Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia

by Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, Int
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
Transform Lives in Madagascar with Silk and Raffia
SEPALIM Thanks you!
SEPALIM Thanks you!

I am thrilled to  report that depite the fact that all members of the team, despite face masks, hand washing, social distancing, have recovered from bouts of Covid.  Thanks to you they minimized their contacts with others outside the team workshop.  Thank you you they kept working as was their wish.  As I know many of you know that  minimizing contact in an African is very difficult.  Mamy, the team director was very, very ill. Somehow they all got through it.

Because we have lost several of our buyers and the world economy is depressed, the workers had time to develop their own artistic skills and ideas.  I am attaching a few pitures of new textile designs. The large textile is made up of 6 different pieces sewn together for shipping.  As a whole it is magnificent and suggests a celebration to me - I can't decide whether I should break it up or keep it as a whole.  Any suggestions?  Ideas of buyers? museums? 

The team is now on their yearly, month-long break.   We are hopeful that 2021 will be an extrordinarily good year for all.

If you haven't had a chance to donate but would like to, the program is still accepting funds.

 

Thank you again and Happy 2021!

 

Cay

Exuberance!
Exuberance!
Looking ahead
Looking ahead
A reason to work
A reason to work
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Cocoon silk products by Tanana
Cocoon silk products by Tanana

Everyone knows how difficult it is to engage with today's sluggish markets.  The Madagascar economy,  dependent on vanilla production and tourism, is no exception. The vanilla market, the most important agricultural market in our area, is vulnerable to disease, weather conditions, political instability, theft, early picking, regulatory controls and now a crashing world economy.  In 2016 vanilla beans were purchased for $400-$450 per kilo (compared to 60-80 US$/kg in 2015 and 30 US$/kg in 2012). Obviously that price was not sustainable and led to considerable graft and many buyers have had to switch to cheaper alternatives.  As a result, the vanilla market in Madagascar market crashed in 2019-2010.  

SEPALI Madagascar director, Mamy Ratsimbazafy, reports that SEPALIM cocoon farming program is now seen as a "life-saver" program.  In previous years, 2016-2019 ,  the team had difficulty convincing subsistence farmers to farm caterpillars, as well as sustainably collect cocoons after the adult moth had emerged. Now our cocoon market is one of the few ways that farmers can earn money and that artisan women can engage in steady work. 

Mamy has amassed large stocks of cocoons produced by 6 different genera of silk moths.  At last we have enough to expand into new market areas and a means to increase our ecological and economic impact!  However, the Covid-19 crisis emerged and international shipping has been slowed.  It takes twice the amount of time that it did previously to ship a box from Maroantsetra to Tana and two times again the time and expense to ship from Tana to the US.  Furthermore, the financial crisis due to Covid means that both the markets we had been working on developin,  as well as many previous buyers, have disappeared.  

Thankfully, GlobalGiving had our back and offered extra financial assistance to help us get through the next few months.  The CPALI team is now focused on developing a digital presence for SEPALI Madagascar through its new market site, Tanana Silk.  If you have not had time to visit our online portal, please do! www.tananasilk.com. When you log on you can sign-up for our new Tanana Silk newsletter that will keep you up to date on new products and current sales.  We are also now twittering up a storm at 2silk_ta;  pinning our latest creations at "Ta'na'na Silk" on Pintrest and instagramming at "tananasilks".  You can also find us in the Fair Trade Federation holiday gift guide.  We have begun stocking inventory in the US so we are able to ship most items in time for the holidays! 

69.5 kilos of cocoons!
69.5 kilos of cocoons!
Collage art by Tanana artisans
Collage art by Tanana artisans
New digital marketplace for Fair Trade Federation
New digital marketplace for Fair Trade Federation

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The cocoons have arrived!
The cocoons have arrived!

We are almost at 1 July and happy to report that none of the SEPALI Madagascar team has been affected by Covid.  Of course there is no treatment or testing but Mamy continues to insure hand washing, face mask protection and social distancing.  It is very rainy, cold and windy in Maroantsetra and we are lucky to have been able to rent an additional house to allow the team to spread out.  At this time the Malagasy are doing what they have had to do for years; that is to persist.

On a slightly brighter note, www.Tananasilk.com is online and open for business.  We are trying to find a work around for the fact that the International Folk Art Market was cancelled and the fact that SEPALIM is trying to build financial independence through sustainable markets.

We are keeping the online market small as we build up, but our newest item is a wild silk facemask.  The team has already made 450 masks for their families.  Inspired by our team, one of our US volunteers designed a new mask following CDC guidelines that we are selling online.  It is made of two layers of cotton, 1 layer of wild silk, and on the inside has a slit for an exchangeable filter- we suggest a coffee filter!  Check out our lovely cocoon-silk, raffia trimmed basket, artist collage packets and more.  Everything we earn is returned to the project in in this time of low market activity, it is a great way to encourage our team and keep their spirits up.  

Thank you to all for your encouragement and support.

Wild silk facemask
Wild silk facemask
Team designed mosaic silk
Team designed mosaic silk
Team designed cocoon silk baskets with raffia trim
Team designed cocoon silk baskets with raffia trim
Cocoon discs!
Cocoon discs!

