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Madagascar Update: Five Years, Going Strong

Bikes for the World's involvement in Madagascar began in 2015 when we first supplied a shipment of bikes to the newly established e-box mandroso in Miandrivazo. Specifically the MAHEFA program, a USAID funded community health program administered locally by a network of Malagasy and international organizations, set out with the objective of providing basic health services in a number of areas including early childhood health & reproductive health, nutrition, community sanitation and malaria prevention and treatment. This was to be achieved via establishment of e-Boxes--social micro-enterprises functioning as cooperatives whereby bicycle sales and repair shops were set up to provide a small income for community health volunteers, as well as contributing to wider community health projects in local communities. Subsequent to our initial shipment to Miandrivazo, which served as the seeding shipment for that location, we have sent re-supply shipments to a number of other e-Box locations in Madagascar, as well as initial seeding shipments to several sites as well. 

At the outset the e-Box model was designed in such a fashion that raising funds through a community co-op in order to fund the purchase of additional needed medical supplies and medicine while also supporting educational initiatives focused on various health issues. Additionally a generous quantity of bikes from each shipment was earmarked for use by the community health volunteers in order to deliver health services in the rural and impoverished regions where the MAHEFA program is focused. Since this left a plurality of bikes available for repair and sale in order to raise funds for the co-ops, there were training opportunities provided in each community. Generally between 4-8 individuals received basic bicycle mechanic training in the early stages of the e-Box program. It was clear that while the community health aspect remains the focus of the MAHEFA project, there was an untapped and unknown need for not just affordable bikes to be used as transportation in rural Madagascar, but that the vocation of bicycle mechanic was one that quickly became sought after as it provided those individuals to earn upwards of $30USD a day and also play an important role in supporting their community while bringing revenue to the co-op. The cooperative nature of the e-Box model has been important because it has meant that members earned a dividend even in the first year of the program!

In the past two years we have undertaken greater efforts to provide high quality tools, training materials and an increased volume of spare parts to each of the co-ops as these items add more value to the e-Box than simply sending bikes with no supporting infrastructure. Due to the demand for good quality affordable transportation, there are e-Boxes that have clients travelling upwards of 150km to purchase bikes for use in communities where there is no e-Box or no access to bikes at reasonable prices. The MAHEFA project was initially funded for a period of 5 years and has been extended once already, however, the objective has always been to assist co-ops in forging a path to self sufficiency once the project funding expires. Our goal is to continue supporting the co-ops even when Transaid is no longer directly involved and, based on the improvements we have seen in the past year in the areas of program reporting, communication and financial management, things are trending in the right direction!
Featured Volunteer: Judy Mitchell
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