A dedicated micro credit fund for rural Madagascar

by Zahana
Vetted
Santa sighted at schools in Madagascar
Santa sighted at schools in Madagascar

Happy Holidays and a Good New Year - from Santa and our School in Fiarenana.

Our Founder, Dr. Ihanta used Santa’s visit to our school in Fiarenana as her official holiday card. Santa has become a ‘new’ tradition in our villages, since he started coming only in 2007 when our first school was completed.

Dr. Ihanta wrote: It was a big event for all of us. Santa brought lots of gifts: candies, coca cola, cookies, cake, bread and some lucky ones got clothes and sweaters. Good to know that they drink coca cola only once a year for a very special occasion [when Santa brings it]. One little boy was asked why he didn’t drink his coke right away, replied he wanted to save it for Christmas day. He politely didn’t agree with me when I suggested ‘everyday is Christmas’. I realized, he can indeed understand such things”

A beautiful bonus: the many trees in the background, making this cards truly amazing. Somewhere in the schoolyard it beautifully illustrates all the trees that have been planted over the past years, since the school started in 2006 (in the top right corner you can see the mountain, our mount Bevato, in the background, but the view in mostly covered by the trees).

Ihanta and Markus

PS: Yes we know all professional fundraisers and helpful materials tell us we should mention the end-of-year tax deducible donation. But you are smart and know that already, so why write more about it?

Potatoes and Mparany the head teacher
Potatoes and Mparany the head teacher

One of our most successful microcredit projects was to introduce potatoes in Fiarenana. Intended as an in-between crop for the time after the rice harvest and before the new rice planting. The project was so successful that we repeated it a second time the following year. You can read all about it the past success in our ‘potato story’.

One puzzling experiences in our participatory community development endeavors was, that the potato project did not continue a third time, let alone become a new tradition, such as tree planting every year. It sure was not for the lack of trying, hence the use of the word ‘puzzling’. We, that is Zahana, had been asking at certain intervals what happened to the potato project, and why they decided not to repeat it, despite an amazing harvest (two tons of potatoes with 100 kg of small potatoes as seed stock). All inquiries were met with very polite silence. In Malagasy culture not talking about something is also an answer. Despite our continuing curiosity or interest, why this most successful project did not continue, we got the message and at some time politely stopped asking. While this is frustrating for us, because we would really like to know what kind of impediments or difficulties might need to be addressed, we needed to take a step back and just ‘let it be’.

Needless to say that we were delighted when our schoolteacher in Fiadanana approached us with a request for potatoes. His, the neighboring village, did not participate the last time. What you see in the photo is a sack full of potatoes that was entrusted to him for a new micro credit ‘potato project’.

Now we just have to wait and see, with great anticipation, if potatoes might take off this time around. Three is a charm after all. And, we have a certain inkling based on experience, that this project has a huge potential for success.

Checking out the new potatoes
Checking out the new potatoes

Links:

Donne and Dore at home studying for the exam
Donne and Dore at home studying for the exam

Some events vibrate through the entire community and affect everybody. Seeing one of theirs off to high school has nver happened before.

At the end of June (2015) we got very exciting news: Donné and Doré had both been admitted to take the BEPC a nation-wide high school entrance exam (Brevet d'Etude du Premier Cycle).

Some of you may remember Donné and Doré, who had been living for past few years in the small town of Bevato attending secondary school  they were the among the first students who passed their CEPE in our school in 2011).

Over three days (August 3-5) they took the BREC in the town of Tsiroanomandidy. Their very proud parents and Zahana’s ‘Santa’ accompanied them to the town from their home in the village of Fiadanana.

