Improving crops and agricultural yields has always been the backbone of our microcredit projects. Our team in Madagascar has been continuously exploring different options to accomplish that (see Artemisia).In the spring of 2013 representatives of Nestlé made a presentation at the Ministry of health about an improved rice variety a, a seed known as “Nerica”. This new rice variety ‘Nercia’ is a result of crossing two varieties of rice seeds. It is enriched with zinc and iron, both a very important mineral for health, that are sadly very much lacking in Madagascar's nutrition.Our founder, Dr. Ihanta, a medical doctor by training, was very interested in the prospect of these new seeds and the ability to increase the availability of zinc and iron. The rate of anemia is extremely high among women and children in the entire country of Madagascar, and consequently also in our villages. The company got the ministry's approval to run a few pilot projects in Madagascar. Zahana was chosen as one of their pilot sites.Initially 10 families participated in the community of Fiadanana. Five families planted seeds suitable for rice paddies (paddies are fed by a permanent water source, such as a well) and five in rain-fed rice fields. An engineer from Nestlé visited the villages regularly to assist with know-how and to monitor and document the process. In addition she studied how rice was traditionally stored, cooked, and consumed in the villages. All costs related to the pilot project were covered by Nestlé; from the seeds to the engineer’s repeated visits to the village.Two of the photos show the yields of the first harvest that was very promising. Some of the community members decided to participate the second year to see if the seed can indeed provide higher yields than what they had been traditionally planting. The village of Fiarenana has also requested to be included in future pilot projects
Happy New Year!
We got these great photos with the Christmas trees in our schools in Fiarenana and Fiadanana. We have so many beautiful pictures, it is hard to choose just six. We let them speak for themselves.
Since 2007 Santa has been visiting our schools in rural Madagascar. This year he brought gifts with him of cookies, sweets, bread and clothes. About half of the lucky ones also got a doll or a toy car. And yes, Santa is impressive. He is probably the tallest Malagasy the children might ever see in their lives.
If you are in a position to decide about your end-of-the-year donation, we hope you will think of our reforestation efforts in Madagascar and donate to Zahana. Thank you!
GlobalGiving offers options with just a few clicks:
Looking for a gift in honor of somebody? Why not consider a gift in her or his name (with an e-card or physical card sent to the lucky recipient by GlobalGiving)
GlobalGiving has an end-of-the-year campaign for 2014. To get one of the cash prizes, Zahana needs to raise at least $1,000 from 30 different donors for our reforestation efforts. You can do this with a few clicks and help us get closer to our additional monies goal.
And to sweeten the pie, if you set up a recurring donation to Zahana, the amount of your December donation will be doubled by GlobalGiving (up to $200), making your gift twice as big.
Or you may just click on the button “give now” below.
Last year in November’s Project report we talked about the idea of introducing breadfruit into our villages. We had been promised quite a few breadfruit seedlings by an excited visitor who comes from a breadfruit growing region of Madagascar.
Well, sometimes it turns out a bit differently. Zahana thinks breadfruit could greatly increase food security in our villages. So we visited a professional nursery instead and bought two young breadfruit trees that we gave to the care of Bary and Jean our two gardeners. In a few months we will know if the trees took, and if they indeed do grow well in our high plateau’s climate. If anybody can make breadfruit grow, it is our gardeners. If at least one breadfruit tree grows well, we will just buy a dozen or more at our next visit to the nursery.
And yes, it is the season again: If you are in a position to decide about your end-of-the-year giving, we hope you will think of our villages in Madagascar and donate to Zahana. Thank you!
You may just click on the button “give now” below
Looking for a gift in honor of somebody? Why not consider a gift in her or his name (with an e-card or physical card sent to the lucky recipient by GlobalGiving)
GlobalGiving has an end-of-the-year campaign for 2014. To get one of the cash prizes, Zahana needs to raise at least $1,000 from 30 different donors. Only our reforestation project qulifies fior the challenge. You can do this with a few clicks and help us get closer to our additional monies goal.
