A dedicated micro credit fund for rural Madagascar

by Zahana
Waiting for the Minster of Health to arrrive
Waiting for the Minster of Health to arrrive

July 2013: This is the report we got from Madagascar. We did some slight editing, but wanted to keep it as close as possible to the original.

The visit of the honorable Madame Minister of Health Dr. Johanita Ndahimananjara was the biggest event in the history of the village of Faidanana. In this photo Madame Minister of Health of Madagascar is laying the foundation for the new Health Center in the village of Faidanana.

Villagers were informed about the upcoming visit ahead of time. If a minister in Madagascar announces such a visit, she travels with bodyguards. Representatives of other ministries and dignitaries at the region and local level, accompany her as well. Villagers were notified ahead of time, especially about the presence of bodyguards, so they would not be afraid.

For such and occasion the entire village (yes everybody) comes and lines the street waiting for the distinguished visitors. There is an official welcome of the Minister by the village elders and such visits are always accompanied with speeches and official announcements. 

In this picture of the visiting dignitaries are: the Minister of Health Dr. Johanita Ndahimananjara, and her husband (the tallest man with glasses and cap). Representatives of Minister of Agriculture, the Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Communication and other departments. The Chief of Bongolava Region (standing besides the minister with blue shirt). They were joined by the mayor of Bevato (the district administrative center).

They all came first to the village of Fiadanana for the groundbreaking of the new Health Center by the Minister of Health (and breakfast in the village). After the formal reception and welcoming ceremonies the people who planted the most trees in the village were honored by receiving their award from the Minister of Health personally. She also presented awards to Zahana’s teachers and gardeners.

After the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Health Center, they all proceeded to the second village of Fiarenana. Also received by the entire village, the Minister of Health gave a speech and again gave awards for the most trees planted, the teachers and the women’s soccer clubs.  After the ceremonies the villagers in Fiarenana served soup to their guests.

Last but not least they went to Bevato for inauguration of the new maternity ward. Bevato being the administrative district seat has a major for the region and all regional dignitaries attended. The official ceremonies took all afternoon.

The day was very busy.

The entire community waiting with anticipation
The entire community waiting with anticipation
Visiting representatives and politicians
Visiting representatives and politicians
Inaugurating the health center
Inaugurating the health center
The three reforestation awardees
The three reforestation awardees
A solar cooker as the award
A solar cooker as the award
Looking at the drawings for the Health Center
Looking at the drawings for the Health Center

We have very exciting news! Through the tireless efforts of our Malagasy team, we were able to partner with another organization to build a Healthcare Center in our village of Fiadanana.

We are very excited that our small organization was able to build such a partnership that will benefit many thousands of people in the region. Zahana has been working in the village of Fiadanana since 2005. Since 2006, due to our participatory development efforts, the village has a clean water supply bringing clean water flowing right into the village. This will be the only Healthcare Center in the area that can pride itself to have a clean safe water supply. Since Zahana sees access to clean safe water as public-health priority number one, this is a crucial element in providing healthcare services.

A team of our partner organization (with the long name “Association Pour que vive Maroala” or 'Maroala' for short) visited our village in May 2013 to discuss the plans of the Healthcare Center with the community and choose a location. Groundbreaking was envisioned to take place by the end of June or in July, when our schools are on summer break. The pictures are from this community meeting. In the formal picture with the four people you see (from the left) the president of `Association Pour que vive Maroala` Abel Legendre, Raleva our traditional healer and community elder, Mprany our head teacher and the representative from Maroala holding up the blue prints of the Health Center.

The very latest news is that the Minister of Health of Madagascar has announced that she will pay a visit to the construction of our Healthcare Center next week!

She will be in the area for the official inauguration of the first maternity ward ever in the district center of Bevato.  From there she will take the hour-long journey over dirt roads to our project sites. That an official of such a caliber can witness firsthand the activities of rural transformation taking place by working collaboratively with our villagers is just simply amazing.  We are honored by this recognition, but also see this is an incredible opportunity to show participatory development in action, because we believe our results tell more than pictures or words.

Stay posted for more photos and news soon.

Ihanta and Markus

Community meeting about our Health Center
Community meeting about our Health Center
Listening to the guests
Listening to the guests
The foto celebrating the meeting
The foto celebrating the meeting
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
 

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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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