Through the quarterly  #Mpiaradia/Champions program, the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar and Comoros recognizes the extraordinary contributions that ordinary citizens make to the development and sustainable self-reliance of their countries.  The individuals who receive this recognition have devoted their lives to reinforcing good governance, strengthening economic development, enhancing public health, protecting the environment, and/or increasing the security of their communities.

#Mpiaradia is a Malagasy term for “fellow traveler,” which echoes the #MpirahalahyMianala (“brothers walking in the forest”) tagline for the Embassy’s initiatives in Madagascar.  #Mpiaradia/Champions are nominated by members of the U.S. embassy community for their work on in-country initiatives aligned to U.S. values.

Each #Mpiaradia/Champion receives an embassy coin, a certificate signed by the Ambassador, and, when possible, a face-to-face meeting with the Ambassador.  The embassy further recognizes each #Mpiaradia/Champion with a series of posts on its official Facebook page and Twitter accounts, a press release, and a profile posted to the Embassy’s website cataloging all #Mpiaradia/Champions.

In 2020, Stanislas Velonjara, a forest ranger working with the USAID Mikajy activity in the Maroantsetra region, was named a Conservation Champion by U.S. Ambassador Michael Pelletier in recognition for his leadership, commitment, and courage in preserving Madagascar’s precious forests for future generations.

At the time, we were unable to present Mr. Velonjara his certificate and commemorative coin due to COVID travel restrictions. In February 2021, during a visit to the Maroantsetra region, USAID Mission Director John Dunlop had the honor of meeting Mr. Velonjara and formally recognizing him for his achievement.

“Mr. Velonjara’s actions not only help to preserve Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, but they also set a really great example for other rangers and the youth in his rural community. We are pleased we could make the trip out here to properly honor Mr. Velonjara.” – John Dunlop, Mission Director

In a January 27 ceremony, U.S. Ambassador Michael Pelletier recognized Dr. Harisoa Ravaomanalina with the Champions of Madagascar “Mpiaradia” Award for her unwavering dedication to conserving and protecting Madagascar’s natural environment.  Dr. Harisoa is a top researcher at the University of Antananarivo and co-founder of the Groupe des Spécialistes et Passionnés des Baobabs de Madagascar.

“We are extremely excited to work with [Dr. Harisoa], like ‘mpiarahalahy mianala isika,’ to help Madagascar protect its natural resources for the benefit of the Malagasy people now and for future generations to come,” Ambassador Pelletier said.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Harisoa has worked since 2018 to establish Madagascar’s first reference library for precious woods.  Her efforts are helping Malagasy authorities combat illicit timber trafficking by enabling them to more easily identify the nation’s wide range of endemic tree species.

“I am happy to be recognized for my research skills, commitment to protecting the environment, and for serving as a strong role model for female scientists,” Dr. Harisoa said.  “Through these ongoing projects, I hope to help Malagasy authorities identify precious woods like rosewood and ebony – and keep them from being exported illegally out of Madagascar.”

The new wood reference library, known as the Xylotheque, also houses two XyloTrons, digital imaging devices that authorities can use in the field to identify wood species.  The devices were donated by the U.S. Forest Service and the Forest Products Laboratory.

The United States is committed to working with dedicated individuals like Dr. Harisoa and side-by-side with the Government of Madagascar, like “mpiarahalahy mianala,” to combat timber trafficking.  Timber trafficking is a serious transnational crime that threatens national security, undermines economic prosperity, fuels corruption, and even spreads disease.

Since 2013, the U.S. government has committed more than $55 million to programs that promote sustainability, improve livelihoods for local communities, bolster governance of natural resources, strengthen actions to stop international wildlife trafficking, and protect thousands of hectares from illegal and unsustainable exploitation.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Pelletier recognized Dr. Gilbert Andrianandrasana with the U.S. Embassy’s Champions of Madagascar “Mpiaradia” Award for his leadership in delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals and health centers across Madagascar. Dr. Gilbert is the Chief of Party for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) IMPACT health program. The U.S. Department of Defense provided the PPE supplies as part of its ongoing efforts to mitigate and prevent COVID-19.

“Our support to the Government of Madagascar and its efforts to fight the coronavirus would not be possible without public health champions like Dr. Gilbert and his colleagues at IMPACT,” Ambassador Pelletier said. “His leadership and coordination have been instrumental in ensuring personal protective equipment reaches front-line healthcare workers who tirelessly provide their services to Malagasy communities. We will continue to face this global health crisis together – like mpirahalahy mianala – and emerge stronger partners for it.”

Starting in June 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense and the USAID IMPACT project delivered 45,500 medical grade face coverings, 39,000 gloves, 2,600 disposable gowns, 2,600 disposable overshoes, 650 goggles, 650 thermometers, 260 jumpsuits, and 650 bottles of sanitizing gel to hospitals and basic care centers in 13 districts of Madagascar. The U.S. Department of Defense procured the supplies, and worked with the USAID IMPACT project and people like Dr. Gilbert to distribute the PPE. Dr. Gilbert worked tirelessly to ensure the project was successful in protecting front-line healthcare workers and the Malagasy people from COVID-19.

“The project was initiated at the best time, when we noticed a substantial increase of cases and hospitals that were facing a shortage of PPE,” Dr. Gilbert said. “I continue to receive calls from the Regional and District Health authorities to thank the DOD and PSI for this critical assistance.”

Dr. Gilbert is a Malagasy physician and public health expert who holds degrees in medicine, public health, and executive management. Since November 2018, he has served as the Chief of Party for the USAID IMPACT project, a five-year, $32 million program to improve the supply and delivery of medicines and medical materials in Madagascar.

This donation comes in addition to $2.5 million in emergency funding already provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support the Government of Madagascar’s response to COVID-19 and the repurposing of $2.2 million worth of USAID health projects to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. government is the largest single-country donor to Madagascar’s health sector, providing $72 million in 2020 alone, as well as the largest donor to COVAX, an initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally and equitably, with a commitment of $4 billion.