Project Lanirano - Capacity Building through Enterprise and Agriculture in Anosy Region, South East Madagascar

Project location: MADAGASCAR, Anosy Region
Project start date: December 2010 - Project end date: October 2011
Project number: 2010-45
Beneficiary: AZAFADY

Final Report (August 2011)

1. Background

 Madagascar is one of the most impoverished and least developed countries in the world. The people of Anosy in the south east are amongst the poorest in the country. Livelihood fragility and food insecurity is exacerbated by environmental degradation and natural disasters to which the region is prone. Fort Dauphin is the urban centre of Anosy, where unemployment is a massive issue.

 Thanks to the generous support of donors including the Nando Peretti Foundation, Azafady has been able to develop and implement a new 3 year sustainable livelihoods project to increase the income-generating capacity and food security of the Anosy region's urban and rural poor. This report details project activities realised between March 2011 and August 2011.

 2. Urban activities

 Business management training and small grants

 As reported previously, 20 beneficiaries were selected for the second round of business management training and small grants in February. Unfortunately one woman was unable to complete the training due to the illness of a family member which required her to spend a long period of time outside of Fort Dauphin, so she dropped out of the project prior to the grants being distributed. A total of 19 new beneficiaries completed the training programme, in addition to 6 beneficiaries from the previous round identified as being in need of further support, and 19 women received a small grant.

 In March a series of business management workshops were held, aiming to equip beneficiaries with an understanding of key business principles and practice through the use of methods and tools that promote learning through active participation rather than didactic teaching. After completing the training each woman was supported to undertake a local market analysis and simple business proposals were developed.

 The project team worked with the women to identify any areas where the provision of vocational courses would be appropriate. Women requested support in the development of culinary skills in order to expand the range of produce they could sell to include different breads, pastries and savoury snacks. The owner of a small restaurant was employed in May to carry out culinary training with 7 beneficiaries whose businesses involved selling cooked snacks and meals. Additional training was provided in July and August to consolidate the learning from these sessions and to further develop the women's culinary skills.

 The second round of small grants was distributed in June and July. The 19 recipients have gone on to set up a range of businesses which fit with their household duties but enable them to earn a regular income. The majority of these businesses involve selling food products near the women's houses. In many cases beneficiaries are selling items which they have cooked or processed, which for a minimal amount of additional time and effort enables them to significantly increase their profits beyond those generated from selling raw products. Many beneficiaries have developed encouraging signs of increasing entrepreneurialism and looked for new opportunities to sell these products. For example, during the recent Independence Day celebrations which included a large market in the centre of town over the course of 10 days, several of the women recognised the business opportunity this presented and established a secondary stall in the town square selling snacks during the festivities, generating a significant income.

 Unfortunately 2 beneficiaries experienced difficulties with their businesses which have forced them to stop selling completely. One woman's house burnt down in a local fire in which the majority of her stock was lost, and another woman sold her business assets in order to pay for urgent healthcare for one of her children. Aside from these exceptional cases, all other beneficiaries have managed to develop a consistent source of income for themselves and their families. Thirteen monitoring visits were held during June, July and August where it was found that the beneficiaries were experiencing an average 206% increase in their weekly profit from 7,932 Ariary (€2.90) to 35,952 Ariary (€13.20). Furthermore, 89% of beneficiaries were reinvesting their profits in their business, which should help to generate continued growth in income.

 English language lessons

 English language lessons for Azafady staff have continued, building the professional capacity of those who are increasingly required to work to a high level of English within their field. A series of weekly lessons has been provided to seven staff members with particular emphasis placed on learning the vocabulary and terminology relevant to their specific roles.

 Azafady had also intended to hire a Peace Corps-trained local high school graduate to provide support to Baccalaureate students in preparing for their English language exams. However, unfortunately this person was offered alternative work and so was not able to carry out this activity, and Azafady has not been able to source anybody else locally with sufficient English language and teaching skills to undertake this role. Nevertheless, as the result of a grant received from another donor, Azafady has been able to recruit a previous international volunteer teacher who provided English language lessons to Baccalaureate students, primary school teachers and local unemployed people in 2009. The teacher is due to arrive in Madagascar before the end of the year, at which time she will be able to take on this element of project activities.

 3. Rural activities

 Rural activities were initiated in October 2010 and since then training has taken place in 29 communities across 5 village clusters. In total 72 participants have received training in improved agricultural techniques and 45 participants have received training in beekeeping. Training is delivered by the extension agents and the rural extension manager oversees the activities, visiting the sites on a weekly basis. In order to maximise the time and effort invested in the agricultural activities and increase labour productivity, Azafady has encouraged participants to work in fagnombas: groups of 3 - 6 neighbours who work on one another's fields in a rotating system. This approach has been seen to work well, with participants reporting a reduced amount of time working in the field - a week's work achieved during one day - and increased social benefits of working in a team.

