Founded in 2012, the Stitch Sainte Luce Cooperative was established to develop embroidery as a sustainable livelihood opportunity for women in Sainte Luce. The Cooperative grew to include 103 members, all of whom hand-embroider unique décor and accessories that incorporate traditional craft skills and local design.
COVID-19 prompted several challenges for the Cooperative. International travel and border restrictions led to the loss of the region’s tourist market and caused Cooperative sales to significantly decline and the Studio to become inactive. Additionally, failed harvests drastically reduced food and income, forcing most members to focus on less profitable livelihoods to meet immediate needs. Without SEED’s intervention, embroidery as a sustainable livelihood for the women of Sainte Luce was at risk.
A COVID-19 Recovery Project supported the Cooperative to repair and improve the damaged studio roof, purchase upfront fabric and threads to enable the embroiderers to create new products without the financial risk and, pay for the international postage of a selection of products to keep the international market running.
2023 kicked off very well for Stitch! Following a feature in The Guardian’s ‘We Love’ article, Stitch Sainte Luce and their beautiful hand-stitched embroidery drew in hundreds of shoppers to the Etsy store, almost clearing the current store stock and generating over £1,000 of income that will be distributed across 46 of the embroiderers in the cooperative! A fresh batch of stock has now been added to the Etsy store, check out the beautiful products here!
Many of SEED’s projects have been expanding and entering new phases. Most notably, Project Palms has seen an increase in conservation activity, the Emergency Food Distribution (EFD) Programme has seen an encouraging increase in the use of women’s health services, and the Stitch Sainte Luce Cooperative has been working hard ahead of the Christmas season. I’m excited to fill you in on what these projects have been working on recently and their upcoming months.
Project Palms has been working to improve the six threatened species of palm tree, recently completed a population census, and are now starting to foster a nursery of new saplings for transplantation. The team is confident that there will soon be a nursery full of greenery thanks to the over 5,000 planted seeds. The embroiderers at Stitch Sainte Luce are preparing for Christmas with the production of home decor, bags and purses, and recently trialled some new tableware products. They are ensuring the Etsy shop is stocked and ready to go for the upcoming busy season.
Lastly and most urgently, SEED’s EFD Programme has entered Phase III in the South and IV in the North. In the latter, 1,418 women have already accessed advice and services with 31% of these being new users. Unfortunately famine has reached new levels that threaten the EFD Programme’s ability to fulfil the increasing need for food and health services. While hundreds of children have been able to improve their health, a lack of funding restrains the project from helping all those who need it by rationing portions. SEED is continuing to fundraise for this urgent and critical cause. As always, SEED thanks you for being a part of our projects working to improve quality of life through poverty alleviation and will continue to report our progress.
Whether it is through Project Mahampy, Sakondry, or Recovery & Resilience, SEED aims to meet both the immediate and longer-term needs to contribute to the alleviation of poverty in southeast Madagascar. Our projects work to provide relief and emergency response when necessary, but continue to emphasise the importance of tackling issues at the root cause and building community resilience.
Our recent blog highlights capacity building for health centres and health workers as an example of SEED’s long-term thinking, whilst also stressing the need to address root causes of poverty through sustainable livelihoods. The region of Anosy was faced with a difficult first few months of 2022 resulting in mass-income loss and a devastating food crisis, exacerbating high poverty rates. Whilst the Emergency Food Distribution Programme supported immediate recovery in malnutrition, the Recovery & Resilience program worked to train caregivers, host information sessions, and on the whole, promote the long-term health and nutrition of families. Improved community member’s knowledge of health helped to combat malnutrition at the source while a heightened awareness of the limitation on women’s employment opportunities accentuated the importance of livelihood projects. This is of great consequence due to the above-average number of single-mother households in the region, coupled by the restrictive cultural expectations of them. In addressing these long-term, root causes, sustainable community recovery and resilience can be built.
Named after the bugs themselves, Project Sakondry aims to increase food availability and contribute to malnutrition alleviation across five rural communities in the Anosy region through the establishment of household insect farming. In 2021,a three-month pilot, aiming to address COVID-19 related food insecurity saw 100% of households successfully germinating seedlings (2,769 plants total). There was 100% training session attendance, and the end of the project was met with a high motivation for project expansion; 100% of beneficiaries were eager to increase edible insect numbers.
Building upon the successful pilot, SEED delivered a 6-month project, kindly funded by the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, that aimed to increase diet diversity, increase food security, and contribute to malnutrition alleviation across five rural communities in southeast Madagascar, through the establishment of Sakondry farming. The project responded to the heightened vulnerability of rural women and children to poor dietary diversity and higher food insecurity as compared to men in their communities. By targeting women as the primary recipients of training, skills and knowledge were directly imparted to over 430 women in five rural communities. With female beneficiaries identifying as the primary caretakers of children and the household, facilitating a livelihood opportunity close to home that requires low input rendered edible insect farming more accessible and feasible than more time- and resource-intensive supplementary livelihoods.
