Our gardeners are also involved in agriculture and introducing new crops in our villages. This is in addition to their important role of reforestation and growing baby trees. Many years ago our first gardener Jean had launched a very successful potato project (see website), but for some reason it became dormant after two years. Unfotunally we learned a few months ago that Jean had passed away.
In May 2023 we launched with the help of our gardeners the cultivation of potatoes and other vegetables in Fiadanana, Tsaramandroso and Analakely. The current situation encourages Zahana this time to put in place a food security approach in planting other crops than only rice or corn/maize to avoid famine during the époque dure.
To do so, Zahana purchased 200kg of baby potatoes in Imerintsiatosika. Imerintsiatosika is famous for their potatoes that grow very well there. The 200 kg were shared to be grown by people participating in the project on all 3 villages. According to the experts and the experiences of the villagers, potatoes grow better in rice fields in the time after the rice harvest and before the next rice planting season. While in the past we considered potatoes also as a potential source for income we focused this time primarily on potatoes as a source for food that can be eaten when other food is scarce. (See website). This is an exacting new phase for us, because although we had two or three very successful potatoes growing projects in the past decades, they always stopped at some point for reasons we could never determine. Having three villages involved at the same time, fostering some friendly competition between them, will hopefully lead to success.
Zahana under the guideance of Donne and some experts proceeded to grow the potatoes this time in gardens next to other vegetables near their houses and in rice paddies. This practice will be documented for the next steps necessary.
Rain is great for trees but not for cars and roads
By Markus Faigle | Volunteer
Navigating roads in the rainy season
Normally our project reports are for specific project. We decided this time to focus on a behind the scenes look what it means to make our reports possible.
Zahana is a very small NGO and does not have an office in the capital or rent or own any space or vehicles. This means we need to hire a car with a driver every time we do a site visit. Cars are far too valuable in Madagascar and nobody in their right mind would just hand the car keys to a stranger (like rental car companies do in many countries). Consequently, cars always come with a driver. The driver knows the car and the roads very well and normally stays with the car for the duration of the visit. Over the years many of our drivers have become friends and are supporters of our project. Like during the Xmas celebration they brought clothes their own kids didn’t use anymore for the children in our schools. One of the wonderful and unexpected side benefits.
At our site visits we are normally joined by other experts. One particularity in Madagascar: ‘site vists’ are always called ‘missions’ in English a word borrowed from the French. The idea is to come as a lager group, especially for security reasons, as we were recommended to do so and not to travel alone. Often one or two medical doctors or a sociologist with solid experience in community development, join us, in addition to our founder Dr. Ihanta (an MD). They lend us their expertise and for example in the case of medical doctors can very informally provide medical services if needed, as a bonus. This is not an official medical mission, or an agricultural mission, more an exchange of ideas where they get to see what we do, and we learn from them.
Coming to each of the villages is not just intended to see people or to plant trees but to talk to them and to discuss many aspects of our cooperation. One person alone couldn’t do that as more people request to talk to us. Besides community wide meetings some want to talk about a very personal affair or matter and want someone to listen to them. In some villages, they even formed a line to meet us before we even got there.
Many times, we mention about visiting our projects, but it is difficult to imagine what this means during rainy season. In 2022/23 the rainy season was especially strong so far and started earlier than usual. This might be influenced by the many cyclones that hit Madagascar in the past few months and/or the impact of climate change. The rainy season is expected to last until June in our area.
It meant that more rain, many times in unusual months, makes traveling a big challenge. A good part of the site visit from town to town are on paved roads. The last part of our side visit is on unpaved roads. In distance they make up may be 15% of the tip, but in time over 50%. So, we have assembled a collection of photos of the roads and driving conditions in the last six months. A journey that should take and hour in dry condition could become five or more. We hope they might give a small insight into what it entails to make our site visits possible.
We hope you had a good holiday season. The Christmas celebrations in Madagascar are always an occasion to get together and celebrate our achievements. All of our actvities are connected to each other, and all are celebrated at the festivities, so we decided to list them here all. Looking back at the holidays it becomes clear that it is now part of the xmas culture in our villages to start every celebration with reforestation. This is to show how important reforestation is for Zahana and it is a visual manifestation to revitalize the hope for a friendly environment. Reforestation is not an effort undertaken to please Zahana. It’s for the benefit of the local community and for the future generation to come to understand the value of the reforestation in their lives. During the celebrations in every village the entire community was involved in reforestation. In the past years these efforts were lead by the women’s association, or a soccer club, but this time everybody participated.
The launch of the community wide reforestation efforts in 2022 already started in November of 2022 (with a much earlier start of the rainy season than usual). In 2021 there wasn’t enough rain left in the rainy season to water the baby trees that were only planted during or after the Christmas celebrations, so we decided to already start with reforestation over a month before the celebrations this year. Consequently, people are encouraged during the Xmas celebrations to keep planting trees at least until January.
This proved to be good decision, because this year the rainy season extended into March, providing a lot more water for the baby trees then the year before.
4 persons from Analakely, Shalom, Fiarenana and Tsaramandroso received an award from Zahana as leaders in family gardening and number of trees planted last season. (See website)
The Christmas Show 2022:
It has been a long time since Santa visited the students in 2007 for the first time. Since then, the Christmas celebration has become a big event, not just for our students, but neighboring villages join the activities and fun.
Students from both of our schools in Fiadanana and Fiarenana performed Xmas shows and carols for everybody.
As it has become also a tradition, ccandies, cookies, a personal cup for the tea time at school and clothes were given to our students in Fiadanana and Fiarenana. New clothes were made by Zahana staff plus some second hand clothes we bought in the city. This year also for the first time gifts included the village of Analakely to their very needy people.
Zahana provided mutton for our students as a very special treat for the Xmas lunch. This was the first time we offered such a treat swigth meat. In conjunction with the festivities, Zahana worked with the local health center to run its program of DMM (distribution de masse de medicament)which was scheduled for December in Madagascar. DMM is a Ministry of Health program to fight schistosomiasis by giving medicine to children between 5 to 15 years of age. To avoid side effects, as reported during DMM, children must have something in their stomach before taking the medicine, so Zahana provided a good xmas lunch that also was a solid basis for the DMM. Combining health prevention outreach with good nutrition makes it much easier for our students to swallow the pills.
In our past project reports we covered the soccer tournament last June. Working together on a common goal has generated new ideas for the new generation of village youth. New groups of young people are getting together, not just to play soccer/football, but to make a difference in their communities by participating in reforestation and a microcredit culture. Their ideas brought Zahana back to its philosophy on rural university we envisioned almost two decades ago. This exciting new project will be covered in future project reports.
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