One of the most difficult aspects of the CPALI/SEPALI project has been to change farmer's "scarcity thinking". Scarcity thinking stems from a lack of hope and belief that it is better to spend today than save for tomorrow. Scarcity thinking seems to most afflict the poorest of the poor because their lives are so tenuous. CPALI/SEPALIM is trying to tackle this problem by establishing a "Cocoon Bank" where farmers deposit cocoons but defer returns until they build up enough cash to make a substantial purchase. So far, we have had about 15 farmers take advantage of cocoon savings but that is not enough. We need to figure out how to motivate farmer's to learn how produce more cocoons. Most farmers do not follow the "rules", or the steps we teach to insure maximum cocoon production. Like all of us, they take short cuts. During rearing season, many farmers fail to a visit their fields frequently enough to move larvae to fresh trees, adjust protective nets and collect larvae just prior to spinning. Even though these activities only last for about 40 days per crop, and take about 2 hours, farmers are not sufficiently motivated to return to their fields as frequently as is needed. Some farmers need to walk 2 hours from the village to reach their fields.
SEPALI Madagascar sent 20 meters of beautiful textile made from cocoons spun by two different species of Saturniidae moths: Antherina suraka (our old favorite) and our new favorite, Ceranchia apollina. Instead of mixing inner and outer cocoons, the team made 2 new textiles that have unique and stunning characteristics. The moth loosely spins the outer cocoon and the inner cocoon is spun tightly. The photograph below shows the cocoon as it is found in the field to maximum effect.
The Team decided to take advantage of these differences to make two different textiles. The top fabric is made from cocoons spun by Antherina suraka. The center fabric is made from outer cocoons and the bottom fabric from the inner cocoons. Although it is hard so see the gorgeous translucent effect of the middle layer textile, it is fun to imagine a beautiful gown that takes advantage of the silks double layer beauty - Any designers for the next eco-Oscar sensation?
We are finally able to begin our long-term soil analyses. One hundred and forty samples have benn analyzed from the farms marked on the included map. Thank you Cornell, REBIOMA and the SEPALI team for helping this work come to the fore!
NEWS FLASH: SEPALIM’s EXTREME team to be interviewed on CNN. Showtime is Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 11:30 AM PST and 2:30 PM EST. Over the past 6 months CPALI/SEPALIM has been partnering with a team of Stanford students to improve our project and in particular textile production efficiency. We don’t know for SURE, but the team was interviewed and we think that they will be featured on CNN’s “What’s Next”. The program is focused on the Stanford course, “Design for Extreme Affordability” taught by Jim Patel and that we have been privileged to participate in. We hope that you will tune in – it’s a great course and great program (for a sneak peak: http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/14/addressing-tough-poverty-problems-with-innovation-and-design).
News from the field: Mamy Ratsimbazafy continues to lead the team in building up the soils at our new training site but harvesting truckloads of the invasive plant, water hyacinth. It is a huge effort but we are hoping other farmers in the area will follow our lead and improve their fields. Farmers are continuing to deposit cocoons in the bank and building up “savings”.
Maminirina Randrianandrasana has just completed a survey of insects eaten in the Makira area as we get ready to introduce caterpillar pupae as an alternative source of protein. As a first step we are comparing the nutritional value of different species as well as the effect of host plant on the nutritional value of Antherina suraka. Lalaina Raharindimby, the head of our women’s training program, has figured out how to roast the pupae so that they can be ground and their nutritional value analyzed. We hope to generate enough funds to allow these analyses while we pick the next silkworms that will be used for silk production. Our goal is to enable our farmer to earn cash and increase their protein intake.
We are sad to say good-bye to our fabulous Peace Corp volunteer Kerry O’Neill. Kerry has been a delight to work with and formed many fast friendships in the community and with the farmers allowing SEPALIM to continue to extend its Social Capital approaches to conservation. She has been a critical force and developing new partnerships in Mahalevena where new farmers have already planted trees and produced silkworms. Kerry, we thank you and will miss you greatly.
Market news We are thrilled to announce that CPALI/SEPALIM’s textiles are now advertised and available not only to designers through Source4Style’s website (www.source4style.com) but also to retail buyers at Habu Textile in New York (and soon, Tokyo; www.habutextile.com)! It is wonderful to be working with two such environmentally conscious and effective companies.
Let the adventure continue!!
Manoely Denis found the host plant of Ceranchia appolina! and guess what? It is a mature forest vine! So far we don't have the scientific name but we are FINALLY on the way to rearing our third species. Mamy started working on this in 2011 and it has been a long haul. All this on top of the good news that Bunaea feed on Hintsina - a tree used for wood in the communities - AND that we have about 30 Bunaea pupae that the SEPALIM team will rear at our new demonstration site. We hope to produce enough second generation pupae to begin analysis of their nutritional value. We suspect that all three will become important supplements to our future program. In the future future we will be helping farmers raise the new caterpillars and inter-crop their host trees on existing farms.
