Zahana

Zahana in Madagascar is dedicated to participatory rural development, education, revitalization of traditional Malagasy medicine, reforestation, and sustainable agriculture. It is Zahana's philosophy that participatory development must be based on local needs and solutions proposed by local people. It means asking communities what they need and working with them collaboratively so they can achieve their goals. Each community's own needs are unique and require a tailor -made response
Aug 11, 2010

Getting people to buy into solar cooking

The low cost panel cooker in action
The low cost panel cooker in action

The solar water pasteurizers have been well received by the villagers. In the school of Fiarenana where access to clean safe drinking water is still an ongoing challenge, solar water pasteurization is the best way to make the water safe for drinking.

In addition, our ‘solar volunteer’ Bruce has spent over two week in the villages and introduced a locally built model of a solar panel cooker. Using an off the shelf car window screen (bought in the big city) and a plastic bag, this home-made panel cooker is extremely light weight and versatile. (To learn more about solar panel cookers, one of the key solar cooking technologies, please visit e.g. solar cookers international www.solarcookers.org). Panel cookers have limitations, such as the plastic bag required, but are a great way to introduce villagers to the idea to use the sun for cooking. Small in size and easy to store, rice or beans can be cooked in an afternoon.

It has been Zahana’s learning experience that solar cooking should be introduced incrementally. Once some of the villagers have adopted the idea of experimenting with the solar panel cookers, they can be introduced to box cookers. The only sure way to learn about solar cooking is by cooking with it and getting first had experience.

Once they are familiar with box cookers and use them more regularly they can be introduced to the Balzintubesolar, that is so much more efficient that they will be convinced after the first cooking demonstration.

In addition Bruce introduced a solar panel that can recharge the community’s cell phone. These small solar panels need quite some hands-on training to be used efficiently or they do not work properly. Inadequate training can easily lead to frustration and solar technology just collecting dust. The solar panels, which also can power a light, are currently being marketed in Madagascar, but with a price tag of around $30 they are out of reach for most villagers.

Mounting the solar panel to charge the cell phone
Mounting the solar panel to charge the cell phone
Solar panel
Solar panel 'inspection'

Links:

Aug 11, 2010

The new school garden grows every day

The teacher and his students
The teacher and his students

Jean our gardener with an amazing green thumb has expanded his activities. Besides continuing to grow trees saplings for the entire community, he is now actively involved in the school curriculum, teaching the children to plant vegetables, such as zucchini, tomatoes and carrots.

The vegetable beds were dug by a group of parents right after the official school opening in March (see that report for details) and the children have been planting and tending to the vegetables ever since. The only well (dug by Zahana), that has water all year round in the village is next to the school. The proximity to water makes it possible for the children to water their plants daily.

The school garden
The school garden
Tending to the garden
Tending to the garden

Links:

Aug 11, 2010

Growing from Seed with the Seed Fund

Growing tree seedlings
Growing tree seedlings

Zahana has recently hired Bary, a second gardener to work in the village of Fiadanana, or first project site where Zahana’s participatory collaboration started in 2005. Bary is currently being trained by our original gardener in the second village (Fiarenana) and shows an equally amazing green thumb combined with great enthusiasm in planting what he learned right away.

Both of them are growing new tree seedlings. The good news is that both gardeners are happy to experiment. This allows Zahana to introduce new seeds with the caveat that they might not be suitable for the climate, but there is only one good way to find out: grow it and see if it takes. Apples that have been requested by the gardeners are a good example. It is tricky to grow apples from seed that “fall true” or turn out to be a desired variety. To compound the challenge the climate might be too hot for apples, plants that like colder winters or higher altitude in a tropical climate. But with two adventurous gardeners it is much better to try planting apples and find out what happens. In addition Zahana is planting fast growing trees that can be used for firewood so people will not need to walk long distances and kill the existing trees. We are hoping this will help with the ongoing deforestation disaster in Madagascar.

Zahana’s seed fund also introduced new varieties of zucchini, beans and corn from a supplier that claims a 100% germination rate for their seeds. The first zucchini are already big enough to harvest and the corn and beans are doing very well.

In addition to the tree nursery and food crops for farmers, both gardeners are growing vegetables with the children in their respective school gardens. More about that on our website and the progress reports for the schools.

More trees for the future
More trees for the future
The new seeds are doing well
The new seeds are doing well

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