We hope you had a good holiday season.
Vegetable gardens to grow things they can eat have become a big success (again) in 2022. Since more and more people start growing vegetables, often just next to their house (and close to their kitchen) it has started a competition between the villages of who has the most beautiful gardens. The promise of an award might contribute to this effort. Our new on-site coordinator (or ‘controller’ as he is called in French) who lives in the village has visited all 4 villages and their gardens. Based on what he saw, the team has chosen the 4 candidates that will get the award during Santa’s visit before Christmas. He sent us 4 pictures of the award winning gardens
And yes, there are many well crafted apples for donations this time of the year. Due dilligence requires us to chime in. If you are in the fortunate position to think about donations for 2022 we hope you might consider Zahana at this end of year.
Happy New Year!
The team has decided to suspend our pig breeding program as part of our microcredit strategy. We had partnered with 11 individuals and one group (the Lutheran church) in all 4 villages. They had been given money to buy a piglet and agreed in writing on a reimbursement schedule, once the pig was sold and they had access to cash. They had also been provided training by our gardener in Tsaramandroso, who very successfully has been raising pigs for years in a sanitary and pig friendly, smell free environment.
One of the challenges was the non-reimbursement on time because. e.g. a pig died. Unfortunately, after a closer examination we learned that in many cases it was not a disease, but the lack of feed, that lead to the demise of a pig. We were told: “It was hard to feed the animals when the people couldn’t feed themselves and their families.”
In addition to this harsh reality pigs have become the target of dahalo, or cattle thieves, because they are big enough to be herded away along with the cattle.
Instead of encouraging the raising pigs, Zahana decided to promote raising chicken and especially ducklings to fight against schistosomiasis and improve nutrition. We do this in the hope to later develop economic opportunities for the communities involved, to sell ducks to city folk, where they are in very high demand.
Consequently, for this coming season microcredit is oriented towards ducks and chicken breeding. With the active involvement of our gardeners, we will also again make improved seeds like corn, peanuts, soybeans and vegetables available to the communities.
We reported in our October 30, 2021 project report The rice bank: revitalizing a good idea that our newest village had embraced the idea of a seed-bank right after they joined Zahana (or scroll down to our project report from October 30, 2021 on the GlobalGiving Project page).
Instead of the one ton of rice we had initially agreed on, they decided to doubled their commitment and Zahana matched their two tons of rice to support their efforts, thanks to donations likes yours to this project.
Now, with the 2022 rice planting season in full swing after the rains it is time to put the brand new rice seed-bank into action. Our last site visit coincided with the sharing of the rice among their members for this planting season. The photos attached to this report document this historic occasion.
They agreed in writing that they will give back the rice each of them borrowed from their seed-bank around May 2023, after the rice harvest.
In Madagascar, Independence Day, June 26, is celebrated across the country. This important holiday is marked by various cultural events such as songs, folk song contests, and visiting villages for cultural dances and sports competitions.
Zahana Soccer Cup
In our villages, young people organized a women's and a men's soccer ‘Zahana cup’ in conjunction with a folklore tournament for Independence Day. Eight participating teams for our 4 villages competed with the promise of a prize for the 2 finalists. The first qualifying match started April 10. Like a good soccer tournament, Zahana hired outside umpires to make the games as fair as possible. The men’s teams played 90 minutes, the women’s 60.
In the women's category: the score of the final game was 2 to 0 as the Tsaramandroso women’s club won 2 goals against 0 for Fiadanana.
Tsaramandroso’s women’s club won the first prize: a pig plus a brand new soccer ball. Fiadanana was entitled to a big box of pasta and biscuits and a new soccer ball. Pasta is considered a major prize and an exotic treat in a rice eating culture. The winning women’s team decided to raise the pig for breeding instead of preparing it for a big Independence Day feast. Raising pig has become a big part of our microcredit efforts. They stayed up all night in Tsaramandroso to mark their victory.
For the men's category: the Analakely club won against Tsaramandroso. During the normal time of the 90 minutes game, no goal was scored. The 2 teams demonstrated know-how worthy of professional players. As agreed, in the event of a tie, we proceed directly to the penalty shootout where each team has 5 chances to take a shot at the goal and score.
It was the Analakely team who obtained without fail their 5 goals against 3 for Tsaramandroso. The first prize for the winner in this case is a soccer ball and the equivalent of the prize of a pig. Analakely is identified as an Adventist community and a pig would not be appropriate. The second team enjoyed their new soccer ball and a big box of pasta and cookies that they displayed proudly in their dance.
We have noticed how football is the favorite sport in our villages and it is a great unifying experience that brings villages and communities together, since they visit each other to watch the games. All villages are within an hour’s walk from each other, so joining a neighbor in a game is within walking distance.
Folklore part of the Independence Day festivities
As a launching point, a vigil was organized at Fiadanana with a big campfire, to wait for June 26.
No holiday is complete without dancing and folk songs celebrating the occasion in Madagascar. (See videos on our YouTube channel.) Each community performed their folk songs and dances created for the celebration.
These dances are not always the same every year and often involve current events. We only learnt during the Independence Day itself that they included Zahana activities as a theme or common thread for their folksong lyrics: Analakely presented the cookstove and bio-charcoal in their dance. Plus, they gave us cakes made in the communal pastry oven and yoghurt made in the solar refrigerator - very tasty.
Moreover, the themes that each group has conveyed in their performances reflected the history of Zahana Association from its beginning: water supply, schools, health center, improved homes, bio-charcoal, reforestation, pastries, new cassava cultivation techniques and biological insect control.
Given the respective involvement and commitment of each village, and to honor their creativity, we have decided to consider all 4 groups from the 4 villages as winners: Fiarenanana, Fiadanana, Analakely and Tsaramandroso, each ‘won’ a box of pasta and cookies.
One of our younger team members is quitecomputer savyy. We had asked him to focus on his next site visit on any impact of the improved cookstoves he might notice. His report features a cell photo with the tagline: “Mr Daha and his wife make cookstoves for sale”. Their skill as cookstove makers is well known in their own and surrounding villages. The team agrees that they have invented one of the most innovative and spiffy looking improved cookstoves. It is also considered one the best.
Their improved cookstoves are only made to order, or on demand on a one-to-one basis. Depending on the client’s needs they can offer three models: small, medium and large. The large version features a two-burner or twin cookstive model in the photo. Translating the prices for improved cookstoves into a dollar amount creates a challenge without cultural context. As a bench mark: the smallest improved cookstoves cost about a one day’s wage of a day laborer.
Besides being really good at it, selling improved cookstoves gives them access to much needed cash in the ‘époque dure’ the ‘hards times’. ‘Époque dure’ is the time before planting the new rice crop again when all the cash from last year’s harvest is long spent and consequently many rice farmers go hungry.
Our cookstove workshops had a great side effect, or talk about great unexpected consequences. They were very proud to report that they bought a piglet by their own money form the improved cookstoves, without having to rely on Zahana’s microcredit to pay for it. (See the other reports about our microcredit project to raise pigs)
PS: Our YouTube movie Combining reforestation with locally made improved cook stoves in Madagascar got a very fortunated boost in viewership in the last month! Check it out and please leave a comment if you feel so compelled. It helps us with our Youtube ranking. Thank you.
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