months, the drivers have become the owner. For most of them, owning the thing is a dream come true...

Rare commodity
The great thing about this little project is that it is still running, two years after UNDP has ended its support.  The Parc is still operational. It is actually making modest profits, and new bikes are being produced and leased out. The drivers have formed an association and they're benefiting from a life and accident insurance. Their income has doubled or tripled. A sweet example of a sustainable project. This may sound obvious, but sustainability is a rare commodity in development land.

So what were the 'secrets' of this successful project? Nothing special, it is just a project that came at the right time, to the right place. The pousse pousse driver beneficiaries were involved in its conception, as were local authorities and the mayor. There was a market for the (more expensive but faster) cyclo-pousse services, and the bikes were produced locally, from simple materials, easy to maintain. The president of the association is a great guy with modern ideas.

Evaluation terminology
There you have it. In our evaluation terminology we'd say that the project is relevant, demand-driven and market oriented. It is effectively managed, with adequate beneficiary participation and sufficient stakeholder consultation. It makes use of appropriate, cost-effective technologies and its set-up is sustainable.

Denis in front of his new house, built with money earned with  his Cycle Pousse 

So, thank you Zidane and Ronaldo, and if you ever make it to this great island, do give us a ring!