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.
July 2013: This is the report we got from Madagascar. We did some slight editing, but wanted to keep it as close as possible to the original.
The visit of the honorable Madame Minister of Health Dr. Johanita Ndahimananjara was the biggest event in the history of the village of Faidanana. In this photo Madame Minister of Health of Madagascar is laying the foundation for the new Health Center in the village of Faidanana.
Villagers were informed about the upcoming visit ahead of time. If a minister in Madagascar announces such a visit, she travels with bodyguards. Representatives of other ministries and dignitaries at the region and local level, accompany her as well. Villagers were notified ahead of time, especially about the presence of bodyguards, so they would not be afraid.
For such and occasion the entire village (yes everybody) comes and lines the street waiting for the distinguished visitors. There is an official welcome of the Minister by the village elders and such visits are always accompanied with speeches and official announcements.
In this picture of the visiting dignitaries are: the Minister of Health Dr. Johanita Ndahimananjara, and her husband (the tallest man with glasses and cap). Representatives of Minister of Agriculture, the Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Communication and other departments. The Chief of Bongolava Region (standing besides the minister with blue shirt). They were joined by the mayor of Bevato (the district administrative center).
They all came first to the village of Fiadanana for the groundbreaking of the new Health Center by the Minister of Health (and breakfast in the village). After the formal reception and welcoming ceremonies the people who planted the most trees in the village were honored by receiving their award from the Minister of Health personally. She also presented awards to Zahana’s teachers and gardeners.
After the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Health Center, they all proceeded to the second village of Fiarenana. Also received by the entire village, the Minister of Health gave a speech and again gave awards for the most trees planted, the teachers and the women’s soccer clubs. After the ceremonies the villagers in Fiarenana served soup to their guests.
Last but not least they went to Bevato for inauguration of the new maternity ward. Bevato being the administrative district seat has a major for the region and all regional dignitaries attended. The official ceremonies took all afternoon.
The day was very busy.
We have very exciting news! Through the tireless efforts of our Malagasy team, we were able to partner with another organization to build a Healthcare Center in our village of Fiadanana. We are very excited that our small organization was able to build such a partnership that will benefit many thousands of people in the region. Zahana has been working in the village of Fiadanana since 2005. Since 2006, due to our participatory development efforts, the village has a clean water supply bringing clean water flowing right into the village. This will be the only Healthcare Center in the area that can pride itself to have a clean safe water supply. Since Zahana sees access to clean safe water as public-health priority number one, this is a crucial element in providing healthcare services. A team of our partner organization (with the long name “Association Pour que vive Maroala” or 'Maroala' for short) visited our village in May 2013 to discuss the plans of the Healthcare Center with the community and choose a location. Groundbreaking was envisioned to take place by the end of June or in July, when our schools are on summer break. The pictures are from this community meeting. In the formal picture with the four people you see (from the left) the president of `Association Pour que vive Maroala` Abel Legendre, Raleva our traditional healer and community elder, Mprany our head teacher and the representative from Maroala holding up the blue prints of the Health Center. The very latest news is that the Minister of Health of Madagascar has announced that she will pay a visit to the construction of our Healthcare Center next week! She will be in the area for the official inauguration of the first maternity ward ever in the district center of Bevato. From there she will take the hour-long journey over dirt roads to our project sites. That an official of such a caliber can witness firsthand the activities of rural transformation taking place by working collaboratively with our villagers is just simply amazing. We are honored by this recognition, but also see this is an incredible opportunity to show participatory development in action, because we believe our results tell more than pictures or words. Stay posted for more photos and news soon. Ihanta and Markus
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