SEED Madagascar

SEED Madagascar

About

SEED Madagascar is an award-winning UK registered charity and Malagasy NGO dedicated to supporting the people and ecosystems of Madagascar, one of the most biologically rich but economically poor countries in the world. Our approach is one of co-operation and participation with grassroots communities working to alleviate the effects of poverty and to support viable, environmentally-sensitive development. Our holistic development and conservation projects support some of the world's most vulnerable people in threatened & irreplaceable environments. We offer volunteers the opportunity to get involved in our projects in Madagascar through unique and challenging volunteering programs lasting from 2 to 10 weeks.

Founded
2000
Headquarters

1a Beethoven Street
Greater London
W10 4LG
United Kingdom

Reviews

Default avatar
Philip
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved my time with SEED! The knowledge and passion of the staff is incredible and volunteering with an NGO in rural Madagascar is an unforgettable experience. As someone who is about to start studying biology at uni, I feel that this was the perfect programme for me - you learn so much about research and about the local wildlife. The diversity of the wildlife is mind-blowing. The lemurs and chameleons are great but there are also more varieties of frogs, spiders, snakes, dragonflies, geckos, snails, beetles, and grasshoppers than you can imagine. We even saw a baby crocodile!

The area is absolutely gorgeous. What I really loved was how you're made to feel part of the Sainte Luce community - the camp is right next to a small village where you can buy snacks and practice your limited Malagasy. If you're an adventurous person who loves nature and are considering volunteering with SEED, then do it!!! I stayed for 8 weeks but I wish I'd stayed for even longer.

Default avatar
Joseph
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I wanted to do some volunteering overseas before I went to uni. My two pre-requisites for choosing who to go with were 1) the org must do genuine community-based and where possible community-owned work 2) it had to be completely off the beaten track (who isn’t tired of listening to stories about the SE ASia / Aus / NZ gap year circuit?!). SEEDMadagascar’s Pioneer programme completely hit these out of the park AND the 10 weeks I spent there opened the door to a 12 year and counting career in development and humanitarian work that has taken me not only back to Madagascar over four times (with SEED!) but around the world to other incredible places and to Geneva where I am now working with the UK Department for International Development at the United Nations. None of this would have been possible without that foundation in real community based development work that SEED provide... and as far as I am aware they are the only volunteer organisation out there that are not only based but deeply rooted in the communities they work in. If you want to work hard, have fun, gain great experience and make a difference - look no further than pioneer!

What would you improve about this program?
By being brought to the attention of more people, so more can share in the great experiences I have had! Everything else is there.
Default avatar
Cindy
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Just over 9 years ago, by the recommendation of my Alma matter, I volunteered for 8 weeks with the then Azafady, pioneer program. As the projects were identified, developed and delivered by Malagasy folks, you knew the work being done was genuinely needed. However in my naivety, I didn't realize that I would gain much more from this experience than I could ever give.

One memory that stands out, is the welcome we received when arriving to the village we would be building a school and latrine for. The singing, dancing, and drumming will forever resonate with me. In that moment, it solidified for me, that what we were not exacerbating a problem but very much a part of a solution.

The program was set up in a way that really valued each volunteer, and the uniqueness of their experience. Staff were very supportive and open to your concerns and questions. There was flexibility in the programming to allow for free time to explore on our own and accompanied by staff through organized excursions.

It was a privilege to experience just a small fragment of Malagasy culture and am so thankful to all the staff, volunteers and people of Madagascar.

Default avatar
Nessa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I've volunteered with SEED Madagascar three times now, as a volunteer, a research assistant and to revisit my home in Sainte Luce, for a total of nearly 20 months. The variety of biodiversity research projects and experiences you'll encounter there is remarkable. The community and the conservation team are so warm and welcoming, so open to sharing their knowledge and culture and music, and the English and conservation students are so dedicated to learning, it feels like my heart is being torn out every time I leave. There is always more to come back for. This stunning place and truly awesome community are worth everything and anything we can do to support them into a wonderful sustainable future.

