A dedicated micro credit fund for rural Madagascar

by Zahana
Vetted
Rice Paddy in Fiarenena Madagascar
Rice Paddy in Fiarenena Madagascar

The rice project in Fiarenana is going really well. Zahana gave the women's group one ton of rice as a loan, and they give back 1.650 tons. The women's group decided, that instead of selling the surplus in October when the so-called “époque dure” or “hard period” starts, which is a nice expression for a period of famine, they will be distributing some of the “surplus” rice among the members of the women's group. Each person will receive 38 kg, so their families have something to eat. This should tide them over for the next two months. (See website for more information about the rice microcredit project with the women's group.)

But in the real world not all projects go as well as this one. In the other village, the women's group rice project’s harvest was successful as well. The biggest difference was that they distributed all the rice, including the initial one “seed fund” ton from Zahana among themselves and ate it. They did this unilaterally without checking with Zahana first. After quite some probing of what happned to the seed fund, they admitted that all the rice had been distributed indeed.

Their rationale was: “this rice belongs to Zahana, and if Dr. Ihanta would have been here, she would have given it to us anyway. So we took it.” While this is an interesting rationale or explanation, it still means, that they did not keep their end of the agreement. Just taking and distributing all of the rice, without keeping the initial one ton provided by Zahana as the seed fund, is not what this project is all about. So we have decided to discontinue the rice microcredit project with a woman's group in the village of Fiadanana for the time being. This was not an easy decision for us, but after working with his women's group for over five years, there have to be some consequences if decisions are made unilaterally, without consulting their partner Zahana. This decision is guaranteed to start some lively discussion, because Zahana will continue to work with the women's group in the other village with their successful rice seed fund. Once we get a new proposal we will of course consider it.

Ihanta and Markus

Madagascar Rice Paddy at harvest time
Madagascar Rice Paddy at harvest time
Harvested rice - hulls are the coatings of seeds
Harvested rice - hulls are the coatings of seeds

Links:

Edible Moringa leaves
Edible Moringa leaves

Zahana has always tried to do outreach to neighboring communities. Planting Moringa trees has been successful for us, thanks to our gardeners. We have done this, (see website), not only because Moringa are fast growing trees, but their leaves, flowers and seed pods are highly nutritious. We plan to plant many more Moringa trees, something we jokingly call our Moringa forests. Originally we started with 1 kg gram of seeds we acquired from the Minister of Agroforestry.

During our site visit in December 2012 a bolder idea emerged: The next time we will buy more Moringa seeds and distribute it to schools in neighboring villages as well. It is our hope, that the teachers will plant the seeds with their students and grow Moringa trees in their school yards. We will offer to the teachers, that our gardeners will come and visit their village and work with the students on their gardening activities. This is a rather innovative project, because currently only Zahana’s schools have school gardens. Many people have told us that in the 1960s, after independence from France, they had school gardens and growing food was part of their curriculum. It is a rather small investment of time and money to plant a seed that may grow huge benefits of good will and improved nutrition.

We hope in case you are in the fortunate position of making end-of-year giving decisions, you may considers Zahana in Madagascar as well. And, if you have already done so, thank you very much for your support. We have currently half a dozen projects with GlobalGiving that make online donations a breeze.  While there are very nice ways and euphemisms out there to talk about donations, the bottom line still is that without your support, now for the seventh year, our work in Madagascar would not be possible.  

Happy 2013!

Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus

Moringa growing in the schoolyard
Moringa growing in the schoolyard

Links:

The coffee seedling that grew it into a tree
The coffee seedling that grew it into a tree

It has been over three years since we hired our master gardener in the second village of Fiarenana. Since then he has achieved amazing results, e.g. with the school gardens and the potatoes. But sometimes the lessons learned can be more challenging. One of his very first projects was to successfully grow over 2000 coffee seedlings. We had worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to obtain the best seeds suitable for the area, bought the recommended seeds and took them to the village to our master gardener.