And to sweeten the pie, if you set up a recurring donation to Zahana, the amount of your December donation will be doubled by GlobalGiving (up to $200), making your gift twice as big. (Recurring donation reforestation)
Thank you and Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
PS: Since 2006 Santa has started his worldwide tour by visiting our schools in rural Madagascar. This year again his long-awaited visit was celebrated on December 20. You can see the excitement of the children (and parents), while they are lining up to receive their Santa gifts.
The invitation by GlobalGiving to post fail forward stories was an interesting challenge for us. It gave us a chance to look at our work from an outside perspective, and at the same time provides us with a venue to write a thought piece or a critical reflection that does not focus directly on achievements or goals like other project reports.2007 was a great year for Zahana. First of all, we raised the funds needed to launch our project. Rooted in our participatory development approach, we successfully built a clean water system (still running today in its 8th year) and, once again together with the community, their school. (This is explained in more detail on our website). Because of this success we had a very good standing in the community, as we had built the trust that our joint projects deliver what we set out to accomplish.We were ready to tackle the third priority of the development goals the community set: crop improvement. Based on our philosophy that local problems require local solutions, we hired an agricultural expert who lived in the community nearby. As it so happened, he was the father of one of our teachers, which assured us that he knew the people, social networks, taboos, climate and agricultural conditions in our rural village. We paid him at the time a fair consultant wage, which was quite a hefty sum (much more than a teacher's monthly salary) and asked him to conduct a hands-on workshop. He showed up on a motorbike, which for the local context is a very impressive status symbol (comparable to a fundraising advisor for a small nonprofit in the US showing up in a Maserati.) We assembled the women's group and all the interested farmers for a workshop. Our water system had been completed the year before. A water faucet located right next to the school gave easy unlimited access to watering needs. He selected a piece of land right next to the school. It was very flat and had not been farmed before. He recommended growing a variety of crops (see website report), last but not least potatoes as the main new crop. Nobody in the village had planted potatoes before. He assured us that this was the ideal location and that with some judicious watering, a completely new crop could be introduced in the village overnight, one that could be grown outside of the rice growing cycle. The women's group dug up the land (by hand of course) and planted potatoes under his supervision.To make a long story short: the potato crop was an utter failure. Exposed to the blazing sun on top of the mountain, the newly planted potatoes grew very well in the beginning and later withered away in the heat. Not a single potato was harvested.The worst unanticipated consequence for us was that we lost all credibility with the community. They equated Zahana with the agricultural expert. It took us quite a while to gain the community's trust again. Not only did we spend a sizable amount of our scarce donations at the time on a local agricultural expert, the much higher price was the community's trust.Now to the solution. We want to tell the reader in advance: this is a story within stories, but rest assured, we will return to potatoes.One of the saving graces in this entire fiasco was: one of the farmers ignored to the agricultural experts advice. He planted his potatoes down by the creek and former water hole next to the shade of a mango tree. His potato harvest was phenomenal. Two years in a row. At the same time it showed that growing a new crop was indeed feasible –with the right conditions. In addition, potatoes are highly sought-after in the market and the bigger village nearby. In talking with the villagers we found out that the agricultural expert had also overlooked teaching the villagers that you can only eat the tubers in the ground, the actual potatoes, but not the fruit that grows on the green plant looking surprisingly like tomatoes (both nightshades). These are toxic. When potatoes were introduced in Prussia in the 17th century farmers ate the fruits on top by mistake. Rumor has it that quite a few died. King Frederick II of Prussia had to eat potatoes in public to prove to his subjects that humans can indeed eat potatoes. The villagers were amazed when we told them this story. While most likely nobody knows who the King of Prussia was, it had a great impact that a King needed to publically eat eating something to prove that it's edible. But since this fact comes with a story that everybody will re-tell, everybody, not only in our village, will know very soon not to eat the poisonous fruits on top of the potato plant, should they ever plant it. Educational message accomplished, failure to mention a dangerous fact was remedied. But now to the real solution: In our second village of Fiarenana Jean was a well-trained master gardener. Years back he had been sent for an extensive agricultural training far away from his village. But that project failed because the NGO’s funding ran out and all his expertise went untapped. He approached us with the proposal to hire him. Again, with microcredit in mind, we thought we pay him for the initial 6 to 12 month and after he's established he can sell his seedlings in