Have you heard the saying: “Give a man a fish and he has food for one day, teach a man to fish and he has food for life”? Well, I had been thinking about that idea a lot, as I struggled with how to continue the ZAZA project long-term (lemur research and scholarships). So, in 2014 we decided to add a new element to the ZAZA Project called the ZAZA Local Monitoring Program (ZAZA L.M.P). This program has 3 main goals: 1) provide dependable employment for local assistants, 2) continuation of data collection on focal lemur mothers and their infants, and 3) protection and conservation of Maromizaha Forest.
Since 2010 when I conducted my first study in Maromizaha, I have been training a core team of local assistants how to: collect behavioural data on lemur infants and their mothers, input this information into an electronic database, and, most recently, use the internet to email the database to me. In March of 2014 I received a donation that I used to purchase a small project computer, internet stick and photocopy datasheets. Peace Corps volunteers based in Anevoka facilitated internet training for the team and now my local assistants, Ndrinuasolo, Raelison, Olga and Haja are following this year’s infant lemurs and their mothers, recording their every move, and helping me to learn more about infant development, feeding ontogeny and maternal feeding and care strategies of lemurs in this forest. In 2014, they named the first infant of the season, born to the diademed sifaka, Tandra, who had a baby (Kintana) in 2011, ‘Tsikivy’, meaning ‘in good spirits’. I am very hopeful that with a little bit of help, we can continue to provide work for these 4 local assistants, while collecting data on this year’s baby lemurs.
Here is the really remarkable part….One day of work for one assistant costs $5 and so for all 4 assistants to work for one day costs $20. So far, the ZAZA community, scattered all over the world, has supported the funding needed for these 4 assistants for this 6 months season ($2,160 provides work for 4 people for 6 months…where else in the world can we make such a positive impact?).
From the ZAZA Scholarship program we know how far a bit of money can go. We also know how happy people are when their kids get to go to school. Now, imagine how happy they would be when they earn the money, themselves, to support their child’s schooling, their families and their community. Providing work for local assistants gives greater value to forest conservation and when the lemurs are routinely monitored they are less likely to be targeted by poachers (a real problem in Madagascar these days). I knew this could work, so in 2014, we expanded our ZAZA dreams. If you would like to donate to the salaries of these local assistants through the ZAZA Local Monitoring Program please let us know. Also, if you know someone who might be interested in helping, please share this information with them. As always, please let us know if you have any questions at all.