This is a project report that is a great pleasure to post. It affects every facet of our work as it impacts everybody living in our villages. It is our great privilege and honor to announce that the Health Center in our village of Fiadanana has been officially inaugurated at the end of May 2014! Now, after an official ribbon cutting ceremony, the healthcare center is ready to see patients. One of our proudest achievements is that the new health center will host the community’s own traditional healer Raleva to work side-by-side with a Ministry of Health certified trained midwife. To have such a true healing center in our village has been a dream for the community and Zahana since our very first community meeting over a decade ago. (See health center’s groundbreaking 2013.)Raleva is one of the most respected and revered traditional healers in this part of the country. People travel far to see him and solicit his treatment advice. To honor him, and to pay him the respect that is due by providing him with a modern building where he can practice his healing art, is a very joyous occasion for Zahana. Zahana’s founder, Dr. Ihanta, told us laughingly, in a Skype conversation: “most people assume that a traditional healer is there to assist the Western trained midwife. I'm quite sure, in our case this will be the other way around and the Western trained person will work with or may be under the guidance off our highly respected traditional healer. We really like the English expression hand-in-hand to describe this relationship. Yes, we will, for instance, vaccinate all of our children with the help of the paramedic, or use antibiotics where this is the best treatment option, as part of integrating Western medicine in our Health Center. ‘Do no harm’ is our guiding principal in all of this”. This health center inauguration gives us again a great opportunity to showcase to everybody visiting our village the importance of access to clean and safe water. There are thousands of communities in Madagascar that desperately need access to basic healthcare, but the fact that our village does indeed already have access to clean and safe drinking water made the French NGO decided to build the health center in our village.Clean and safe drinking water remains the most effective public health measure for Zahana. It was priority #1 for the community, when we started with our participatory development in 2005. This is again illustrated in the fact, as Dr. Ihanta, Zahana's founder and a physician herself, said: "We don't need diarrhea medication or prevention, because we don't have diarrhea anymore, since the village has clean drinking water. For me as a medical doctor the most rewarding result is that no child, or adult for that matter, has died of water borne diseases, since we have clean water. It could well be that the villagers themselves are not aware of that, but for me as a physician and a parent, this is the most important and significant indicator I can think of. We determined this very important finding already over two years ago, and I am very happy this has not changed since.” Later in the conversation she added: “It is also a great savings for the Ministry of Health if we don’t have to spend money on medication or treatment of preventable diseases. This may not be too familiar for a Western audience, but in a country with scares resources this is an important factor”. As you can see in the photos, dignitaries and representatives from different branches of government attended our health center opening. The actual ribbon cutting was by a representative of the Ministry of Water. We thought it was very important to show them firsthand by having them come into our village, that a community built water system is not only feasible, but also working very well. (See water story.) It is a great honor for us and the community he was joined (in the photo) by the brother of the President of Madagascar and his wife.In some of the other pictures you see that Zahana was able to show to the visiting dignitaries the solar water pasteurization in action. The school of our sister village Fiarenana has been using solar water pasteurization successfully for over two years for all of the drinking water needs for their students. Since solar water pasteurization only works if the sun is shining, they have to resort to boiling water on cloudy or rainy days. Again, at Zahana we believe that seeing the results of our work might have bigger impact than just hearing about an abstract concept of solar water pasteurization.We have posted more photos on our website, since it is hard to choose only six from so many. It is especially wonderful to see all the students proudly welcoming the visitors to their village. Ihanta and Markus
We implement two different mechanisms of microcredit on rice production: One for the community at large, where they can borrow seeds from Zahana from October to December and pay it back (in seeds) after the harvest.
The second project is for groups to use the community rice storage building to store rice after harvest to be sold later when the price is good.
Schools in both villages are involved in the second rice project. They are cosidered a 'group', similar toa women's group of a parents group. Their goal is to make money for their everyday needs (chalk, soap, seeds, school supplies and school food) and to save money for the future when they may have to support their own school.
As an added benefit students learn early on, that saving and not seeling right away a part of the harvest until the price goes up has direct financial rewards for the farmer. The initial funds to buy the rice for the school project (from our own farmers), were provided from Zahana’s microcredit fund. As we see this as an investment in the future, the entire amount, plus the profits from selling the rice at a later date become part of the schools own microcredit fund, to be used over and over again.