 Upland rice cultivation, crop rotation, intercropping of rice and lentils

 As reported previously, the intercropping of rice and lentils was piloted on a total of 18 plots, with a harvest scheduled for April - May. However, due to the catastrophic arrival of Cyclone Bingiza in February, many harvests were vastly diminished. Of the 41 beneficiaries to whom Azafady had distributed rice seeds, 9 lost their entire harvest in the flash floods caused by the cyclone and many more lost large proportions. Despite these extremely challenging weather conditions 78% of beneficiaries were able to harvest enough rice to use for subsistence, which represents a notable support to the food security of these beneficiaries in the months after the cyclone when many livelihoods were destroyed.

 With an ongoing and region-wide seed shortage, Azafady's extension agents had sensitised the beneficiaries on the importance of saving seed for planting the following season. 50% of the beneficiaries in Ebakika were able to put aside seed to use for the next season's planting and only 20% of beneficiaries were able to put any seed aside in Tsagnoria which suffered particularly severe floods in the wake of the cyclone. In both sites Bingiza severely impacted the proportion of beneficiaries able to repay Azafady's initial seed loan - just 19% in total. In light of these unpredictable weather events the project team decided to distribute rice seeds to beneficiaries to cover the short-fall for the next planting season in November where necessary. Despite this setback a recent evaluation showed that beneficiaries remain overwhelmingly positive about the crop rotation and intercropping techniques; these are particularly favoured by those who own very little land as it means that they are able to produce crops all year round.

 Training was provided in mulching the rice stalks and preparing the land to plant red beans following the rice harvest. In total 191 cups of red beans were distributed and planting was completed in June, with a harvest scheduled for October. However, after over a week of extreme winds and rain in August it was found that every field growing beans had been severely flooded. With the majority of the land still submerged, it is not yet possible to tell what impact this will have on the health of the beans, and the project team are currently working with beneficiaries to identify any possible methods of reducing the impact of future floods.

 Vegetable gardens

 In April the Azafady extension staff began training on the cultivation of vegetables including lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, petsai (Chinese cabbage), courgettes, cabbage, potatoes, peppers and onions. 19 participants are involved in Tsagnoria and 13 in Ebakika. The training so far has covered the construction of seed beds, transplanting, weeding, making and applying natural pesticides and composting. Training on the harvesting and storage of seeds is ongoing and will be completed according to the harvesting dates of each vegetable.

 In general the response to the training has been good with beneficiaries enthusiastic to try out new techniques. Results of a survey conducted in mid-June after the harvesting of petsai revealed that some people had earned up to 70,000 Ariary (€25) from the sale of their vegetables, enabling them to buy cooking utensils and children's clothes. Whilst others had earned more modest amounts, the additional income allowed them to buy priority items including soap, petrol and salt, and also to increase their intake of more nutritious food such as fish, meat and eggs. Several people also reported that they were able to use the money to repay their debts.

 Beekeeping

 As a result of small-scale training in beekeeping previously provided some years ago by Azafady there was a strong interest from community members to participate in this training and a ready source of bees available. In total 19 new beneficiaries signed up for training in Tsialanga and 12 in Beandry, and it is anticipated that the presence of Azafady's beekeeping specialist within the communities will also enable the beneficiaries of previous training to access informal support for their ongoing beekeeping activities.

 Requests were also received from the village of Sainte Luce, a community that is considered particularly vulnerable to loss of livelihoods due to its heavy reliance on natural resources, the impact of fortress-style conservation laws in the area and its designation as a future mining site by an international corporation. Azafady currently partners a Peace Corps volunteer in Sainte Luce who has offered to support the implementation of this activity. Despite a later start in Sainte Luce - enrolment of participants and initial training commenced in July, four months after the other two sites - the training is progressing extremely well and as a result of the additional support provided by the Peace Corps resident, the programme is now at the same stage as Tsialanga and Beandry. In total 14 people are participating in beekeeping training in Sainte Luce, bringing the total number of beneficiaries in this part of the project to 45.

 To date participants have received training on the construction of hives, how to make protective headgear, the trapping of bees and how to build a protective shelter for the hives. Each participant has one hive, made with materials provided as a grant by Azafady, as well as the requisite protective head mask. Training is currently taking place on how to transfer the colony to the hive, and harvesting is due to happen in September.

 4. Conclusion

 Despite various challenges, including extreme weather conditions, the project has progressed well over the past 6 months. 72 participants have received training in improved agricultural techniques and 45 participants have received training in beekeeping, enabling them to significantly improve their food security and household income. 19 beneficiaries have received small grants and business management training, enabling them to establish sustainable enterprises with which to support their families.


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