Masoala Forest Lodge is a sustainable tourism lodge that benefits the local communities through employment, purchasing of local products and services, and funding community and environmental projects.
The lodge is now closed due to the covid-19 crisis, and must remain so, until the travel restrictions are lifted and tourism restarts.
We are currently employing 20 out of a total of 60 staff, on a shift basis. For the others we do not have work while the lodge is closed.
However, we do wish to support all of them in this difficult time, and since the beginning of the worldwide travel closures in April we have run a basic food support program that has supplied over 200 people with staple foods. We hope to continue this project in the coming months. We did get very good feedback and feel it is a great relieve to the families and much appreciated.
The closure of the lodge has also halted the purchasing of local products and services. To support local farmers and shopkeepers we purchase the rice for the food donations from sellers nearby.
The loss of tourism generated income to the area has resulted in increased pressure on the environment. Activities such as slash and burn agriculture and the harvesting of timber and other natural resources from the forest have increased.
We have trained some of our camp-staff as forest rangers during these months in order to help protect the forest. We hope to be able to finance the wages of these rangers and would even like to extend the area that we protect.
Masoala Forest Lodge opened a pre-school in 2017, which provides free meals, basic education and child-care for the village pre-school age children. The school was closed from March until October this year due to a country wide school closure in Madagascar. Since the middle of October, we have re-opened the pre-school, provided materials and pay the teachers salary. At the moment we can not afford to provide meals but hope to do it again in better times.
The lodge usually also assists with the village primary school, providing maintenance of the buildings and provision of books, stationary, sports equipment and school uniforms. Currently we haven’t been able to help. They would appreciate new uniforms, as the last ones have been made in 2018 and will be old and too small.
We also finance and manage village and beach cleaning operations to keep this unspoiled area pristine, using the village woman’s association to do the cleaning and our boats to ship the rubbish out to be disposed of in Maroantsetra town. This has been not possible for the last months as there was not enough money to pay for the fuel that is needed for the boat trip. When the lodge operated, we did the clean ups and rubbish pickup on a weekly basis. At the moment it would be great to do the clean up every 1-2 weeks and the pickup once a month at least. The cleaning team is a group of women from the nearby village who are likely to invest their earnings into clothing, food or education for their kids.
We would love to be able to continue to support all our staff and the local communities with these projects until this crisis passes and we can get back to normal. But we can only do it with your help.
Maria and Pierre Bester