The Role of Natural Agriculture in Madagascar

Good afternoon everyone,

My name is Mina Randrianarisoa. I am the Vice-President of the Madagascar Agrinature Association. I am the rural director of the department of rural development for the Ministry of Agriculture. The mission of this department is the implementation of the strategies and the Malagasy politics in terms of Agriculture.

Please listen to the message from the president in the letter.

 

(Letter from Yanna)

I am honor to state this message as a president of Association Agrinature to cerebrate this bright anniversary of Shumei Europe.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mrs. Hiroko Koyama, the president of Shumei International, and Mr. Tamao Koyama, the host of this European anniversary, for your reliable support in the popularization of Natural agriculture in Madagascar.

I also appreciate you to have Mina Randrianarisoa, vice president of our Association Agrinature as a guest speaker in this memorable ceremony.

I will state that the Association Agrinature will make ceaseless efforts to realize our common goal, ” Sow the seeds of love and enjoy life through Natural Agriculture”.

I wish all of you for your continued success and development of the significant activities toward the world.

Yanna Andriambalo

 

My work in the Natural Agriculture began when the president of Agrinature asked me to help. I was immediately convinced, but being responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, I hesitated a little because our mission is to assure the food security of 22 million Malagasy, and we were only thinking of having enough production to feed this population.  In 2013, after several contacts with Shumei France, I went to Misono, the headquarters of Shumei in Japan when I was a representative of Madagascar in the Fifth International Conference on African Development in Yokohama.  Through this experience, I found that Natural Agriculture was one of the most important solutions to resolve health and food problems facing the Malagasy farmers.

I started making an appeal about the importance of Natural Agriculture to the Ministry of Agriculture and to the government, so that it enters the policy and the strategy of the Ministry.

“Charity begins at home,” so I committed to master the Natural Agriculture, and to share it with my great family and public primary schools including student’s parents in Ambavala and Anjiro.

I invite you now to discover my country, Madagascar.

Most of you may wonder where Madagascar is.

Well, Madagascar is located in the Southern Hemisphere. It is separated from Africa by the canal of Mozambique.

Madagascar has an area equal to the total area of France and Benelux.

It is the fourth biggest island in the world.

The capital is Antananarivo.

The population is estimated at 22 million inhabitants.

75% of them are in rural areas and the others are in urban areas.

At least 70% of the population lives in poverty. The country has a child mortality rate of 75%. The mother tongue is Malagasy, but French is commonly used.

Madagascar is mixed with other immigrants such as Malaysians in highlands, Africans and Arabians along the coasts.

Concerning the climate, Madagascar is subjected to the tropical climate characterized by an alternating rainy hot season followed by a dry cold season.

The east–coast has much rain, while the Southern part of the island is subjected to long dry seasons.

Madagascar undergoes a rainy season with damage caused by cyclones, which come from Indian Ocean.

The vegetation is lush. With its flora and fauna, Madagascar has always been described as a sanctuary of nature. Except for its biological importance, the Malagasy plants offer services and properties for the population such as healing plants, cosmetic plants, decorative plants, air purifying plants and house plants. This floral wealth is however submitted to numerous pressures of variable intensity, especially due to human activities, which are leading to their disappearance.

The Ravinala, tree of the traveler, is endemic. It represents the emblem of the country.

Here are some wonders of Malagasy nature. Madagascar is the country of the orchid. On this island off Africa, among 1200 species of orchids listed in the world, 1000 are endemic.

The Eulophilla, one of the biggest orchids of the word, has an unequalled beauty. The Gramangis, the Bulbophyllum, the’Angraecum, and the list goes on.

There are 8 species of baobabs in the world, 6 of them are endemic in Madagascar. Here, I show you a path of baobabs.  Those baobabs grew naturally before the construction of the track.

The  Didieracéés, which indicate to you which way is South.

The Pachypodium, we would say a dwarfish baobab, but nevertheless they are very different species.

The Euphorbes have their thorns.

The fauna of Madagascar, just like its flora, is very rich.

So here are some examples:

  • The lemurs: some of them are diurnal and others are nocturnal animal, and they are all endemic in Madagascar.
  • The microcebus, the smallest lemur of the world.  It is nocturnal animal.
  • The lemur catta, or kaki, with it’s long rung tail.
  • The indri indri is the biggest lemur.  It is the only lemur without tail!!

If we speak about reptiles, the snakes of Madagascar, they are harmless, not venomous, like the big boa, which we present here.

