Planting New Orchards With Ranobe Farmers
Dear Supports of the Community Outreach Center in Ranobe village
All of us working here in Ranobe appreciate your ongoing support and patience for completion of this Center, things have been mora-mora (moving slowly) but affectively we have reached our goal of getting the roof frame of the Center on by this up date. With the monsoons finally arriving in SW Madagascar after a considerable drought period people are investing all their energies into getting as much into the ground with this narrow window of favorable planting conditions.
Since our last update many things are moving in a very positive direction for the project, several ongoing and new ideas for activities that will be running in the Center are already underway in Ranobe (see below). Ho Avy's collaborative and participatory approach to work on community development has been reassessed with the help of some new partners ProAct Network, along with the community association FIMPAHARA, and the Ranobe village at large.
The completion of the Center at this point just needs the agreed upon labor input from the village and since May 2011 all materials have been on site and the villagers has come up with and agreed on their own building design. In June, regional leaders including the director of regional development came from the capital of Toliara to Ranobe in support of the Center's completion and encouraged the community that 'it is in their best interest to pull-together and complete the center as a community'.
As best as Ho Avy can we have advised the village that completion of the Center will bring in many good benefits to the community. We have informed the villagers that the building will have electricity (around a 10,000 dollar investment), new materials and programs for alternative livelihood improvements, education opportunities for adults and kids but things still progress slowly as this is not paid work but rather an effort from the community for the community. Truth be told people here rarely offer volunteering time to their neighbors, people tend to be individualistic when it comes to work, people farm their own plot, and only occasionally hire labors. In fact, there are tons of quarks, among different family's in the village, their histories, which affects working together for the completion of the Center and Ho Avy simply cannot be in the middle working this all out. In fact Ho avy has been adapting to local conditions, taking a necessary reflective step back for our own growth and to allow the village, who have agreed to do this Center the space to do it at their pace. This is a great learning lesson for Ho Avy about how real progress is step by step and while this is not our typical western way of doing things these last weeks give us increased confidence this approach will provide a greater yield in the end.
But we wanted you to be aware of some of the reasons why things have taken much longer than we would have originally envisioned with the construction of the Center.
In related news, this past week David from the ProAct Network, a Swiss based organization specializing in participatory community environmental planning, risk assessment and adaptation to climate change impacts visited Ho Avy in Ranobe.
ProAct, amongst other projects is interested in supporting the ongoing activities of the Community Center with a number of tools and materials for livelihood improvements ranging from sewing machines, to agricultural tools, to the installation of SunPower donated solar panels. On David's visit we updated the community about this news and asked them what it would take to complete the construction of the Center so we are able to get the new programs and materials to it? Upon the villages request, ProAct has generously donated some initial funding for labor to complete the Center, to augment the income of the villagers who would otherwise be making charcoal and farming. The alternative livelihood option to construct the Center has come with great enthusiasms from the village and we have been ensured of a opening of the Community Center by the end of March.
Thanks David and ProAct for brining your expertise and support of community planning to Ranobe and Ho Avy! Also during ProAct's visit we toured and met with several partner organizations working with Ho Avy including HONKO, Bel Avenir and WWF and numerous exciting synergies came out of these meetings with the great prospect for renewed and expanded collaboration with these organizations, Ho Avy and ProAct.
Other community stuff happening around Ranobe:
We are happy to inform you school is in, in Ranobe, led by Anna a volunteer from Germany who has prudently started language lessons in the school, built a football field last week, and is in the process of building a nursery and garden at the school. Anna is highly motivated, self-sufficient and competent and has developed a scheme in collaboration with the school director and children where together we will grow and plant trees around the school in exchange for equipping the school with necessary materials and knowledge about the importance of the local forest, the necessity to change habits and protect it. Also, a local woman artist believing in Ho Avy's vision has approached me and has expressed interested to make informative comics and theatre with the school kids, specific to the mission of Ho Avy working in Ranobe. This will be a very important tool, from a truly Malagasy prospective that can lend greatly to bridging the communication gap and help new positive messages reach people who need it most like the kids in the Ranobe school, who's education and livelihood opportunities are very limited but who's mind's are open to new information.
With the help of a small group of dedicated villagers and social organizers we have around 15,000 trees growing in the nurseries in Ranobe, this time around we have focused on what the community has asked for, more fruit trees, useful wood producing and medicinal species. As a result more farmers are beginning to come to us, becoming very keen on the idea of planting trees and integrating them into into the productive agriculture land that Ranobe is blessed with. Thus we are very pleased with the progress, and while things are slow with some projects like construction much is abuzz in the village now.
Speaking of slow, this past week we hosed a big supporter of Ho Avy's work in Madagascar, the University of Hamburg who are searching the Ranobe forest for the critically endangered Spider tortoise, an endemic species to southwestern Madagascar. The reseach methodology involves employing and taking villagers out into the forest to search for tortoises. Sadly only a few were found this time, but research will be followed up by Hamburg, Ho Avy and the University of Toliara, several months a year until 2014. Loss of habitat to charcoal production along with human consumption of the animals contributes most to the loss of this marvelous and prehistoric tortoises. Hiring villagers, the people who maybe directly altering the habitat, or consuming these animal was welcomed and enthusiastically 10 villagers accompanied the survey team twice a day, earning approximately a months income in less than a week.
Thank you for bearing with us as we go through this necessary evolution process to improve Ho Avy's repertoire of approaches that aim to achieve collective benefit for the good of the community using participatory approaches.
Your support is so very much appreciated, please send us any feedback you have (good or bad), we'd like to hear from you and we cannot thank you enough.
Seeds Of Change
Current State of Community Center
Addressing our target audience for next steps
In the still morning harvesting a day's catch
inspiring new ways of looking at things in Ranobe