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Baskets designed by Lalaina and made by the team
Baskets designed by Lalaina and made by the team
We are happy to report that there have been no known occurrences of COVID in Maroantsetra.  The team has been able to continue to work wearing masks (each team member has 6 and they change them every 2-4 hours), each wears the new SEPALIM uniform, hand washing is required upon entering the workshop and no one other than team members are allowed into the compound.  We anxiously await the arrival of winter in June in Madagascar and continue to keep our precautions in place.
 
Mamy and Lalaina have both been thinking about new products to farm. Fruits are available for about 1 month during the year in abundance and much goes to waste. Mamy would like to set up a fruit drying program. We are getting generous help from a new agricultural advisor, Chris Pannkuk whose experience in tropical agriculture spans the globe.  Lalaina is also taking on new projects to enhance food security. She is working on teaching herself how to make flour from locally available breadfruit.
 
Mamy is taking immediate action to help the team insure itself again hunger during the coming lean season.  He set aside a room in their house for storing food.  He provides a salary advance to team members to purchase rice when it is immediately available.  The rice is stored ahead of lean period until needed.  Farmers will not have to deal with inflated prices.  This is the same approach the team took to ensure that farmers could afford to purchase school supplies for their children.  If you remember, Mamy and Lalaina purchased school supplies during the off season so they could offer them to SEPALIM silk farmers at low cost when school starts. This allows team members to avoid having to purchase them from local venders who increase the price during school season.  Hooray for the SEPALIM social network!
Our new CPALI summer intern Stella Gryler is making facemarks from our beautiful cocoon silks.  They will be sold on our Ta'Na'Na online website!  The masks are made from COCOON SILK and lined with 2 layers of contrasting, cotton.  The inner layer is finished off with a small pouch for an inner layer filter if desired. Filters are not provided with the mask but we recommend a simple coffee filter that can be changed every day.  The masks can be washed in cold water as needed.
Also new to the market are Lalaina and the artisan teams beautiful cocoon silk baskets.  The baskets are made in three sizes (a basket family) from the different types of silk with which SEPALIM.  Melissa McFadden Photography in Walla Walla is helping Tanana put together a new online store by taking beautiful pictures of Lalaina's new cocoon-silk baskets.  I will be sending new links in the future but here is a sneak peak!   They make a unique gift made from wild cocoons trimmed with natural dyed, woven raffia trims.  

 

Cocoon silk mask made by intern Stella Gryler
Cocoon silk mask made by intern Stella Gryler
Covid mask filter pouch
Covid mask filter pouch
Diversity of basket colors
Diversity of basket colors

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SEPALI team prepares new workshop
SEPALI team prepares new workshop

On Friday, March 20th, the Madagascar government confirmed 3 cases of COVID-19. The government declared a public health emergency, suspended all international flights for 30 days, shut down schools and social gatherings, and asked residents to take standard COVID-19 precautions. The outbreak is believed to be limited to central Madagascar at this time (Tana and Toamasina), but as trends in other countries have shown, the highly infectious disease is difficult to contain. 

The SEPALI project is located in the northeast corner of Madagascar where no cases have been documented as of yet, but the team is preemptively jumping into action. Mamy and Lalaina, SEPALI directors in Maroantsetra held a meeting on the 23rd to brief the team on the situation and teach recommended precautions to staff and artisans. The team used their last day in the office to make homemade masks on the sewing machines and the workshop was shut down for the week, to be re-evaluated on a weekly basis. 

One of the major challenges in Madagascar and especially in the area where the SEPALI project operates is that most livelihoods are based on subsistence, daily hand-to-mouth transactions. With food insecurity as a constant pressure, the feasibility of staying home is limited. SEPALI team members are no exception and expressed their desire to return to work. In response to the team, Mamy and Lalaina designed a system to maximize protection while staying sensitive to the evolving situation in Maroantsetra. 

Mamy and Lalaina spent the past week preparing the workshop to offer the best protection possible. They rented a second house next door, doubling the space of the SEPALI workshop. They designed areas for hand washing and stocked supplies of soap and disinfectant. They ordered uniforms for the artisans to change into on arrival and set up separate sewing stations, 3 meters (9 feet) apart. 

Team members returned this week, adhering to all new precautions and social distancing. Each have their own homemade masks as well and the equipment is cleaned daily. Family members are no longer allowed to visit the office. The workshop will temporarily remain open in this limited capacity unless new recommendations from the government, a safety concern or a case of COVID-19 is found or suspected in Maroantsetra. At that time, the office will be closed indefinitely. 

Meanwhile, the situation in the capital region continues to evolve. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has grown to 45 as of yesterday, mostly traced from international flights prior to the travel ban. National travel bans are being enforced as well. There does appear to be some early data that suggests that the disease spreads slower in humid, tropical environments, but everything else about the situation in Madagascar including infrastructure, healthcare availability and feasibility of social distancing makes the country especially vulnerable to this disease. 

We will continue to keep you updated as the situation evolves, and we will do everything we can to keep our team safe and do our part to combat this global health emergency. Thank you for your support. 

Team makes their own masks before outbreak
Team makes their own masks before outbreak

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Organization Information

Conservation through Poverty Alleviation, Int

Location: Walla Walla, WA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Catherine Craig
Project Leader:
Catherine Craig
Walla Walla, WA United States
$37,153 raised of $40,000 goal
 
298 donations
$2,847 to go
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