For over a week everybody waited for the official results to be released. With great pride we can post this August 15 update from Zahana:

“Our brave country boys passed their exam! They are among the 51% in the entire region of Tsiroanomandidy who successfully passed their BEPC. I’m really happy and we will celebrate with them. Supported by Zahana they will be living in Tsiroanomandidy for the next few years and attend high school there. There is no better tenth anniversary gift for Zahana. Back in October 2005, when Raleva our traditional healer donated the land to built our community school nobody even dreamed of such a wonderful result for two of our students. They are the first in their community to ever attend high school”

*Explanatory note: Tsiroanomandidy is the next (and only) bigger town in the area. Tsiroanomandidy can be reached via a paved road from the capital (a four hour’s drive) and has such amenities as a hospital, electricity and a high school. It takes about four to five hours to walk from their village of Fiadanana to Tsiroanomandidy.

Donne and Dore
Donne and Dore's parental house in Fiadanana
Checking out the lists on the door for the exam
Checking out the lists on the door for the exam
Their parents the day before the exam
Their parents the day before the exam
Inside, waiting for the test to start
Inside, waiting for the test to start
ID Papers in hand waiting for the exam to start
ID Papers in hand waiting for the exam to start
Drying rice after harvest in the village
Drying rice after harvest in the village

This post rice harvest season we will do a micro credit project with rice, once again. It is based on the successful philosophy of the rice seed bank of years earlier. But this time we do it with the association of parents from the school in Fiarenana only. The goal of this project is to raise funds to maintain their school with the profits. This way the community gets empowered to support their school financially, without draining hard-earned harvest money from the parents.

The teachers in both schools have approached us as well to do a rice microcredit project with them. This will need some more meetings and clarification, especially if they envision this and a “private” enterprise, or a contract with them individually. We are very inclined to work with them, since out teachers are important opinion leaders in the community.

We decided to not re-launch the same project in Fiadanana again, based on our past experiences. The group in Fiadanana did not keep to the contract we had all signed. We think the best way to illustrate that there are consequences is to show them that we do continue to work with the people that do keep to their contract.

Rice paddy stored in bags for sale
Rice paddy stored in bags for sale
Zahana
Zahana's communal rice storage building
The new rice variety after the first harvest
The new rice variety after the first harvest

Improving crops and agricultural yields has always been the backbone of our microcredit projects. Our team in Madagascar has been continuously exploring different options to accomplish that (see Artemisia).

In the spring of 2013 representatives of Nestlé made a presentation at the Ministry of health about an improved rice variety a, a seed known as “Nerica”. This new rice variety ‘Nercia’ is a result of crossing two varieties of rice seeds.  It is enriched with zinc and iron, both a very important mineral for health, that are sadly very much lacking in Madagascar's nutrition.

Our founder, Dr. Ihanta, a medical doctor by training, was very interested in the prospect of these new seeds and the ability to increase the availability of zinc and iron.  The rate of anemia is extremely high among women and children in the entire country of Madagascar, and consequently also in our villages. The company got the ministry's approval to run a few pilot projects in Madagascar.  Zahana was chosen as one of their pilot sites.

Initially 10 families participated in the community of Fiadanana. Five families planted seeds suitable for rice paddies (paddies are fed by a permanent water source, such as a well) and five in rain-fed rice fields. An engineer from Nestlé visited the villages regularly to assist with know-how and to monitor and document the process. In addition she studied how rice was traditionally stored, cooked, and consumed in the villages. All costs related to the pilot project were covered by Nestlé; from the seeds to the engineer’s repeated visits to the village.

Two of the photos show the yields of the first harvest that was very promising. Some of the community members decided to participate the second year to see if the seed can indeed provide higher yields than what they had been traditionally planting. The village of Fiarenana has also requested to be included in future pilot projects

The your seedling of Nercia are sprouting well
The your seedling of Nercia are sprouting well
Nercia rice variety doing well
Nercia rice variety doing well
Rice harvest promises to be successful
Rice harvest promises to be successful
Rice harvest promises to be successful
Rice harvest promises to be successful
Nestle
Nestle's technician with Jean our master gardener
 

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Organization Information

Zahana

Location: Antananarivo, Capital - Madagascar
Website: http:/​/​zahana.org
Project Leader:
Markus Faigle
Volunteer
Honolulu, HI United States

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