Ceranchia apollina cocoon (our new favorite)
One of the most difficult aspects of the CPALI/SEPALI project has been to change farmer's "scarcity thinking". Scarcity thinking stems from a lack of hope and belief that it is better to spend today than save for tomorrow. Scarcity thinking seems to most afflict the poorest of the poor because their lives are so tenuous. CPALI/SEPALIM is trying to tackle this problem by establishing a "Cocoon Bank" where farmers deposit cocoons but defer returns until they build up enough cash to make a substantial purchase. So far, we have had about 15 farmers take advantage of cocoon savings but that is not enough. We need to figure out how to motivate farmer's to learn how produce more cocoons. Most farmers do not follow the "rules", or the steps we teach to insure maximum cocoon production. Like all of us, they take short cuts. During rearing season, many farmers fail to a visit their fields frequently enough to move larvae to fresh trees, adjust protective nets and collect larvae just prior to spinning. Even though these activities only last for about 40 days per crop, and take about 2 hours, farmers are not sufficiently motivated to return to their fields as frequently as is needed. Some farmers need to walk 2 hours from the village to reach their fields.
To motivate farmers we are trying a new incentive program - that is to make seeds for vegetable crops available to those who deposit cocoons. Our data show that farmers who successfully rear larvae and produce cocoons are much more likely to continue rearing larvae than those that simply go through the training. Therefore, if a farmer that deposits 500 cocoons in the cocoon bank, he or she will have access to viable vegetable seeds. Our new Peace Corp Volunteer, Donald Quinn-Jacobs, has planted a vegetable garden on Gony Victor's land in Mahalevona, one of new communities near the Masoala National Park where we are working (see map). Farmers will be able to choose what they want to grow and the number of seeds available will correlate with the number of cocoons deposited. The vegetable seeds can be inter-cropped with Talandoa trees on existing farms to make daily visits to tend caterpillars more productive. We are hoping for some good eating and improved nutrition for farmer families - we will let you know if our scheme works!
SEPALI Madagascar sent 20 meters of beautiful textile made from cocoons spun by two different species of Saturniidae moths: Antherina suraka (our old favorite) and our new favorite, Ceranchia apollina. Instead of mixing inner and outer cocoons, the team made 2 new textiles that have unique and stunning characteristics. The moth loosely spins the outer cocoon and the inner cocoon is spun tightly. The photograph below shows the cocoon as it is found in the field to maximum effect.
The Team decided to take advantage of these differences to make two different textiles. The top fabric is made from cocoons spun by Antherina suraka. The center fabric is made from outer cocoons and the bottom fabric from the inner cocoons. Although it is hard so see the gorgeous translucent effect of the middle layer textile, it is fun to imagine a beautiful gown that takes advantage of the silks double layer beauty - Any designers for the next eco-Oscar sensation?
We are finally able to begin our long-term soil analyses. One hundred and forty samples have benn analyzed from the farms marked on the included map. Thank you Cornell, REBIOMA and the SEPALI team for helping this work come to the fore!
Two new textiles, plus our old favorite (on top)
SEPALI soil sample sites