Building a Women's Weaving Cooperative

by SEED Madagascar
Building a Women's Weaving Cooperative

Madagascar has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, with 77% of the population surviving on less than US$1.90 per day. Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative seeks to improve the sustainability of mahampy reed weaving and women’s economic empowerment through training sessions and a small loans system.

Financial literacy training is essential for sustainability. As of June 2023, the women in the cooperative are 78% on track to completing this training.The sessions in May and Junediscussed household budgets and including health spending in their logbooks due to the increased prevalence of malaria. Responses from these sessions have been positive, with the women finding them useful to learn about budgeting household spending and saving money for the future.

The women in the Cooperative face many challenges to overcome poverty. Food and financial security are impacted by the lean season, droughts and cyclones, and risks of locusts eating the mahampy reeds. Long reeds are increasingly difficult to source, leading to a rise in price and demand for the necessary mahampy reeds for the Cooperative. 

Mahampy weavers often rely on an informal welfare system which provides small advance loans in exchange for selling their product for less than half the normal price, creating a cycle of debt.With support from SEED, the Cooperative began trialling an alternative loan system in March, enabling the women to receive and generate enough funds to pay unexpected costs, invest in their business, pay back the loan, and still make a profit.The scheme was piloted with 5 women and has been positive so far.4 out of the 5 women in the scheme have now fully paid back their loan, have money remaining, are able to invest in their mats, and do not need to rely on the previous loan system. This new loan system is proving successful in improving economic independence and empowerment for the women in the Cooperative.

Thank you for supporting the Mahampy Weavers Cooperative!

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Literacy session
Literacy session

Contending with cyclones, heavy rains and droughts as well as increasing food and fuel prices, financial stability in Sainte Luce, Madagascar is uncertain. Despite these hardships, the Mahampy Weavers Cooperative has seen continued success and growth since the start of Phase II. The number of women attending the weaving, literacy, financial, and roles and responsibilities training has continued to rise in recent months. Many are attending multiple training sessions to fully develop their skills and increase their self-confidence; 98 of the 112 members have completed their first literacy session and 37 have finished 4 training sessions. This perseverance and commitment to learning has greatly contributed towards their success in generating income.

As The Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative continues to grow with new members, the Weavers’ workshop has become a little too small for their products. Mahampy products, such as mats, can be up to 1.5 metres long and require a lot of space to weave and store. Upon request of the Cooperative, construction started at the end of December to extend the building with an outdoor shelter and build additional shelves, providing additional space to weave with improved storage space.

As the success of the Cooperative continues, they are receiving increased recognition. In January 2023, the Riaky (Malagasy for sea) fishery committee visited both the Stitch Studio and the Mahampy Weavers’ Workshop. Learning more about the female cooperative model, what obstacles they face on a daily basis and how they overcome them, whilst also admiring the women’s detailed handcrafted products. These visits helped the committee explore new ways to help generate income for the upcoming lean season, highlighting the importance of female economic empowerment, the resourcefulness and determination of these women.

Visiting the workshop
Visiting the workshop
Fence planting for new shelter
Fence planting for new shelter
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Abeline and Gina working on streamlining processes
Abeline and Gina working on streamlining processes

Since the Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative was founded in 2019, members have been eager to improve their operations. With the start of Project Mahampy Phase II in September 2022, the women have been attending training to improve their confidence, knowledge, and skills in their departmental roles. Mutual learning, sharing ideas, and collaboration here are key! During the training, Abeline (pictured left) and Gina (right) worked on streamlining processes across the stock department, making sure all products are recorded correctly.

In addition to their hard work in operations, the members have been eager to improve their reading and writing skills. Sessions, taught by Project Coordinator, Paula (pictured), have proven to be very popular! Over 80 members are now attending monthly sessions, meaning the classroom is always filled with ambitious students. Ranging from 20 to over 70 years old, the members have shown that it is never too late to learn.

While the members have been enjoying the benefits of the Weavers’ Cooperative, the team has also been gathering more scientific research for the source of the reeds used for weaving: the mahampy wetlands. To ensure the sustainability of the wetlands and weaving as a livelihood activity, the cooperative have established two studies into the reedbeds focusing on reed regrowth and harvesting methods. Tojorine (pictured) is responsible for recording data for the team that investigates harvesting methods. Together with four other cooperative members, the women will study the wetlands for the next two years aiming to eventually contribute to the development of a conservation management strategy that protects the reedbeds for many future generations of mahampy weavers!

Literacy Training Workshops
Literacy Training Workshops
Conducting research for the Mahampy Wetlands
Conducting research for the Mahampy Wetlands
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Organization Information

SEED Madagascar

Location: London - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SEEDMadagascar
Project Leader:
Mark Jacobs
London , London United Kingdom
$472 raised of $45,209 goal
3 donations
$44,737 to go
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