A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana

by Zahana
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A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana
Marking Seed balls
Marking Seed balls

Our newly introduced seed ball technology (see website and/or project report) can potentially increase our reforestation efforts many-fold, while it is fun for old and young.

Why teach making seed balls?

This idea is inspired by the lessons learned from our cookstove project in Tsaramandroso. There people prefer to make charcoal by hand, instead of using the mechanical ‘hand and hammer’ tool developed by Zahana. (More about that at another time.) While the hand and hammer is more efficient to produce charcoal bio-briquettes, making it by hand is something they can do ‘on the side’ while they sit around, relax and chat after a long day in the field.

Charcoal briquettes inspired the seed ball project

The plan: Get people together to make seed balls. In the workshop you learn about gathering and mixing the ingredients. Initially you use the tree seeds provided by Zahana, but are also encouraged to collect some seeds in your area. Soon everybody will be making their 100 seed balls while chatting away. Many people working together on a common goal and chatting is a great educational opportunity: you can talk about the importance of reforestation. Not as a boring lecture, but focusing on the positive impact of reforestation and the importance of trees for their children and grandchildren. And the role of collecting native tree seeds versus ‘outside’ trees for their seed balls. Especially grandparents are always interested in their grandchildren’s future. As elders, they themselves are respected teachers in their community. If they in turn are inspired to teach how to make seed balls the workshop becomes a train-the-trainers session.

That’s our theoretical frame work for our school seed ball education project.

Children are having fun throwing seed balls all over the landscape. If they only had enough seed balls they might play this game endlessly.

Around August, schools in Madagascar are on winter break for two months. This leaves our students with nothing to do, especially if they’re still too small to work in the fields with their parents. But it also leaves our teachers in limbo, because they are not working.

So, we started an experiment for the school break in 2021: The teachers work during the break. They get their students together in the school yard to make thousands of seed balls.  Our team already acquired tree seeds and delivered it to our schools. We encourage our teachers to think creatively and consider so many little hands forming seed balls together in the school grounds as a great opportunity for education. While they make clay seedballs the teachers can talk about reforestation, about the roles of trees in our lives, about washing hands etc.

Well, at least this is the plan for this winter break. Try something new, and literally field test if it works.

Two things are already guaranteed: it keeps our kids busy and out of mischief and our teachers gainfully employed. And if we end up with hopefully  thousands of seed balls we have over 200 volunteers that will most willingly throw them all over creation. This leads to the next exciting field test: do seed balls actually work? After all, only time and (hopefully) the next rainy season will tell. But having a few thousand seed balls for this experiment at hand to fling, sure can’t hurt.

Seed balls and clay
Seed balls and clay
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Getting ready to plant in the outdoor classroom
Getting ready to plant in the outdoor classroom

At a first look this photo looks like another reforestation story” I thought when I first opened my email. Little did I know that the story was much bigger. With very patchy Wi-Fi access in Madagascar pictures need to be send when it is possible, not when it is convenient. So, the story followed later, first by text message and then by video chat.

Right around the time the schools reopened from countrywide COVID-19 closures, we entered the beginning of the planting season. Earlier reports, during the school closure, talked about teachers and students getting more involved in (school) gardening under the supervision of our very own Donné.

In the second photo you see that the students are actually planting cassava. Once harvested, this cassava will become part of the school food. It is a very important step of making the school self-sufficient and have the students plant, grow and harvest as much of their school food as possible. Located on a hillside this land is not suitable for rice cultivation. Thanks for the generous offer of our gardener Bary, who owns it, the school can use it to grow food. Farming on a hillside requires terracing and is very labor-intensive, but with the help of dozens of little, energetic gardeners is easily accomplished.

Planting cassava as school food (with teacher)
Planting cassava as school food (with teacher)

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Donne in the new expanded school garden
Donne in the new expanded school garden

Many of you may remember Donné, the older of two boys who passed CEPE exam in 2009. Since then Zahana supported him through secondary and agricultural high school. He is the first one in his village to obtain a baccalaureate.

After graduating he took a few more specialized courses and decided to join Zahana as a substitute teacher and experimental farmer. A smart move - the COVID-19 pandemic was a few weeks away and finding a job outside his village might have been impossible.

Our understanding of ‘experimental farmer’: he draws a salary and uses his expertise introducing new crops in his experimental demonstration farm/school garden. Farmers are traditionally a stubborn bunch, talking about new crops is much less effective than growing it and showing it. Donné became a jack of all trades. His task: to exponentially expand the school garden to grow the food our students will eat in the future, while teaching the kids how to grow it. A paradox of COVID-19 is that the teachers did not want to sit idle around while their school was closed and got very involved in assisting him in the new school garden. School garden and reforestation go hand-in-hand, so the teachers also participated much more in the tree nursery. It was reported to us that many of the students lend a hand as well, illustrating once more that learning is not limited to a classroom.