In our world of constant Twitter, Facebook and YouTube feeds, it is an important reminder, that not everything works everywhere all the time seamlessly. Dropbox is a marvelous invention. A few years back it made burning a CD and walk to the post office in Madagascar. Prior to that may be four weeks later the CD might drop in our PO Box at some time, if it didn't get lost en route.
But all this modern of technology only work, if you have a constant power supply and a constant Internet connection. With blackouts, or roving brownouts in Madagascar, it is difficult to send large files with e.g. dropbox, if your Wi-Fi connection gets interrupted all the time. Hence, due to the lack of a constant power supply, the pictures that should have complemented the December project reports only made it across the oceans a few days later and are included in this update.
The pictures are from the gardens that are currently planted and growing around the houses in Fiadanana. These pictures are from Dec 17, 2013 and as up-to-date as possible. The seeds, proudly displayed by our master gardener Bary are part of Zahana’s “seed fund”, where new crops are introduced by giving the seeds to the community. Although it is hard sometimes hard to imagine, it is important to keep in mind, that culturally growing vegetables is not the norm for farmers Madagascar. Most of these farmers are proud rice farmers, and growing every anything else but rice and corn, is not looked upon favorably. The fact, that people are growing vegetables in Fiadanana at all is another indication, that our activities has been successful. You can learn about more about these challenges on our website, e.g. school gardens or seed fund.
Here is our past report for a few days ago:
The community of Fiarenana is well in control of their micro credit projects and it is running well. As a new approach this year the school was given money to buy rice in March after the harvest and after they sold it at a higher price later in the year they returned the initial loan on time by the beginning of December.
Despite past experiences, we wanted to give the women’s group in Fiadanana another chance, after all not everybody is a born businessperson. Unfortunately it didn`t work so well this season either; once again they used the money for another purpose than initially agreed on, but promised to reimburse Zahana by March.
We just got that repost form the villages in Madagascar:
On the bright side in Fiadanana, the vegetable gardens next to the houses are coming back, and most are planting green leafy plants to eat (with Zahana’s seeds for our ‘seed fund’). This only illustrates once again, that it sometimes takes years to generate a change in habits.
In other important community news: the Health Center for Fiadanana is almost finished (see the groundbreaking in July). We just got this photo of an almost completed building, with our traditional healer Raleva checking out its progress.
Intoducing new crops is the backbone of our micocredit philosophy. Zahana has been approached with a very generous offer by one of our friends. He comes from a part of the country where breadfruit trees are very common. He offered to ask his relatives to craft seedlings from their existing breadfruit trees and donate them to Zahana so we can grow them in the village. Breadfruit trees, once grown, have an abundance of fruit, so the surplus can be sold in the market for cash income.
This is a very generous offer, because breadfruit trees cannot be grown from seed but must always be cultivated from cuttings. By the same token, this means that any breadfruit tree growing in Africa, the Pacific or the Caribbean has been taken there by humans at some point in time. Here is a little historic anecdote: Breadfruit was introduced in the Caribbean by the British to grow inexpensive and plentiful food for their slaves. The same Lieutenant Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame was tasked with collecting breadfruit seedlings in Tahiti, when his mutineers spoiled that plan. Over 200 years later, breadfruit has become the staple in the Caribbean diet after it had been introduced via Polynesia by the British.
Breadfruit trees will make a wonderful addition to our diversification of agriculture and food security. Breadfruit trees can grow extremely tall, provide a lot of shade, bear hundreds of fruits that are very nutritious and abundant when in season. Green, or unripe breadfruit, can be cooked, baked or broiled and eaten as a vegetable in a consistency resembling a potato. The ripe breadfruit will turn sweet, and can be eaten, baked is best, as a dessert. As an added benefit, we have experimented with solar cooking of breadfruit in Hawaii, and the results were very tasty. All it takes is to put the entire breadfruit in the solar cooker, close the lid, and bake it for an hour or two. One breadfruit will easily provide a meal for five or six people and keep easily for a day or two without any refrigeration. That means the leftovers from the evening meal could be eaten the next morning.
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