his village and the neighboring communities and earn a living this way. In addition, we thought that while he was on Zahana’s payroll, he should spend half of his time teaching gardening at our school. Basically a two-for-one deal for us. Results where phenomenal. He has an incredible green thumb and he provided the community with seedlings and training. With the help of the parents and students, he grew a huge variety of vegetables in the school gardens (photos on our website). After twelve months came the moment of truth: it was time to cut the ties and let the budding entrepreneur walk on his own. Little did we know that the next failure was lurking. Very politely Jean, our master gardener, explained to us that he was not inclined to go on his own. He felt uncomfortable charging his friends and neighbors for seeds, seedlings and expertise. He explained he’d rather return to rice farming, not his first choice, than working with the insecurity of a self-employed gardener in the community and potentially be faced with no income and starvation. The dilemma: microcredit philosophy requires that projects become sustainable by supporting themselves. We could either lose a brilliant gardener and schoolteacher, or reconsider our own assumptions and continue to employ him. After much deliberation and discussion, we chose the latter. Paying the salary for by now two master gardeners, has become an integral part of our annual microcredit budget. The payoff of this small investment, employing truly local community advisors, has paid back our investment tenfold ever since (just think reforestation).In 2009 our master gardener Jean approached us with the idea of planting potatoes. Based on the prior fiasco, we thought: “not potatoes again”. But this time it was different. Different, first and foremost because the request came from the community; not for the community from an outside expert advisor. In participatory development requests from the community have priority, or it would not be participatory.To make this long story short, since it is documented on our website (link): we provided Jean with 100 kg of potatoes. They were bought locally in a market in Madagascar's prime potato growing region. He distributed 2 kilos to every family in the village. Over 2 tons of potatoes were harvested only a few months later, making this a 20-fold return on our investment. But if you want to find out why this story also has a mini failure built-in, since no potatoes were sold for much needed cash, you need to go to our website and read the story in full. Just a hint: with 2 tons of potatoes harvested nobody went hungry during the season that is called ‘époque dure’ or ‘hard times’, with is a nice euphemism for ‘going hungry’. What is fit for Kings, is fit for our villagers anytime.Best regards,Markus Faigle
Atemesia or sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) is one of the most promising herbal medicines to treat Malaria. Having been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and with no cure or preventative drug for Malaria in sight, Artemisia has sparked interest in the last few years. It needs to be harvested within a few months of planting (as an annual crop). A few years ago we met a small NGO promoting Artemisia and an income-generating project at a small development fair in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo.
We stayed in touch and we had our first official cooperation this year. A company in Madagascar processes the dried plants and produces a drug based on artemisinin, the desired compound. Since Artemesia is in short supply in Madagascar they contract with farmers all over the country to grow it for and with them.
The approach how they work with farmers is different, making a partnership with Zahana attractive for us. Not only do they provide the seeds and the training necessary in growing, harvesting and drying it. They also come to the farmers to pick up their harvest from the villages, a very important factor in a country where transportation is challenging, putting it politely. They also pay the farmers a guaranteed price, agreed upon prior to planting, giving farmers the security of a prospective income without post harvest market fluctuations.
As it turned out this year, growing Artemisia in the climate of our villages is ideal. It is growing well, beyond expectations. It will be ready for harvest within the next two to three weeks.
Some of you may remember that we had talked about the “époque dure” or the “hard times” the dry, rainless period facing Malagasy farmers before the new rice-planting season, when people all too often run out of food (September to December, depending on the year’s season). It turns out that the climate during the ‘époque dure’ is very well suited for Artemisia cultivation, when very few other crops grow. The opportunity to grow something that can not only be planted but also harvested and sold for cash in the ‘hard times’, is a godsend for our villagers.
So far our partners, the buyers of Artemisia, had been growing it some 300 miles 500 km (or a two days drive) further south in the country. It is the first time they have worked with farmers in our climate, since Zahana provided access a self-organized strong community.
With more and more farmers interested in growing Artemisia, now that they see the initial success of their neighbors, we are exploring options for building a small scale processing facility, where some of the steps of refinement can be done on location. It would increase the price paid for the product and reduce the amount of bulk needed to be shipped, or transported, (think carbon footprint fueling income generation).
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