What would you improve about this program?
The English class in Sainte Luce needs more support in terms of books and other teaching resources. The schools would benefit from a sponsorship programme, perhaps twinning with a similar sized town in another country.
Holley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A volunteering trip to Madagascar can only be described as a once in a life time experience that will change your life for the better. You cannot help but leave the beautiful country with a completely refreshed perspective of your own life and what it means to be happy. To be able to help an under privileged community in a remote region of Southern Madagascar will always be the highlight of my volunteering career with the smiles of young boys and girls etched in my mind. As a recent university graduate, I loved being a part of helping others achieve their academic dreams.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Give us an intro!

Daniel is a 27-year-old Web Developer from the UK. A keen traveller and amateur photographer, he also enjoys watching rugby and playing football. He finds croissants very distressing.

Why did you pick this program?

Two things stuck out to me when I was looking at Azafady. First off, they work in Madagascar! I’d heard bits and pieces about the enigmatic “eighth continent” here and there, and the idea of seeing it for myself while volunteering really appealed to me. I wanted to see the forest, I wanted to see a completely different part of Africa, and I really wanted to see the lemurs.

Just as important though was how Azafady presented themselves. It was clear from the outset that making a difference and achieving their aims as a charity, rather than providing an exciting holiday for gap year tourists (though in my experience that came next!). They had a formal application process more thorough than some jobs I’ve applied for - reassuringly professional.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

While we were still acclimatizing to the temperature and local customs, a group of us went to a local nature reserve to see the wildlife. It was raining heavily for much of the afternoon and the following days (our tents were actually floating for a while!), but we had a great time anyway.

I will never forget the moment when one of the ring-tailed lemurs, dangling off a branch, reached down to take some guava fruit I offered it, soft hands taking the fruit while its bright eyes looked into mine.

What made this experience unique and special?

Mountains in the distance, with lush green rice paddies, traditional wooden huts, and a variety of local plants and trees in all directions. Cinematic is probably the best word for it - and comparisons to Jurassic Park (incidentally, the original film is the best by a country mile) were frequently made.

I didn’t get a lot of time to explore the rest of the island after my volunteering scheme ended, but I’ve done a little on a subsequent trip and it just gets better.

Most people don’t realize how big Madagascar is - they assume it’s just a little place off the coast of Africa - but in fact it’s the fourth largest island in the World, and has a tremendous variety of ecosystems.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Take it easy! The first thing they tell you on arrival is that things don’t always go to plan. The domestic airline is infamously chaotic, in the rainy season roads and bridges may be washed out, and sometimes building supplies just don’t turn up on time.

Life follows a different pace to what we’re used to in the West, but it can be an enjoyable change. Use the unexpected spare time to find out more about the local culture, meet the friendly local people, or learn capoeira (talk to the local guides!).

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

To put it simply, Azafady helped me to rediscover my love for travel and volunteering. Life-changing is a clichéd phrase in reviews for volunteering experiences, but in this case it definitely applies.

A year later I was in Botswana on a wildlife conservation project, and just a few months after that I found myself back in Madagascar again. Never dreaming I’d get it, I had applied for the job as co-ordinator for the very program I’d been on back in 2012, and partly thanks to my previous experience with the charity, I was accepted!

I spent an amazing year in country, working with the international volunteers to build schools, carry out environmental research, teach English and much more. I’m still involved with Azafady now and it’s likely I’ll go back to Madagascar a third time!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Sam Hyde Roberts

Job Title
Executive Director of Azafady Conservation Program
Sam is an aspiring evolutionary ecologist and conservation biologist with a broad range of taxonomic interests. After graduating with degrees in both Zoology and Ecology Sam soon moved from the cold of North Wales to the tropics in pursuit of his passions - wildlife conservation and biodiversity. Sam has since travelled, lived and worked in some of the remotest and most spectacular places on Earth, spending the past few years managing conservation projects in Madagascar. Having worked with a diverse range of wild animals, including Lemurs, Bats, Snakes and Dolphins - Sam has a special passion for Amphibian and Lepidopteron diversity.
leemur

What position do you hold at Azafady? What has been your career path so far?

