Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, Int

Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, International, a US-based 501(c)3 organization, helps subsistence farmers displaced by the formation of national parks establish new livelihoods that restore and sustain protected habitats.
Sep 24, 2015

An Insect Sanctuary and a Tiny Golden Cocoon

Matthew and Richard With Wood for the Moth Garden
Matthew and Richard With Wood for the Moth Garden

It’s that time of year! With the expected emergence of the adult Oryctes beetles and Fulgoridae looming near, the SEPALI team is breaking ground on a new enclosure. Led by volunteer, Matthew, the structure will be built on the SEPALI demonstration site and will serve as an insectary and moth rearing house for the project.

Wait, don’t you already have a moth garden? Yes, we did. You may have seen pictures of the previous moth garden in our newsletters: a basketball court-sized enclosure with native plants, insects and a small pond. Unfortunately, the garden was damaged in a cyclone last winter and eventually fell victim to thievery due to the highly coveted fishing nets that were used in construction. Many of the plants are still there, but the enclosure has since been removed.

Learning from our mistakes, the new garden will include upgrades to ensure longevity. First, treated lumber will be used for construction instead of bamboo, which quickly degrades in Maroantsetra due to weather conditions and native bamboo-boring insects. The walls and ceiling of the new garden will be made of industrial-grade agricultural netting, which should be more resistant to sun damage than the previous fishing nets. Finally, the nets will be removable so that they can be safely stored during cyclone season (December through March) and returned to the structure each spring. This will also allow a period when natural pollinators and animals typically too large for the pore-size will be able to enter the enclosure and access the plants.

Matthew and SEPALI team members Lava and Richard, are hoping to have the project completed by late October. Once constructed, a care-taker and his family will move into the new SEPALI watchman’s house to help keep the demonstration site safe and productive.

A Tiny Golden Cocoon

One of the many goals of the new enclosure is to give the SEPALI team a place to rear silk moths and other insects including water bugs, dragon flies and rhinoceros beetles. Rhinoceros beetles (Oryctes) in particular have been a source of curiosity for the SEPALI staff in recent months. While the team was investigating their potential as a protein source, a recent survey revealed instead the secret life of parasitic wasp larvae.

The cycle begins when a small, female wasp with a black body and dark, shiny wings lays a single egg on the abdomen of an Oryctes beetle larva. When the egg hatches, the wasp larva emerges and feeds on the beetle larva for a period of about two weeks. By the time the Oryctes larva dies, the wasp larva is mature enough to spin a cocoon. (Wasps too can spin cocoons!) The result is a tiny, golden, four-layered cocoon where the wasp will complete its transformation into an adult.

While the cocoon is likely too small to do anything productive with, it is a source of fascination for a team that studies all-things-silk. Hopefully the new enclosure will help us answer more questions about the lifecycles, predators, and protection of our insect friends.

Beginnings: Building the Moth Garden
Beginnings: Building the Moth Garden
Predatory Wasps
Predatory Wasps
Wasp Larva Feeding on Beetle Larva
Wasp Larva Feeding on Beetle Larva
Golden Wasp Cocoons
Golden Wasp Cocoons
Separated Four-Layer Cocoon
Separated Four-Layer Cocoon
Aug 21, 2015

Who says you can't change horses mid-streatm?

SEPALI farmers teach SEPALI team a thing or two
SEPALI farmers teach SEPALI team a thing or two

SEPALI FARMERS TEACH THE TEAM A THING OR TWO – At the beginning of every year, the SEPALI team announces the “rules” for the coming year – for example, the amount of money farmers will earn per kilo, the number of cocoons that need to be deposited/workshop invitation. Every year we learn something new.

In 2014 we found that farmers were depositing only the minimum number of cocoons to receive a workshop invitation, 200. Our workshop expenses were very high; hence we initiated the global giving campaign 2014 to help us pay for them. In 2015, we tried to encourage farmers’ to produce more cocoons and, we changed the minimum from 200 to 800 cocoons per workshop invitation. While production in 2014 from January to May was 11000, in 2015, farmers only produced 4600 in the same time period. Furthermore, in 2014 21 farmers participated in production during the early part of the year and but in 2015 only 6 farmers participated - not a good result.

Obviously the farmers have spoken – we are back to 200 cocoons per workshop invitation. It seems clear that farmers need little rewards (stepping stones) along the way to achieve a larger goal. Furthermore, little steps encourage many more farmers participate and many more make deposits. Thank you GG for helping us to understand this.   Who says you can’t change horses mid-stream?

Women
Women's workshop
Team displays its handiwork
Team displays its handiwork
Jul 14, 2015

First steps - a pink house for the watchman and family

A new pink house for SEPALI watchman and family
A new pink house for SEPALI watchman and family

First things first - we are revving up the work at the demonstration site and that means we need to bulid a house for a 24 hour watchman.  The watchman is needed to protect the property from maurading cows, chickens, and individuals who might want to harvest our cocoons and vanilla.  Included with the house  will be a fancy composting toilet! We do things right at SEPALI Madagascar!  What is a bit unexpected is that the toilet is more expensive than the house.  Hmm - something is wrong here.

While getting ready for the training center the team has been making multiple site improvements with plantings of silkmoth host plants, cleaning out of a pond that is going to be used to raise dragonfly larvae for food as part of our insects for food program.  In addition the team has been planting vanilla to gorw on the silk moth host plants to illustrate to  farmers how they can use the Talandoha for an added income opportunity.  In fact, Mamy has been growing vanillla at the demonstration site for two years and the flowers are quite beautiful. Did you know that vanilla does not have any pollinators in Madagascar and therefore each flower needs to be hand pollinated?  Furthermore, each plant produces only one flower per day.  With increased farmer activity in vanilla production we hope to increase farmer activity to tend the caterpillars - it all fits!

We are still trying to deal with our electricity conundrum.  A new point of attack is to purchase manual sewing machines and therefore greatly reduce our electricity need for now. In that, case we could probably manage with a few solar cells for cooking, evening light, etc.  We had hoped to have our office at the training center but we are being creative and looking for a secondary site in town.  Stay tuned!

Caterpillar host trees decorate demonstration site
Caterpillar host trees decorate demonstration site
Keep out the zebu!
Keep out the zebu!
Transporting walls
Transporting walls
Making it work
Making it work

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