The fascinating chameleons, the lizards and the tortoises.

The list goes on, but we will stop there.

Let us speak now about the agriculture.

Madagascar is a country with agricultural vocation.

75 % of population are farmers, but only 5% of the whole land is suitable for cultivation. Rice is the basic food of Malagasy. There are  more than 5000 varieties of rice in Madagascar. Madagascar is the first world consumer of rice 138 kg/ per capita a year.  Every person eats it 3 times a day.

From the economic point of view, the rice industry is the most dynamic in the Madagascar. In terms of cropland, it occupies 60 % of that. 85 % of the farmers cultivate rice, but the self-sufficiency in rice is very low, which means even the rice producers can’t eat rice throughout the year. To cover the shortage, they cultivate tubers such as manioc, sweet potatoes, taro, and yams.

The most important problems of the rice growing are especially…

  • The access of the farmers to the agricultural inputs: Equipment, improved seeds, fertilizers, very expensive pesticides
  • The infestation of locusts: The locusts cover half of the region of Madagascar.

But there are other crops such as corn and bean.

For industrial crops, we grow cotton, peanuts, sugar cane, and palm tree oil.

The main export crops are vanilla, cloves, coffee and pepper.

Originally, Malagasy practiced Natural Agriculture by following the lunar cycle. Always, agriculture weaved communal solidarity through the mutual aids of the work in the field and the concerted actions for the maintenance of the agricultural works. So far, during our family events such as circumcision, marriage, burial, we have always lived in this union.

The progress and the globalization have forced indirectly the farmers to use artificial fertilizers and pesticides, which deteriorate the ecological balance of the world.  Even more, it has changed the mentality of whole population.

MadagascarLet us talk now about our association Agrinature .

Conscious of the damage to the environment and the Malagasy society due to the conventional agriculture, 6 founder members including 3 agronomists and administrators created Agrinature Madagascar Association in 2013

The respect for nature, which is one of the philosophies of Shumei, made us believe that it is not against ours because that is what we consider as a high value.  That’s why we subscribe to this concept.

While worried about the problem of agriculture in Madagascar, Mrs. Yanna Andriambalo visited Shumei center in France through her sister, Mrs. Noro Gelbart in July 2012

A team of Shumei members visited Madagascar in February 2013 for the first time.

The partnership between Shumei and Agrinature was made in July 2013 by Yanna, and Alan Imai at the  Shumei Frankfurt center.

Until now, 4 members of Agrinature have visited Shumei France and Germany; the President Yanna, 3 agronomists, Tsoa, Naina and myself.

Currently, the Agrinature is working in 3 regions of Madagascar.

In the first region, the capital area where Antananarivo is located,

we can quote :

  • A model farm : Ambohimila
  • The support of two Public Primary Schools
  • A Natural Rice Growing in Ambohimahatsinjo
  • The distribution of the Natural Agriculture to the farmers at present in 7 villages

In the Second Region, Sambava, there is a model farm of Shumei and Agrinature on the production of natural vanilla.

In the third Region where Anjiro is located, we have two activities :

  • A Field School
  • Distribution of the Natural Agriculture to the parents of the schoolchildren.

Now, let me introduce all our main activities.

How did we make the choice of Antananarivo for the diffusion of the Natural Agriculture?

In Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, where all activities starts, they use an excessive amount of chemicals in agriculture. That causes several incurable diseases which are happening to children and women especially.

Now, around forty families are practicing in Natural Agriculture in 7 villages.

Our approaches start by raising the awareness of a technician or a farmer leader in the village and organizing a workshop about Shumei and Natural Agriculture. This workshop is composed of three steps. The first one is held collaborating with the leaders of the villages to understand the principles of Shumei Natural Agriculture. The second one is organized to have further information or advanced knowledge such as the important role of microbes in the soil. The third one is about the philosophy of Shumei Natural Agriculture and spiritual aspects of things. Then supervision and technical support for the farmers are made in every village. Seeds are distributed to the farmers during the implementation of the culture on ground and compost is made with farmers.

Through observing Natural Agriculture crops in the field and tasting the produce together with farmers, we found the difference in tastes between Natural Agriculture and conventional crops. The roots of kidney beans raised by Natural Agriculture develop more branches, and grow deeper and healthier, and the taproot is long, large and in good condition. On top of that, regarding the taste, Chinese cabbages grown with the Natural Agriculture method are mild and naturally sweet.MINA FINAL.074

We observed three things.

