After a journey of about 30 kilometers on bumpy roads to a Rural Community called Mahitsy, we discovered one of the four CEDAR sites that the Ecovillage Network in Madagascar, one of the CSA lead organisations in the Forum for Advisory Service in Madagascar, is supporting with Aqua Alimenta Switzerland. CEDAR stands for “Centre d’Entrainement au Développement et à l’Autonomie Rural” or Training Center for Rural Development and Rural Autonomy. It is an initiative that takes an immense challenge, trying to solve the problems of poverty and malnutrition in the Malagasy rural environment. In this specific remote site of Mahitsy, 21 farmers are currently actively participating in the activities and hundreds more have received trainings on rural autonomy and permaculture
Construction of the technicians dwelling in the middle of nowhere in rural area of Madagascar
Madagascar, a country with rich potentials and natural resources but very poor
Somehow or other, we have probably read or heard that “Madagascar is a country rich with natural resources but remains one of the poorest countries in the world” or that “Madagascar is one of the countries that is most affected by chronic malnutrition”, and this paradox can be verified in many areas of the country. In 2015, Madagascar had not achieved any of the Millennium Development Goals, and the trends seem to show that Madagascar will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Regarding Poverty Reduction (SDG 1), according to the World Bank (2019), 75% of the Malagasy population still lives below 1.90 USD/day and most of these people are from rural areas where there are vast lands. Regarding Hunger elimination (SDG 2), Madagascar is the fourth country in the world with the highest rate of chronic malnutrition according to the World Bank (2019). Furthermore, Madagascar is also ranked among the 20 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (World Bank, 2015).
CEDAR is an innovative and challenging initiative
The CEDAR initiative was developed in order to respond to the poverty and nutrition challenges, focusing on the rural areas, since the vast majority of Malagasy people, more than 70% and increasing with the COVID crisis, are rural dwellers.
Since a year, the peasants of Mahitsy are witnessing an innovative approach of development within their Commune. With a few hectares of degraded and unused land and the help of some brave technicians paid by the funder, the CEDAR initiative is trying to train the local youth (18 – 40 years old) in what they ambition, the rural autonomy. With CEDAR where access to market is not always an option, the concept of autonomy begins with food self-sufficiency. Rural technicians are settled in the center to technically support the surrounding and ensure that trainings will continue in cascade.
Production of biomass and fixation of Nitrogen in the soil are essential techniques to improve soil quality.
Permaculture techniques are taught such as soil regeneration, plant companionships, crop rotation, integrated pest management, swales for water conservation and many others that are adapted for the area. Techniques are selected based on their relevance to the site (socio-economical, physical, geographical, biological conditions) with the aims to increase the resilience of farmers, especially facing the risks of climate change.
Moreover, autonomy of peasants will also be achieved through financial autonomy with the help of a marketing facilitator who search for market when there is excess production.
The implementation of the initiative follows a principle that the initiative tries to nourish: the promotion of local practices and know-how and the use of local materials accessible and within the reach of farmers. The promoter of the Mahitsy site sums it up best when she says: “We try to address global problems with locally adapted solutions.”
Basic composting technique with available local material: cow dung mixed with local biomass
Presently, thanks to the socio-organizer of the Mahitsy CEDAR, the concept is being replicated through 5 other communities (the Fokontany) surrounding the main training site in the Commune. One objective is that by 2021, 75 Young farmers will be fully trained in self-sufficient in this rural area. Ultimately, the vision is that this type of initiative will be replicated throughout the country and why not abroad.