Another activity tourists can do to support the community is to purchase locally made handicrafts. On this topic, on exiting the village, a make shift market rapidly emerged, with twelve little stands with rather little people beaming over the top, all selling naturally dyed coloured jewellery made of beans. Being a solo traveller, I encountered a regular conundrum. Who do I buy from? I knew I must buy something as it’s my way of supporting the community without handing out money (I had had a few kids ask me for 'Bon bons'), but it’s not fair to just buy from one person and if I did, how would I choose? It would be like at school when you had to pick a team at sport. A quick bit of maths revealed that for 8 euros, I could buy one necklace from every store. This meant I not only provide amusement by looking prat with twelve necklaces on, the old woman who was still drunk from Independence Day parties two days ago nearly died cackling away, but I also made 12 people very happy and it also meant I could get some great photos without feeling like a predator. Back at the lodge later the day, the manager Silva, also nearly died laughing.
Seriously though; can tourism be a tool to help alleviate poverty and improve the welfare of these people? I believe so, though of course there are many challenges. Number one, the new chief has been at his job for 3 weeks, though keen and apparently trustworthy, he is young and inexperienced. The old one stiffened most of the tourist money unfortunately so the trust needs to be gained from tourist and villager. The village in some places also resembles a rubbish tip and needs to be cleared up and maintained (maybe by a local lodge as was the case in Masoala reserve). There also needs to be a stronger involvement with the private sector. Every day from May to December there are tourists just around the corner staying at one of the three lodges on the lake and every afternoon they are 'at leisure'. If the village receives two more tourists per week they will double their much needed revenue from tourism. This of course needs to be carefully managed. This could not only help them to support their families but also retain their traditional culture through handicraft production. I really enjoyed my visit. From wandering through the village, visiting the local pharmacy (all indigenous potions of some sort), buying a ridiculous amount of colourful necklaces, to walking through the woods to plant my own tree, ah sorry Will, company tree. It was not only a lovely break from wildlife but a glimpse into the life of the fishermen and their families who live just around the corner from the tourist lodges.