It has been over three years since we hired our master gardener in the second village of Fiarenana. Since then he has achieved amazing results, e.g. with the school gardens and the potatoes. But sometimes the lessons learned can be more challenging. One of his very first projects was to successfully grow over 2000 coffee seedlings. We had worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to obtain the best seeds suitable for the area, bought the recommended seeds and took them to the village to our master gardener.
This was also our first long-term microcredit idea for that village. It takes at least 3 to 4 years for coffee to produce fruit, or coffee cherries. After processing and roasting, these coffee beans ultimately provide homegrown coffee. This idea was inspired by the fact, that the village already grew enough coffee for their own consumption, in contrast to all of the villages in the area. Planting additional coffee trees could produce a surplus that we intended to become a cash crop for the villagers as they could sell the additional coffee locally.
So the gardener gave away 1850 coffee seedlings in his own village, plus 150 to the neighboring village of Fiadanana. It takes time for plants to grow. So we waited.
A few months back we started inquiring about the fate of the coffee plants. Very much in keeping with Malagasy tradition, their response was polite silence. So we asked again, and met polite silence again. During one of our site visits, our founder suggested: "why don't you take me to the coffee plants?" Our gardener politely complied, and showed us the great coffee plants in the photo, growing extremely well. We asked about the other coffee plants. After some probing, he admitted, that the other plants didn't make it, which is very embarrassing for him. Years ago, during his formal training, he had been taught to plant coffee plants in full sun, and that was the advice he passed on. As it so happened, only he, the gardener himself, did not have any land with full sun, and was forced to plant his share of seedlings in the shade. And his plants grew beautifully. But since he was the master gardener, and the only one with surviving coffee plants, he was too embarrassed to talk about it, and resorted to polite silence, when asked about the success of the coffee seedlings.
Once again, our lesson learned is: expert advice, from somebody living far away, needs to be taken with a big grain of salt. And it puts a completely new meaning to the term “shade grown coffee”.
Wanting to build a school for their children was the motivation for the community of Fiarenena to invite Zahana to partner with them in 2009.
The Tscherman Chef cooked something up: a video with the community effort as ingredients. Development needs to be serious? (Although the issues sure still are.) If you spent 1 minute and 40 seconds watching our video on Youtube you can find out. The slide show about building the school is still my personal favorite page on our website. The video will also feature soon on our GlobalGiving project page “A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana” And a reminder GlobalGiving’ Bonus Day begins at one minute after midnight EDT on on Wednesday June 13, 2012 (Eastern Daylight Time or same time zone as New York). The formula is simple: your donations to Zahana will be matched at 50%. Last time GlobalGiving ran out of matching funds, please try early in the day if you want to supersize you donation by 50% with the click of a mouse. Details on our website.
Dear friends: In this report we wanted to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. We apologize for cross-postings in our GlobalGiving projects.The report has been inspired by watching the TEDx talk by David Damberger: “What happens when an NGO admits failure” and our recent webinar hosted by GlobalGiving about the WASH Sustainability Charter. We learned from David Damberger’s talk, that many water systems built in Africa don't function much longer than one or two years, for many reasons, eloquently explained in his TEDx talk. We encourage you to watch his outstanding 13-minutes critical analysis. He is works with Engineers Without Borders having built many water systems over the years, but also has implemented the lessons learned in an innovative, inspiring way. Without mentioning it explicitly, if you look at the talk for our angle, he presents a good case why GlobalGiving's approach of directly matching donors with projects is better for both sides.Bonus Day begins at 12:01 am EDT on Wednesday June 13, 2012. The formula is simple: your donations to Zahana will be matched at 50%. Last time GlobalGiving ran out of matching funds, please try early in the day if you want to supersize you donation by 50% with the click of a mouse. There is a total of $75,000 in matching funds available. Once funds have been depleted, no more donations will be matched. Details
But now to the before mentioned bigger picture (keep in mind that most water systems might not work beyond two years after being built): Our very first participatory development effort in 2006 was to build a gravity-feed, clean, safe water system. We did this in a village that never had clean water before. This gravity-fed water system is still flowing uninterrupted for six years now, providing clean water for over 1000 people. Way up on the mountain, some 2.5 km or 1.6 miles away from the village, the clean spring coming out off the ground has been channeled with pipes in a water storage container on the mountainside. From there it flows, with the help of gravity, through PVC pipes into the village. Collected in a second large water container at the edge of the village, the water flows into seven communal faucets, accessible to all. It is still the only village with a safe clean water system far and wide in the region. We built this water system by hiring the water engineers, and paying them to live for three months in the village. Living in the community, they built the water system together with the villagers. This way, not only did they put in (unpaid!) village sweat equity, digging trenches, cutting stones, carrying cement and sand, and laying pipe that made the system more affordable; but they also learned how their water system functioned. A crucial part of this approach is that the villagers could be trained by the water engineers how to fix the system, should it break one day. All systems built by humans are bound to break sooner or later, but now the villagers are not only prepared for what to do, but also hopefully have the skills to do it themselves without outside help. As an additional safeguard, one man, jokingly referred to as the ’water police’, has been assigned to walk up and down the water system every day, to check for leaks or potential problems. Besides recruiting and paying the salaries for the water engineers, Zahana paid for materials the villagers could not afford, such as PVC pipes, the water storage containers and cement, with the help of our donors. It is exactly the participatory element that made it successful. Zahana worked together with the villagers to build their water system, instead of an outside organization coming in and building it for them, making it ‘their water system’, not ‘ours’. With this proud ownership of ‘their water system’, comes the responsibility to take care of it and maintain it for years to come. The only complaint that people from Fiadanana make (and that makes us proud) is that they don't like to drink the water in other places anymore, and are forced to carry their own water with them now if they are leaving their village.
