Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, Int

Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, International, a US-based 501(c)3 organization, helps subsistence farmers displaced by the formation of national parks establish new livelihoods that restore and sustain protected habitats.
Aug 21, 2015

Who says you can't change horses mid-streatm?

SEPALI farmers teach SEPALI team a thing or two
SEPALI farmers teach SEPALI team a thing or two

SEPALI FARMERS TEACH THE TEAM A THING OR TWO – At the beginning of every year, the SEPALI team announces the “rules” for the coming year – for example, the amount of money farmers will earn per kilo, the number of cocoons that need to be deposited/workshop invitation. Every year we learn something new.

In 2014 we found that farmers were depositing only the minimum number of cocoons to receive a workshop invitation, 200. Our workshop expenses were very high; hence we initiated the global giving campaign 2014 to help us pay for them. In 2015, we tried to encourage farmers’ to produce more cocoons and, we changed the minimum from 200 to 800 cocoons per workshop invitation. While production in 2014 from January to May was 11000, in 2015, farmers only produced 4600 in the same time period. Furthermore, in 2014 21 farmers participated in production during the early part of the year and but in 2015 only 6 farmers participated - not a good result.

Obviously the farmers have spoken – we are back to 200 cocoons per workshop invitation. It seems clear that farmers need little rewards (stepping stones) along the way to achieve a larger goal. Furthermore, little steps encourage many more farmers participate and many more make deposits. Thank you GG for helping us to understand this.   Who says you can’t change horses mid-stream?

Women
Women's workshop
Team displays its handiwork
Team displays its handiwork
Jul 14, 2015

First steps - a pink house for the watchman and family

A new pink house for SEPALI watchman and family
A new pink house for SEPALI watchman and family

First things first - we are revving up the work at the demonstration site and that means we need to bulid a house for a 24 hour watchman.  The watchman is needed to protect the property from maurading cows, chickens, and individuals who might want to harvest our cocoons and vanilla.  Included with the house  will be a fancy composting toilet! We do things right at SEPALI Madagascar!  What is a bit unexpected is that the toilet is more expensive than the house.  Hmm - something is wrong here.

While getting ready for the training center the team has been making multiple site improvements with plantings of silkmoth host plants, cleaning out of a pond that is going to be used to raise dragonfly larvae for food as part of our insects for food program.  In addition the team has been planting vanilla to gorw on the silk moth host plants to illustrate to  farmers how they can use the Talandoha for an added income opportunity.  In fact, Mamy has been growing vanillla at the demonstration site for two years and the flowers are quite beautiful. Did you know that vanilla does not have any pollinators in Madagascar and therefore each flower needs to be hand pollinated?  Furthermore, each plant produces only one flower per day.  With increased farmer activity in vanilla production we hope to increase farmer activity to tend the caterpillars - it all fits!

We are still trying to deal with our electricity conundrum.  A new point of attack is to purchase manual sewing machines and therefore greatly reduce our electricity need for now. In that, case we could probably manage with a few solar cells for cooking, evening light, etc.  We had hoped to have our office at the training center but we are being creative and looking for a secondary site in town.  Stay tuned!

Caterpillar host trees decorate demonstration site
Caterpillar host trees decorate demonstration site
Keep out the zebu!
Keep out the zebu!
Transporting walls
Transporting walls
Making it work
Making it work

Links:

Jul 2, 2015

Sleeping Insects, Hidden Lilies

Water Lillie for making dyes
Water Lillie for making dyes

The bugs are sleeping, but the SEPALI team is not. Due to the arrival of the chillier winter months in Madagascar (yes, Madagascar has a winter), insect rearing has been slow while the larvae develop in their sanctuaries. The giant water bugs are, well, giant. They are still in their adult phase and the team is patiently waiting for them to mate and lay eggs. The dragonfly larvae (nymphs) are still swimming around in their little habitats working on growing big enough to look edible.

In the meantime, the SEPALI staff are busying themselves with silk production and a new project: natural dyes. In an effort to make a natural black dye to fulfil a set of unusual silk orders, the team succeeded in making dark blue, gray, burnt orange, and brown. Some of their “mistakes” actually turned out to be quite beautiful and the solitary quest for black dye has turned into a fascinating experiment featuring many different species of plants.

The first attempt was conducted with local water lilies. The SEPALI team harvested and boiled down a batch of lilies until the water was a deep-red color. Using vinegar as a fixer, the cocoons were soaked in the dye until they began to turn a light gray-blue color.  In an attempt to take the color a little further, the team tried soda ash as a fixer for round two and achieved a much deeper-blue, nearly black in appearance.

Over the past couple of months, the experiments have expanded to include many species of plants including onion skins, yellow Azine tree roots, red Nato tree bark, and a vine called Engitra. And the most surprising to us? The bright, burnt-orange cocoon was dyed with just a couple of onion skins, resulting in a surprisingly vivid color! You can see the plants and corresponding results in the pictures below. 

We’ll keep you posted in the next couple of weeks with updates on dyes and textiles and hopefully our insect-pets will show their little faces again soon!

Dyeing the cocoons
Dyeing the cocoons
Yellow roots of the Azine tree
Yellow roots of the Azine tree
Red Bark from the Nato tree
Red Bark from the Nato tree
Cocoon samples from each dye
Cocoon samples from each dye

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