The southwest of Madagascar is home to one of the world's fastest growing populations, with the average woman in Velondriake giving birth to nearly 7 children. Over half of Velondriake's 7000 residents are under the age of fifteen, spurring a continued population boom likely to span the next several decades. At this rate, the number of people living within Velondriake is set to double in about 20 years, and this does not account for immigrants. Growing populations require more natural resources in the form of food and building materials, and therefore pose a severe threat to the future sustainability of both marine and terrestrial habitats upon which the livelihoods, culture and future economic wellbeing of these coastal communities depend.
In an attempt to address this, Blue Ventures opened a family planning clinic in the village of Andavadoaka in August 2007 to provide access to reproductive health services to women in the community – particularly addressing the high unmet demand for family planning. Called Safidy, meaning 'choice' in Malagasy, this initiative aims to empower and enable individuals to make their own reproductive health choices, and protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections. In addition to clinical services, the programme uses a variety of community education activities to raise awareness about the links between community health and the environment. The project has grown steadily over the years, and there are currently 33 community-based distributors throughout Velondriake and neighboring areas who sell condoms and birth control pills.
In 2011, the Safidy programme expanded to include water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outreach and in 2012 it inaugurated a maternal and child health centre, offering services and counseling that were previously unavailable in the region.
Implanon fitting day
The Safidy programme is a part of Blue Ventures' Population, Health and Environment (PHE) approach to conservation, which integrates sexual and reproductive health and maternal and child health initiatives into existing conservation efforts. This pioneering approach to population, health, and conservation offers opportunities for these different interventions to work synergistically, enabling far more effective achievement of the combined projects' objectives than could be achieved if these projects were carried out in isolation.