This was also our first long-term microcredit idea for that village. It takes at least 3 to 4 years for coffee to produce fruit, or coffee cherries. After processing and roasting, these coffee beans ultimately provide homegrown coffee. This idea was inspired by the fact, that the village already grew enough coffee for their own consumption, in contrast to all of the villages in the area. Planting additional coffee trees could produce a surplus that we intended to become a cash crop for the villagers as they could sell the additional coffee locally.

So the gardener gave away 1850 coffee seedlings in his own village, plus 150 to the neighboring village of Fiadanana. It takes time for plants to grow. So we waited.

A few months back we started inquiring about the fate of the coffee plants. Very much in keeping with Malagasy tradition, their response was polite silence. So we asked again, and met polite silence again. During one of our site visits, our founder suggested: "why don't you take me to the coffee plants?" Our gardener politely complied, and showed us the great coffee plants in the photo, growing extremely well. We asked about the other coffee plants. After some probing, he admitted, that the other plants didn't make it, which is very embarrassing for him. Years ago, during his formal training, he had been taught to plant coffee plants in full sun, and that was the advice he passed on. As it so happened, only he, the gardener himself, did not have any land with full sun, and was forced to plant his share of seedlings in the shade. And his plants grew beautifully. But since he was the master gardener, and the only one with surviving coffee plants, he was too embarrassed to talk about it, and resorted to polite silence, when asked about the success of the coffee seedlings.

Once again, our lesson learned is: expert advice, from somebody living far away, needs to be taken with a big grain of salt. And it puts a completely new meaning to the term “shade grown coffee”.

The first coffee seedlings way back in 2009
The first coffee seedlings way back in 2009
The "old" coffee plantation that inspired us
The "old" coffee plantation that inspired us
Bricks to built their new school
Bricks to built their new school

Dear friends,

Wanting to build a school for their children was the motivation for the community of Fiarenena to invite Zahana to partner with them in 2009.

The Tscherman Chef cooked something up: a video with the community effort as ingredients.

Development needs to be serious? (Although the issues sure still are.) If you spent 1 minute and 40 seconds watching our video on Youtube you can find out. The slide show about building the school is still my personal favorite page on our website. The video will also feature soon on our GlobalGiving project page “A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana”

And a reminder GlobalGiving’ Bonus Day begins at one minute after midnight EDT on on Wednesday June 13, 2012 (Eastern Daylight Time or same time zone as New York).

The formula is simple: your donations to Zahana will be matched at 50%. Last time GlobalGiving ran out of matching funds, please try early in the day if you want to supersize you donation by 50% with the click of a mouse. Details on our website.

Links:

Communal water faucet in the village
Communal water faucet in the village

Dear friends: In this report we wanted to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. We apologize for cross-postings in our GlobalGiving projects.

The report has been inspired by watching the TEDx talk by David Damberger: “What happens when an NGO admits failure” and our recent webinar hosted by GlobalGiving about the WASH Sustainability Charter.  We learned from David Damberger’s talk, that many water systems built in Africa don't function much longer than one or two years, for many reasons, eloquently explained in his TEDx talk. We encourage you to watch his outstanding 13-minutes critical analysis. He is works with Engineers Without Borders having  built many water systems over the years, but also has implemented the lessons learned in an innovative, inspiring way. Without mentioning it explicitly, if you look at the talk for our angle, he presents a good case why GlobalGiving's approach of directly matching donors with projects is better for both sides.