You can read more about Project Sakondry and its impacts here.
Mahampy Phase 1: Finished
The completion of the first phase of Project Mahampy substantially strengthened mahampy weaving as a livelihood opportunity for women in Sainte Luce. The Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative was established to increase the weavers’ supplier power, and the Mahampy Weavers’ Workshop to create a space for sales to local buyers and tourists. Throughout the project, training sessions were conducted to build the capacity of weavers and the Cooperative to increase their income. Regular wetland monitoring, conducted by both SEED’s Conservation Research Programme (SCRP) and the weavers themselves, have contributed to gaining a better understanding of the mahampy reedbeds.
The Mahampy Weavers’ Workshop opened in April 2021 and was used by the Cooperative to store mahampy reeds and host training sessions. The Workshop has been an effective means of increasing the weavers’ sales capacity, addressing a need identified by the weavers’ themselves. The weavers have begun using the Workshop to store and sell mahampy products.
To continue building on the progress made in Phase I, Project Mahampy: Phase II will play a crucial role in supporting the Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative to increase the income generated from mahampy weaving, whilst sustainable management of the reedbeds will ensure the future of mahampy weaving as a women’s livelihood activity. To increase the number of sales through the Mahampy Weavers’ Workshop, SEED will build an extension to the current building in order to enable weavers to utilise the space for weaving purposes. In addition, SEED will improve the Cooperative’s routes to markets through increased engagement with local and regional buyers. Phase II will play a crucial role in supporting the Cooperative to increase the income generated from mahampy weaving, whilst sustainable management of the reedbeds will ensure the future of mahampy weaving as a women’s livelihood activity.
Ready for Rights
Between 2010 and 2017, HIV prevalence rose by 84%, with half of this group aged 10-24. Nationwide, 35% of girls aged between 15 and 19 have begun childbearing.
Gaps in the knowledge and understanding of periods contribute to stigmas surrounding sexual health and menstruation. These gaps also exist in health centres, resulting in low-quality service provision, and unmet sexual and reproductive health needs. In 2014, there were just 1.8 medical doctors and only 1.1 nurses or midwives per 10,000 people in Madagascar.
Across 4 schools, SEED intends to train 50 teachers, empowering them with the resources to deliver Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) to approximately 1,200 students aged 11-18. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities will also be constructed at two schools consisting of safe, private, single-gendered sanitation facilities, alongside accessible water supplies and a means of safe disposal for menstrual waste. To complement this infrastructure, reusable pad making sessions will also be delivered, which will further remove key access barriers, enabling female students to manage their menstruation with dignity and attend full days of school.
In the long-term, this project will provide education opportunities and infrastructure to multiple cohorts of students. Additionally, the project will provide concrete findings of rights-based education to, and build relationships with, key decision makers and influencers of policy change, improving the SRHR for the young people of Madagascar.
The project has successfully begun all intended activities to ensure that 1,200 students receive SRHR information. SEED’s SRHR teacher training was adapted for middle school teachers, after which a total of 50 teachers across four schools were trained to support the delivery of SRHR education to students. To date, these sessions have reached 1,086 students across four schools. The construction of MHM facilities at two of the four schools is now complete and being used by students.
Fishery management is both a socio-economic and environmental priority, as in the communities of Sainte Luce and Elodrato, up to 92% of households rely on lobster fishing as their main source of income. However, the fishery is at risk of severe overexploitation, driven primarily by poor governance. With low local-level compliance with the regulations, as well as a lack of fisher understanding as to why lobster stocks are declining and high levels of household poverty, the lack of cohesive governance threatens a cornerstone of life in the coastal Anosy region.
SEED supports lobster fishing communities to establish Locally-Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) and strengthens them through community-led monitoring, training and awareness raising, support on governance and enforcement, and research.
Through participatory monitoring, lobster catch composition and landings effort are monitored by community data collectors. The data provides information on the short and medium-term effects of the LMMA and the periodic no take zone (NTZ) on fisher income and biodiversity. Combined with local ecological knowledge of the spatial distribution of lobsters, the data can also be used to optimise the timing and location of the NTZ, to maximise the protection of undersized and berried lobsters.
In partnership with Blue Ventures, SEED has secured funding to further support and strengthen community-based fisheries management in Sainte Luce and Elodrato for one year, as part of Oratsimba Phase IV. To continue developing focus areas further, Phase IV will also include the development of financial management schemes and initiatives to increase fishers’ financial resilience and maximise the economic benefits gained from lobster fishing.
Prior to COVID-19, 100 children died from preventable illnesses in Madagascar every day. Project Votsira aims to improve maternal and child health outcomes in southeast Madagascar by educating community members and healthcare professionals. To complement this, SEED will partner with the regional Ministry of Public Health and local clinics to lead town-wide sensitisation campaigns and develop a coordinated network of healthcare stakeholders.
In partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, SEED will expand and enhance an existing maternal and child health curriculum. During a two-year project, healthcare providers will deliver three rounds of the maternal and child health course; 3,300 mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and young women will each receive eight fortnightly sessions.
Community health workers will address participants’ individual needs through 825 household visits. During these household visits, mothers will be taught internationally-recognised breastfeeding practices to promote child health. Mass mobilisation campaigns, conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, will deliver maternal and child health information to the wider community. SEED has also adapted national Ministry of Public Health guidelines to deliver quarterly training sessions to 20 midwives and staff of basic health centres.
Quarterly roundtable convenings will bring together the regional Ministry of Public Health and other key regional stakeholders to promote the coordination and delivery of high-quality maternal and child health services. The Regional Medicine Inspector will play a key role in ensuring that information and evaluation is fed back into the Operational Coordination Centre Against Famine, of which SEED is also a member. Feedback from partners will support the development of future maternal and child health programming.
The past few months have highlighted the severity of the impacts of climate change and severe droughts on crop survival and food security in Madagascar. Compounded by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the worst drought since 1981, resulting in famine, there is an urgent need for the strengthening of sustainable livelihood strategies. Despite the challenges, SEED continues to respond flexibly and efficiently to the most critical needs of communities in the Anosy region.
This report features some of SEED’s recent achievements in the commitment to local ownership, whilst highlighting exciting innovations we have been working on.
Working to increase income for female traditional weavers and sustainable resource management of the mahampy reedbeds, SEED aims to improve the livelihoods of rural women in Madagascar, whilst ensuring that the reedbeds upon which they rely are healthy. SEED supported the creation of a Weavers’ Cooperative Committee, constructing a workshop with input from Cooperative members for technical weaving skills training to be held.
In response to the collapse of the tourism industry and the postponement of the values added product pilot due to COVID-19, project funds were partially reallocated into a menstrual hygiene management (MHM) pilot. Modelled after successful MHM projects implemented by SEED’s Community Health team, Project Mahampy sought to teach the women weavers how to create sustainable, low-cost menstrual hygiene products and deliver informal MHM informational sessions. Given the lack of access to MHM within the community, the pilot addressed period poverty by minimising the disruption of menstruation on their daily life and wellbeing. Members of the cooperatives found community in this work, receiving sustainable training on MHM and weaving production.
“During our training, people are talking more openly about sex and menstruation. It has given the women an opportunity to talk to each other.”
- Ravolasoa Jacqueline, President of the Taratsy Mahavotsy Mpandrary sub-cooperative
Limited by the country’s under-resourced healthcare and education systems, Madagascar’s young people have few reliable options for sexual and reproductive health information. Safidy’s partnership with the Ministry of Education has ensured that a sexual health curriculum is interwoven across the Malagasy high school education system. This means topics such as gender equality, advocacy, rights, abuse, and consent would now become a part of high school courses such as biology, philosophy, and geography.
With endline surveys being conducted, this phase of integrating sexual health into the national curriculum is coming to an end. Currently, Project Safidy is moving toward expanding intensive SRHR teacher training to 250 teachers in 10 schools and launching the curriculum in Madagascar’s largest teacher-training university. With this solid base, moving forward, the goal is to grow the SRHR network by building locally-led partnerships with country donors and multilateral organisations to keep extending Safidy’s influence.
In the last month, the SEED construction team has laid the foundation and now, Emagnevy Primary School's new classrooms are taking shape. The parents of some of Emagnevy Primary School's pupils decided to come along to our school building site to assist the Project Sekoly team. All morning these amazing parents helped to lay the foundations of not only SEED's newest school but also, in turn, their children’s education, well-being, and success.
These two extra classrooms will allow all 286 students at Emagnevy to attend school full-time. This increased learning space will make a huge difference to the education of 60% of Emagnevy's pupils, who are currently only able to attend half days due to cramped conditions.
Sekoly Emagnevy is a special project for SEED because it is the first education infrastructure project that has offset the carbon footprint caused by transport, construction, and materials. Community-managed plantations will grow trees over the next 10 years, half of which will meet local demands and the other half of which will offset the carbon footprint of the school’s construction, paving the way for innovation in carbon offsetting in SEED’s future Sekoly projects.
With one of the highest rates of food insecurity globally, almost 70% of Madagascar’s population fall under the poverty line, and as a result of the impact of Covid-19, over 1.3 million people in Southern Madagascar will be unable to find enough food to eat today. Project Sakondry aims to provide households with materials and knowledge to farm insects (locally known as sakondry) for household consumption – intending to improve dietary diversity for more vulnerable households, especially for pregnant women and young children. The project also enables households to supplement income through the sale of sakondry, easing reliance on natural resources.
The Project Sakondry team has been at work training four female Community Ambassadors to assist with community training and to support 625 households by answering individual questions and concerns, helping families to successfully farm and harvest sakondry.
Project Sakondry stands as one of SEED’s most innovative projects, thriving despite the hardships of the pandemic and with intentions of expanding to over 600 households, supporting the food security of 2750 individuals.
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