Enterprising women in peanut fields
Madame Philomène stands in the middle of a steep peanut field. She pulls out weeds and checks the small plants. “The soil is not the best,” she says, looking slightly worried. “The rain should come, too”.
The Holistic Conservation Programme for Forest (HCPF) helped the women from Tsaratanana create their own association. It is called Tsara ezaka (“good effort”) and led by Madame Philomène. Its 24 members received training in vegetable farming.
As a result, they have started growing tomatoes, eggplants, peanuts and cabbage. Philomène and her friends are selling their products on the market in Vondrozo. And they are making good money – they earned 370,000 Ariary (about 150 Euro) for their first season!
Four women who live in the village take care of the gardens and water the plants every other day. The other women take care of the maintenance of the peanut fields which are a bit further away from Tsaratanana.
“When there are too many weeds, we call our husbands to help us,” says a giggling Philomène. “But we don’t need them for the rest”.
The next project of the women association is the creation a communal granary. Buying the rice while it is cheap and storing it will help avoid famine and spending too much money when there is hardly any rice on the market.
Then, they will farm other types of vegetables. “Our main objective is to improve everyone’s livelihood and make sure our kids don’t starve,” says Philomène.
And what is the link with forest conservation? After WWF field staff started raising awareness on the importance of protected forests and explained the law to the Tsaratanana people, many of those who used to clear land inside the forest corridor left it and settled down in the village.
As a result, the Tsaratanana population grew from 10 households to over 60. To keep them in the village and make sure they see the benefits of forest protection, the HCPF is investing much time and effort to develop alternative livelihoods, working closely with local associations.
By acknowledging the villagers’ ambitions and helping them realize their projects, WWF ensures this development is sustainable and the results last long after the end of the project