Originally published on August 12, 2014.
Farming is a profession that can be difficult and unpredictable. However, farmers who work together in associations are often able to help each other overcome these difficulties. In the village of Andraina, in the district of Manakara in South East Madagascar, no associations existed before 2003. Each family harvested their own plot, using traditional agricultural production practices passed down from generation to generation. Rice harvests lasted only 3 months; members of the village would not have much, if any, rice to eat for the remainder of the year, and the health of community members suffered greatly.
In 2010 the SALOHI program introduced a new activity called Farmer Field Schools (FFS), and a new farmers association was born - TSARAMBININA. Farmer Field Schools are an approach that brings together people who share the same problems and interests to work together through experiential learning and applied research. Field agents help association members’ master new farming techniques through applied learning. Farmers are also taught good governance and disaster risk management principles, to reduce the impacts of shocks, and to improve group management.
FFS member Andre Ravanomahefa shows off his cucumber plant.
FFS Members contributed seeds and fertilizers each planting season and used profits to buy more fertilizers. In 2011 SALOHI linked the new association with FAO to provide members with seeds including sweet potato, greens, cucumber, beans, and rice. This helped farmers diversify their crops, learn new techniques, and improve the variety of foods available.
Today, the association cultivates several hectares of rice, cucumbers and cabbage. Each member of the group receives 800 kgs of rice each harvest and has saved 200 USD at the local microfinance center. The techniques and skills taught by the field agents to the community through the program have proven to be extremely successful. Members of the association have been able to drastically improve their standard of living, are able to feed their families, and put their children in school. The nutritional state of the village has also improved as food is available for more months out of the year.