Carrots and Onions

The crop of onions and carrots in the school garden are Donne’s pride and joy. We got quite a few photos of this novel crop.

Everybody in a Fiadanana was convinced neither would ever grow in this area. Onions generated the most buzz, because they are very much sought after and fetch a good price in the markets and the nearest town. Even the most stubborn traditionalist might see that there is more to agriculture than growing excusively rice and corn - if the price you fetch is right.

Onions do indeed grow here!
Onions do indeed grow here!
Donne growing vegetables for the (future) school's
Donne growing vegetables for the (future) school's
Look at these carrots!
Look at these carrots!
Carrots - a frist in this village
Carrots - a frist in this village
Onions do indeed grow here!
Onions do indeed grow here!
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Maybe the proud faces with their brand-new bikes tell more than words in this report?

As an unforeseen consequence of COVID-19, our training team members are now the proud owners of bicycles. Zahana bought bicycles so they could reach the remote villages for workshops on building improved cookstoves, bio-charcoal production and reforestation. This allows them to travel on their own time and much quicker than on foot.

Private mini buses, the only public mode of transportation in Madagascar, were basically rendered nonexistent for months because of COVID-19 restrictions. In prior reports for our improved coostove project, we shared that the team had resorted to walking from their town to the villages for the workshops.  Walking not only takes longer but also it leaves them more vulnerable. With bicycles they can reach the villages in a few hours compared to what before took a day or more on foot. Consequently, they can spend more time teaching than traveling. As a safety precaution they only travel in teams of two or more.

We are grateful for the Coronavirus Relief Fund from GlobalGiving and support from donors like you that make this technological mobility leap possible.

As part of our COVID-19 prevention activities we have recently posted a videoTop of FormBottom of Form ‘Learning how to wash hands with soap in rural Madagascar’ on YouTube. We hope you spend (literally) a minute watching it.

It is only prudent to mention that #GivingTuesday on December 1 is approaching fast. Ironically it falls on the same date as World AIDS Day this year. Most likely this is not the only email reminding you of that date. After all, many non-profits are scrambling for donations in these COVID-19 uncertain times and we are in good company.

For 2020 #GivingTuesday, GlobalGiving offers 1 million dollars of matching funds for 24 hours (starting 00:00 EDT). So, if you want to add something extra to your donation, this might be a good opportunity.

The funds will be distributed proportional to the total amount we raise up to a maximum of $2,500 per donation. Details of this (rather hard to explain) model can be found on the GlobalGiving website as a brain gym exercise. 

A word about Monthly donors

Thank you to all of our monthly donors! Your steady support is the backbone for our activities.

If you feel so inclined, we are actively encouraging a monthly donation that spreads your total gift out over 12 months and helps us plan better for the future. Monthly donations reduce the anxiety of how much we are going to actually raise as most of the donations are received at the end-of-the year in December.

Currently your first donation gets matched by GlobalGiving 100%. As an added bonus there is a 200% match of your first month’s donation from December 14 to 18, 2020. To sweeten the deal, monthly donations also help us with the internal ranking at GlobalGiving more than a one-time donation.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Practice is always good
Practice is always good
Training for the wide open road
Training for the wide open road
The team and their work horses
The team and their work horses
At the destination it is the talk of the town
At the destination it is the talk of the town

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Learning about masks for the new school year
Learning about masks for the new school year

Back to school for zahana means every student gets:

  • a mask,
  • a bar of soap,
  • vitamin C and
  • a package of cookies

to celebrate the special occasion.

We opted to give every student their personal bar of soap to wash their hands (see YouTube video).  They are encouraged to take this bar of soap home and teach the rest of the family to hopefully use it daily.They are encouraged to wash their hands with soap before they come to school. In addition we left a three-month supply of soap with the teachers for the school lunch. A 14-day supply of vitamin C boosts their immune system, with instruction by their teachers when and how to use it either (if they get it at all) with breakfast or before the school lunch. As a tiny lozenge, the 500 mg vitamin C can be taken without water. Masks in schools are required. The cookies are self-explanatory.

After months of Covid-19 prevention related closures this new school year starts late, in November. But in 2020 not with long awaited pencils and note books from Zahana, as in prior years.

Explaining the Vitamin C packages
Explaining the Vitamin C packages
Teacher handing our masks
Teacher handing our masks

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Organization Information

Zahana

Location: Antananarivo, Capital - Madagascar
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @zahana
Project Leader:
Markus Faigle
Volunteer
Honolulu, HI United States
$42,867 raised of $55,000 goal
 
315 donations
$12,133 to go
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