It wasn't easy to find water engineers willing to live in a rural setting for many weeks, far away from home without any amenities, and work with an untrained workforce, since this was and is quite a novel concept in Madagascar. But it paid off in more ways than one as we were able to build the water system for less than 20% of comparable water systems’ (normal) cost, and it is still flowing strong for almost 6 years. Although still the single biggest success for us is that no child has died of diarrhea since the clean water system was built.Building our schools we have used the same approach: The community contributing the bricks and their labor and local materials and Zahana paying for the rest (doors, roof, cement, etc.,) they could never afford. We also hired and trained the teachers. We found an educational expert teacher-trainer willing to live in the village and train the teachers in their school and future teaching environment. Both schools are also still teaching children every day. Another first in the village’s history: four students have moved on to secondary school (more on CEPE). Our two gardeners live and work in the community where they grow seedlings and work the school gardens with and for the children. The gardeners salaries are also paid by Zahana.Participatory development means, and this is at the heart of it, to trust people that they will do their best when you give them a chance to take charge of their own development. That is neither easy nor commonplace in the development community. And there will always be failures and mishaps as well, as much as we would like to avoid that. And: Yes, it does require outside money, too. In a country, such as Madagascar, where a farmer may barely “makes” US$ 300 in a year growing rice with backbreaking manual labor, we will always need people like you supporting our efforts to make this participatory development possible. And yes, everybody wants to know, including us, how do you measure success? Well, get a glass of water (most likely it comes out of a tap or even a bottle for you), and take a good long look - at this clean, crystal clear, safe drinking water - and think about it where your water comes from, before you quench your thirst. Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus
Sweet potatoes are an important part of a traditional Malagasy diet, eaten in two ways: sweet potato leaves in ‘laoka” a leafy greens soup, traditionally eaten with rice at meals. (See rice on our website). The other way is to eat the boiled tubers, or sweet potatoes as the meal. Commonly eaten as a substitute by people who cannot afford or get rice, that Malagasy staple food #1. Currently sweet potatoes are grown and eaten in both of our villages. “Two varieties: white like potatoes and violet. People like the violet, because it is very sweet.” In an attempt to diversify crops we have a plan: Get as many varieties of sweet potatoes we can get a hold of to our village master gardeners and see if they can successfully grow them in their climate. This might be as easy as getting somebody to visit the markets in the capital and buy all the varieties available, or as far reaching as having travelers bring some back from other parts of the country and contacting research institutions for other, or new varieties. Should a new variety prove successful sweet potato will become part of Zahana’s “Seed Fund”. The cultural acceptance of sweet potatoes is very beneficial. Sweet potato leaves are highly nutritious and high in vitamin B, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein. Other compounds, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have become the focus of research. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) recommends to eat them daily. The tubers, or sweet potatoes themselves also have a high starch content, pro-vitamin A and a sugar that is easy to digest, even for diabetics. (Please contact us if you would like some scientific literature).Last but not least: Bonus Day will start on Wed. March 14th, 2012 at 12:01 am EST. GlobalGiving will be matching online donations made on Bonus Day at 30% until the $50,000 in funds runs out. We hope you might think of Zahana in Madagascar on Bonus Day. Best regards,Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus
A big Thank You to all of our donors who supported our Zahana Microcredit fund (or the 'true seed fund' as we like to call it) over the years!
You make our work possible. We couldn't do it without you!
Did you know you can make donations to any our Zahana projects at GlobalGiving as gifts to friends and loved ones this holiday season? This gift in honor of someone might relieve you of the agonizing thought: what could I give her or him? (and help Zahana at the same time).
To make a gift in honor of somebody is easy: In a few minutes (and a few clicks) you can create a personalized greeting card via our project pages on GlobalGiving. Just click on the third giving option “gift or in honor of” right under the big orange “donate” button on any of our 4 project pages.
We just recently added our latest project Planting 15000 trees in Madagascar (#9470), which is eligible as well. You can chose if GlobalGiving will send the gift recipient an email, print-at-home, or physical tribute card. As an added bonus you will help us to participate in the ‘tribute card challenge’ with bonus prizes* between $500 and $1,500. And even better the challenge lasts until the last day of the 2011 tax year: December 31. Thank you for your support. Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus *GlobalGiving is awarding funds to the projects that are able to get the most donations made in honor or in memory of someone between November 23, 2011 and December 31, 2011. Prizes between $500 and $1,500 will be awarded to the projects with the most number of donations made in honor of someone.
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