Mamirina Randrianandrasana left for the field last week. She will be doing an entomophagy survey in Madagascar and around the Makira area as well as sampling leaves from host plants grown on different soils. Eventually we will sample pupae that fed on those same trees as caterpillars to see if soil type affects the nutritional quality of the host plant and hence the pupae that fed on it.
The Stanford Extreme team is back at the university and as soon as they get their bearings I will update you on their findings and how that may affect our new demonstration site and training center that is being designed by the Architects for Humanity, Boston.
Finally the SEPALIM team is sending another GREAT newsletter/update form the field. Be sure to check it out.
In less than two weeks, Rick Zuzow, Rishabh Bhandari, Alicea Cock-Estab and Kristin Mayer, students from Stanford University's course, "Extreme Design for Affordability" will descend on Madagascar to spend two, packed weeks with the SEPALIM team to solve some of our most vexing technical problems. The Extreme Team will visit SEPALIM farmers and textile producers to learn how they make our textile and help us make it more efficiently, or they may work on how to remove caterpillar stains on the cocoons, or how to lighten the cocoons in preparation for dying, or how to make new cocoon designs - or something entirely different . . . Whatever they decide to do, it will be Extreme.
Just after the Stanford students leave, Maminarina Randrianandrsana from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will arrive to initiate a survey on entomophagy in Madagascar (insect eating) and spend about 2 months collecting pupae and leaves. In November/December the team worked with Lydiah Gatare collecting soils with the goal of initiating a long term study to determine on the effect of Talandoa (silkworm host plants) on soil quality at different farm sites. Maminarina will now collect leaf samples from trees grown at these sites to see if leaf nutritional value is correlated with soil type. Maminariana's work will allow us to explore the effect of soil quality on leaf forage, and correlated effect on pupae fat and protein content. Hopefully these data will allow us to determine how many pupae need to be eaten to have a protein impact on local diets as well as the steps we need to take to improve the soils and hence the nutritional quality of the host plants.
Finally, Mamy just returned from a visit to farmers who are competing to rear the most pupae on their farms. So far, our top producers, are Jaonary Jean and Fenozara Justin, both have produced 4000 cocoons in the past year (halfway to the 8000 cocoon target!) and Joanary Jean produced 1000 just in the past month! Joanary Jean's success is in part due to the fact that he is one of the few farmers who has built a breeding house to the chrysalids that SEPALIM requires. Hopefully others will copy him instead of keeping the pupae in a basket under the bed . . .
In the background, SEPALIM team continues to collect green fertilizer (water hyacinth, an invasive plant in rivers) and improve the fertility of the demonstration site - we hope our farmers will copy our lead.
Although some of the team is snowed in, that doesn't stop us from racing to meet 2013!
Three new Madagascar proejcts are being initiated to add value to our current farmers' work that we hope will entice new farmers to take up their shovels.
Insect protein production: We are applying to the TOPS program for funds to analyze the different nutrients in 4 species of silkworms that we are producing agriculturally for silk. Larvae in three saturniid genera, Argema, Antherina, and Ceranchia, plus Hypsoides (Notodontidae) larvae, spin silk and have been used by some in our area for food. The fourth Saturniidae moth, Bunaea, does not spin a cocoon, but like the Mopane silkworms that are eaten throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, undergo metamorphosis underground. Bunaea are eatern in the Madagascar highlands. We plan to compare pupae protein content and micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc, and total calories as well as scan for microbes. Knowing the nuitritional contents will allow us to target agricultural production of pupae to those returning the highest value. We will also be experimenting to determine the best way to process the pupae (dried, smoked, boiled, broiled, fried, fresh) to maintain the highest nutritional return as well as insure palatability. Bertrand and Mario are brushing up on their gourmet recipes.
New Markets, New Products: To date, most of our textile sales have been to artists, individauls who "have to have" the latest in shades and curtains. In the coming year we are expanding production to include new lamps that are being designed by Rikki Moss (www.studioglow.com). While still in the works, we visited Rikki at her studio yesterday and the sculptures she is designing are unique for CPALI's textile and show off its best angles. I do not have pictures at this time - but stay tuned and watch her webpage. She will be posting updates soon.
Theresa Zent and Gina White are also designing new products for CPALI to post on www.wildsilkmarkets.com. We hope to add designer pillows (made in Madagascar) to our future line-up for goods made in Madagascar.
Additional New Partnerships: Boston Architects for Humanity are partnering with CPALI to design a training center for our new land. The training center will include large, well-lit working areas, a bunkroom where visitors can spend the night, outdoor areas for working (as are preferred by the women) and solar power facilities to enhance the value of our program.
Monitoring: Finally, the soils project has commenced. The samples arrived at Cornell University before Christmas and we will add the silkworm pupae nutritional studies reserach as part of our monitoring program. In addition to looking at the effect of the trees on soil value, we will look at the effect of tree folliage on insect protein value - a wonderful dovetailing of projects.
Thank you for your very generous donations to CPALI/SEPALIM in 2012. If you haven't had time to donate yet, or if you are impressed with our work and want to give us an extra, tax-free kick, please take a minute to make a new donation through the Global Giving site.
All the best and Happy New Year and let the adventure continue!!
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