Mar 29, 2018

Beating the Floods and Pushing Forward

New Color Loom
New Color Loom

The SEPALI team in Madagascar is starting the year off with a big hustle. The word is out about our silks and the orders are coming in back-to-back, creating welcome challenges with regard to scaling our project properly and keeping us on track to reach our goal of a sustainable business model. We’re not there yet, but consistent orders are certainly helping put the pressure on. The team is working to complete orders while sourcing silk from farmer cooperatives, growing the team appropriately, and actively combating the weather.

Battling Cyclone Season

Yes, cyclones are a season in Madagascar. Unfortunately this year has been more active than most. Ava made landfall in early January as a category 2 cyclone, Berguitta swept through in late January as a category 3, then a brief lull was followed by two in a row, category 3 Dumazile in early March and severe tropical storm Eliakim right on its heels. The relentless pummeling is starting to take its toll, but the team is taking the challenges as they come and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy and consistency. They are prioritizing tasks, adapting non-electric equipment during power outages, drying the silk in protected areas and continuing, miraculously, to ship boxes out on time. Best of all, the bridge that we repaired after last year's cyclone season still stands. Thank you donors!

Silk Expansion Packs

One recent marketing change that should help us weather the storms is the development and addition of 5 different species of wild silk to our collection. In addition to Ceranchia open and dense weave, we now feature Bombyx, Borocera, Argema, Antherina, and Deborrea. The new additions have already attracted positive feedback from our customers and we are now producing large repeat orders of paper, art pieces and material. Of course, that work involves expanding our farmer supply networks as well. The team is working on developing consistent, reliable networks for species of silk moths that require different host trees and different habitats. Good thing our director is an entomologist. Mamy has been rearing and studying these species for years and he's up for the task!

Looms and Raffia

Raffia continues to bolster our networks as well. The local raffia weavers make a high-quality, finely-woven raffia on traditional looms and women’s groups from the capital supplement our supply with their own version of wide, large raffia pieces with lots of surface area. We have been in partnership with these groups over the past couple of months to learn their techniques and adapt them to the local communities and products of Maroantsetra. The results are slow, but steady. Our team now has a number of looms that they are training local artisans on and creating beautiful, new designs that are uniquely ours. 

Upcoming Workshop

One of the most exciting parts of the spring is preparing for our annual design workshop with Docey Lewis. She agreed to return to Madagascar this year to teach new designs, refine existing skills, and prepare the team and products for our trade show in August. Her training workshops are always extremely valuable to the team and they look forward to it every year. Not only does it get us organized and give us a big dose of confidence for the year, but it provides our team with a structured opportunity to learn the skills necessary for becoming an independent and sustainable Malagasy business. This is still a significant, but worthwhile investment for us and anything you can do to help is appreciated!

Thank you for all your support!

Artisan weaving on new SEPALI loom
Artisan weaving on new SEPALI loom
Six Species of Wild Silk Papers
Six Species of Wild Silk Papers
New Raffia Design
New Raffia Design
Cyclone floods new SEPALI property
Cyclone floods new SEPALI property
Mar 22, 2018

A victim of our own success

Silk worm pupae for lunch
Silk worm pupae for lunch

 CPALI has multiple projects it is trying to promote in Madagascar; at least we did until the women's textile production grew to take over every waking hour and the to meet market demand and build sustainability!! While that project is continuing to flourish and grow,it has monopolized the current team distracting them from pursuing our edible Insects program.  

CPALI began working with a new team to promote cricket farming for a commercial venture Entomofarms and the Madagascar Biodiversity Center, located in Antananarivo.  Here the rub- Antananarivo is farther from Maroantsetra with respect to travel time (by bus or boat) than the US is to Tana (plane time). Furthermore, the cost of one plane fare, round trip, Maroantsetra Tana Maroantsetra is half the cost of a plane fare, from New York to Madagascar! We have a problem.

I hoped that our major contribution to tour new partners work would be to introduce cricket rearing into villages and then the sale of farmed crickets to the factory in Tana to be ground and used as a high value protein additive to foods such as noodles, rice, bread.  However, due to the distance from Tana to Marontsetra, and the fact that they team was focused on rearing other types of insects, impelmenting a whole new ciricket rearing program is not in the cards!  Although there is certainly room for both activities in the insects for food program, the current SEPALI team cannot take on additional rearing.  What to do?

Here I am writing to ask for input from our donors.  Should we close the pupae for protein project in Maroantsetra and completely focus on wild silk moth textiles for income generation? We note that we are now providing a market for the cocoons produced by the domesticated silk worm to bolster the textile program and that Bombyx pupa eare eaten by those that remove them from the cocoons, (viewed as an added benefit of the job).  Maybe we should formalize that activity and extend CPALI’s pupae for protein using Bombyx  pupae and form a whole new team? If that makes sense and because they are already being eaten.

We would  have to set up a new supply chain and marketing network for farmers. Perhaps we could hire someone whose job is to should find out how many accessible Bombyx farmers exist and how many would like to sell pupae? This would require a new business plan pf course, and a new team in Antananarivo.  It would buy us sometime until the cricket program can expand and it would help CPALI expand its insects for food mission.  Please note that all the Bombyx we are work ing with are already farmed hence we are not promoting non-sustainable harvesting of native species nor are we introducing a non-native species to Madagsacar  However, Bombyx farmers already exist but have lost their market for cocoons since the cost of export from Madagascar and teh fact that the Chinese are producing cocoons much more cheaply than Malagasy farmers. 

It is time for more input from you, our donors.  Please let me know (ccraig221@gmail.com) what you recommend for the future of this work.

Mofo (bread) made with/without cricket powder
Mofo (bread) made with/without cricket powder
Water bug brochette!
Water bug brochette!

Links:

Jan 5, 2018

Funded!

Cheers!
Cheers!

Funded at last!

Dear Donors,

Phase 1 of our artisan training program is complete! Thanks to your fantastic support, we were able to expand our artisan training program from just a handful of workshops per year to a full-scale operation with a team of dedicated staff, skilled artisans, year-round livelihoods and international marketing support! Take a look back through our reports to see how we evolved and check out our year-in-review video from the past few months!

Where are we going from here? To raffia and new wild silks and beyond! The next step for us is to try to improve project acessibility and reach enough people that we can make a significant impact on conservation and health and wellness in the communities of Makira. Take a look: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/transform-lives-in-madagascar-with-silk-and-raffia/

Thank you again and Happy New Year!  

Links:

 
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