I have recently vacated the position of conservation coordinator at Azafady, a position I genuinely loved. However I have now taken up a slightly different role to any that I have held before, as a conservation consultant helping to support the field research team, direct the research agenda and help with grant proposals. I graduated from Bangor University in 2009 and have been working in conservation ever since. I first started out as a volunteer, working with a few conservation charities in Wales and around Europe, and gradually gained field experience whilst putting the skills I learnt at University into practice. I was lucky enough to work under and alongside some hugely inspiring individuals along the way and always consider myself very fortunate to do the work I do. In the field of conservation there is always a sense of pressure to get things done, with a seemingly growing list of threats to wildlife and the environment, I very rarely get near completing my daily to do lists!

What is your favorite volunteer abroad memory?

I remember very clearly one night in the middle of a forest in Aggtelek National Park, we had been invited to the home of a Professor, who is an expert in the field of European butterflies and moths. After a walk of an hour or so through forest we arrived at the house, the gabel end lit up with incandescent bulbs specifically designed to attract moths and other insects. I was staggered by the sheer abundance and diversity of moths, the air was thick with an unbelievable variety of species. This really triggered a passion in me. At the time I was reading a book authored by E.O. Wilson - The Diversity of Life and combined that was that! Only twice since have I seen moths in such numbers and such abundance as that. Once in Ranomafana NP in Madagascar and once in a remote forest in southwestern Costa Rica. They are very rare and special nights!

What does the future hold for Azafady - any exciting new programs to share?

Extremely exciting!! I do not really want to reveal our recent findings here, but we have some astounding findings which have been thrown up through our recent genetic work. We have been working on some majorly important conservation projects over the past 14 months and we are hoping that our latest findings will strengthen our case to protect several ecologically valuable forest fragments, which are presently under threat from mining exploitation.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think volunteer abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

This is a very challenging question. Unfortunately from a conservation perspective, volunteer programs naturally seek remote and beautiful locations, however the effects of human disturbance are detrimental to sensitive wildlife communities. With an ever-increasing number of people looking to volunteer abroad, and more and more organizations - it is now up to the industry to ensure good practices are enforced and that projects do not negatively impact on the country and environment they are situated in. I would strongly advise any potential volunteers to thoroughly research the organization they sign up with, read external reviews and canvas opinion from past volunteers. There is now a huge selection of volunteering opportunities available, and there are a highly variable range of principles and business models behind the companies who run them. Research is essential before signing your up for a volunteer abroad experience.

Which volunteer abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

I am afraid I couldn't answer this question as I haven't been to enough places!! :)

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The right support is vital. I have been exceptionally lucky working with Azafady, as the support they have given me has been exceptional, both from a personal and professional perspective. Having worked with myriad organizations over the years, I believe that there is a huge difference between the various organizations and the work that they do and opportunities they provide. I think the thing that really sets Azafady apart is their commitment and trust in their staff, and the backing and help they provide.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

Very contrasting climates but both Greenland and Guyana have always attracted me. Greenland for wilderness, isolation and beauty, and Guyana for biodiversity!

What's your favorite ethnic dish?

Again, I am torn between Welsh rarebit and Zebu Brochette's with sakai!

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

The expertise you miss without having members of the local communities involved on your project and working closely with you are irreplaceable. Having a connection to the local community and environment is essential if a project is to be truly successful, and only through committed community education and support can any conservation initiative be long lasting. Good communication is key to this, and language learning and understanding the culture you are in is essential.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

This is another tough question! There have been so many but I am always most excited about the next trip!

What language have you always wanted to learn and why​?

My French has greatly improved over the years spent in Madagascar, and I hope to become fluent one day. I think it is a beautiful language, and a full cognizance would open up a whole new region of the world for me. Also, there is a great deal of important and useful literature that I am currently missing! For example, a lot of the great and historic butterfly studies conducted in Madagascar are in amazingly illustrated old French books and presently there are no modern texts. These hundred year old books are still the best sources of information available!

What unique qualities does your company possess?

An unshaking commitment to a single region and its communities. All of Azafady's resources and considerable efforts are directly focused into improving and safeguarding some of the poorest and isolated communities and environments on Earth. Through a holistic approach, Azafady are committed to safeguarding and providing genuine sustainability and development to an area with outstanding yet highly threatened biological wealth.

More Interviews