Evaluating the adoption of improved cookstoves, our team’s latest report featured this photo (above) taken with a cell phone. The tagline: “Mr Daha and his wife make cookstoves for sale”, showing the couple, without their cookstove. When we asked why there was no cookstove in the photo we were told: everybody knows them and their famous improved cookstoves. Their skill is well known in their own and the surrounding villages.
Their improved cookstoves are only made to order, or on demand. Depending on the client’s needs they make three models: A small, medium and large (the two-stove model in photo 3) Selling improved cookstoves gives them access to much needed cash in the ‘époque dure’ the ‘hard times’ right now. They were very proud to report that they were able to buy a piglet by their own means, without relying on Zahana’s microcredit. This is another great example how our projects, in this case microcredit and improved cookstoves are intertwined.
The team agrees that they have invented one of the most innovative and spiffy looking improved cookstoves. It is also considered one the best.
Translating the prices for improved cookstoves into a dollar amount creates a challenge without the cultural context. But it is safe to say, as a bench mark, that the smallest improved cookstoves cost about a one day's wage of a day laborer.
Their small one pot improved cookstove
Their small and the big improved cookstove models
2 improved cookstove models in a village kitchen
Cooking with improved cookstove in village kitchen
Many of you may remember Donné, the older of two boys who passed CEPE exam in 2009. Since then Zahana supported him through secondary school and an 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 viallage 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. Donne became a bit 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 much 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 even the nearest town. Even the most stubborn traditionalist might see that there is more to agriculture than growing rice and corn - if the price you fetch is right.
Donne growing vegetables for the (future) school's
Our Microcredit projects have had very mixed results over the years. We will need to sit down by the end of the year with our new coordinator and have a close look at the successes and failures.
But: there is always a new project in the works. In consultation with an agricultural specialist, his recommendation was simple: breed rabbits. Pigs can easily become the target of the unfortunately more and more common raids by cattle thieves (dahalo), because they are big and can be herded. Rabbits are too small to be of any interest for a cattle thief, since they fetch a small price and cannot just be herded away.
But rabbits can either be eaten or sold during the holiday season in the next town. And rabbits multiply proverbially fast. This time we started small and took a different approach this time. Each school will get one pair of rabbits if and only if the community has built a rabbit house in the schoolyard. Once the rabbits start to multiply, interested villagers can come to the school, learn the ins and outs of rabbit breeding and only then receive their own pair.
Now to a bit of housekeeping:
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The Tscherman Chef cooks something up again: a video with the community effort in Fiarenana as ingredients. (Yes, the school is now almost 2 years old and still going strong)
Who says development work needs to be serious? (Although the issues sure still are.) Participatory development means to work together, if you spent 1 minute and 40 seconds watching the video on Youtube (and later on our project page), you'll find out. Please feel free to leave a comment on YouTube.
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Sometimes the success of our participatory approach is best illustrated with a project we don’t do ourselves. Metal fences now surround all seven of Fiadanana’s communal water faucets for over 2 years. Built with a solid concrete foundation, the fences are holding up well.
All metal fences were built and paid for by the community, because they saw a need for it, without asking Zahana for a financial contribution. This is a prime example of a community taking ownership of and responsibility for their own resources.
Some history: In 2006, the community built their communal water system with seven communal water faucets (see website) with support from Zahana. We thought (see photo) communal water faucets could become a green oasis in the village, beautifying everything through colorful flowers and greenery, easily watered by the runoff.
Little did we know that the cows had no appreciation for esthetics, but a great hunger for juicy fresh green ‘stuff’. To keep the cattle out, the community decided to use concrete and metal, keeping their communal water sources safe for years to come.
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Project Leader: Markus Faigle Volunteer Honolulu,
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