Bonus Day begins at 12:01 am EDT on Wednesday June 13, 2012. The formula is simple: your donations to Zahana will be matched at 50%. Last time GlobalGiving ran out of matching funds, please try early in the day if you want to supersize you donation by 50% with the click of a mouse. There is a total of $75,000 in matching funds available. Once funds have been depleted, no more donations will be matched. Details

But now to the before mentioned bigger picture (keep in mind that most water systems might not work beyond two years after being built):  Our very first participatory development effort in 2006 was to build a gravity-feed, clean, safe water system. We did this in a village that never had clean water before. This gravity-fed water system is still flowing uninterrupted for six years now, providing clean water for over 1000 people. Way up on the mountain, some 2.5 km or 1.6 miles away from the village, the clean spring coming out off the ground has been channeled with pipes in a water storage container on the mountainside. From there it flows, with the help of gravity, through PVC pipes into the village. Collected in a second large water container at the edge of the village, the water flows into seven communal faucets, accessible to all. It is still the only village with a safe clean water system far and wide in the region.

We built this water system by hiring the water engineers, and paying them to live for three months in the village. Living in the community, they built the water system together with the villagers. This way, not only did they put in (unpaid!) village sweat equity, digging trenches, cutting stones, carrying cement and sand, and laying pipe that made the system more affordable; but they also learned how their water system functioned. A crucial part of this approach is that the villagers could be trained by the water engineers how to fix the system, should it break one day. All systems built by humans are bound to break sooner or later, but now the villagers are not only prepared for what to do, but also hopefully have the skills to do it themselves without outside help. As an additional safeguard, one man, jokingly referred to as the ’water police’, has been assigned to walk up and down the water system every day, to check for leaks or potential problems. Besides recruiting and paying the salaries for the water engineers, Zahana paid for materials the villagers could not afford, such as PVC pipes, the water storage containers and cement, with the help of our donors.

It is exactly the participatory element that made it successful. Zahana worked together with the villagers to build their water system, instead of an outside organization coming in and building it for them, making it ‘their water system’, not ‘ours’. With this proud ownership of ‘their water system’, comes the responsibility to take care of it and maintain it for years to come. The only complaint that people from Fiadanana make (and that makes us proud) is that they don't like to drink the water in other places anymore, and are forced to carry their own water with them now if they are leaving their village.

It wasn't easy to find water engineers willing to live in a rural setting for many weeks, far away from home without any amenities, and work with an untrained workforce, since this was and is quite a novel concept in Madagascar. But it paid off in more ways than one as we were able to build the water system for less than 20% of comparable water systems’ (normal) cost, and it is still flowing strong for almost 6 years. Although still the single biggest success for us is that no child has died of diarrhea since the clean water system was built.

Building our schools we have used the same approach: The community contributing the bricks and their labor and local materials and Zahana paying for the rest (doors, roof, cement, etc.,) they could never afford. We also hired and trained the teachers. We found an educational expert teacher-trainer willing to live in the village and train the teachers in their school and future teaching environment. Both schools are also still teaching children every day. Another first in the village’s history: four students have moved on to secondary school (more on CEPE). Our two gardeners live and work in the community where they grow seedlings and work the school gardens with and for the children. The gardeners salaries are also paid by Zahana.

Participatory development means, and this is at the heart of it, to trust people that they will do their best when you give them a chance to take charge of their own development. That is neither easy nor commonplace in the development community. And there will always be failures and mishaps as well, as much as we would like to avoid that. And: Yes, it does require outside money, too. In a country, such as Madagascar, where a farmer may barely “makes” US$ 300 in a year growing rice with backbreaking manual labor, we will always need people like you supporting our efforts to make this participatory development possible.

And yes, everybody wants to know, including us, how do you measure success? Well, get a glass of water (most likely it comes out of a tap or even a bottle for you), and take a good long look - at this clean, crystal clear, safe drinking water - and think about it where your water comes from, before you quench your thirst.

Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus

Cutting the stones for the water reservoir
Cutting the stones for the water reservoir
The communal water tank in the village
The communal water tank in the village
Communal water faucet in the village
Communal water faucet in the village
School water faucet
School water faucet
Communal water faucet with new fence (2011)
Communal water faucet with new fence (2011)
Communal water faucet
Communal water faucet
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Zahana

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

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.