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.
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