Firstly, the farmers who use biological fertilizers are more difficult to make the change because they think they already respect the environment and the ground through the usage of biological fertilizers.

Secondly, most of the farmers tend to choose virgin grounds to start Natural agriculture. Because of the poverty in their life, it is sometimes difficult for them to hand out the land already fitted to the Natural Agriculture.

Thirdly, at the end of every session, the women seemed to show more interest in the practice of Shumei Natural Agriculture. In other words, the women farmers will build the future of the Natural Agriculture.

Let us turn now to the culture of natural rice in Ambohimahatsinjo. This year, Shumei and Agrinature members visited the Ministry of Agriculture. The Minister was convinced of the importance of Natural Agriculture as an alternative to fight against locusts. He endorsed the collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture with Shumei and Agrinature.

After this first meeting, the Minister of Agriculture gave us instructions to work with the technical directions of the Ministry.  An informational meeting was held with the directors and the technicians of the three directions, direction of the agriculture, direction of the protection of vegetables, regional direction of agricultural development.  This meeting was followed by a visit on the ground in Ambohimahatsinjo.

The rice field was healthy and well maintained. According to the owner, the swarms of locusts did not affect his plot of land. Technicians of the state and our association visited the farm to estimate the efficiency.  The yield is of 5,2 t/living. Let us underline that in the region, the usual average yield is of 3,5 t/living.

Convinced by the findings of this approach: no fertilizer and the high yield, the lack of diseases and insects, an easy to practice farming technique.  Therefore, the technicians of the State and our Agrinature Association have decided together to make multi-local tries and some improvements to popularize the Natural Agriculture.

As it was mentioned, we have activities with three primary public schools.

Let me explain why we chose schools as a place of activities.

As we are Christian, we believe in the Bible, which states in Proverb 22/6: “Raise the young child according to the rule of his way. Even when he will age he will not turn away from it.” It seemed necessary for our association to work with schools through some sport or educational activities aiming to build a social solidarity and to protect the environment by reforestation.

We created a field at the school to show children how to grow healthy vegetables, which also enables them to save costs for food.

3 schools practice Natural Agriculture including the Ambavala Anjiro school.

My parents decided to build this school in this village because the illiteracy rate was very high and the closest school was 15km away.

Even if it is one public school, it is the parents who pay the salaries of the teachers. As the parents are very poor, 4 teachers receive only 10000ar a month, which means 3 euro a month. Can you imagine their life? More than ¾ schoolchildren are not able to buy sandals to go to school.  IMG_9598

For the popularization of Natural Agriculture, we first raised the awareness of the teachers, then the pupils and the parents. When everybody was convinced to adopt this approach, a school field was made. The parents worked hard to prepare grounds. Once a week, the children make a green class to follow the progress and maintain the field. The pupils are enthusiastic to make natural compost because it is not difficult to find green leaves and dry leaves in this area.

The teachers, the pupils, the parents of the pupils, the technicians, and the local authorities are invited to every harvest, are all very satisfied with the harvest and proud of the work that they carried out together.  We have already had five harvests (beans, cucumbers, vouandzou, ginger, sweet potatoes). Everyone appreciated the taste of these natural products, which is different from conventional crops.

In this area, we practice slash-and-burn agriculture. Last year, there was a big cyclone, which ravaged many things including the school and the field. After that, the pupils, the teachers and the parents realized that all the damages stemmed from the slash-and-burn culture, “tavy”. We decided together to plant 125 feet of trees around the school. The parents also decided to stop slash-and-burn culture of their fields, and to practice Shumei’s approach to farming. At present, around thirty households already practice Natural Agriculture. Quite recently, an institution for orphaned children has joined us in our program.

Let me speak now about vanilla in Sambava.

Madagascar is the largest world producer of vanilla, stemming from the big family of orchids, with a production varying 1000 and 1800 Tones. Madagascar’s vanilla is the world’s preference. With its high rate of vanillin, it is famous for its distinguished taste and flavor. Vanilla is produced in numerous countries, but the results are not necessarily good.  As for the best growth, the condition of the soil and climate are fundamental. The northeast of Madagascar is best place for the production.

Due to the high demand, certain planters tend to use chemical inputs. But to keep the reputation of the Malagasy vanilla, our association started working with some planters through the local authorities and the Regional Office of Agricultural Development SAVA of the Ministry of Agriculture. In Shumei’s Field, there are 120 feet of vanilla plants. They do manual pollination. Now our technicians and farmers are preparing the harvested pods.

At present, in the Miho Museum, we can taste ice cream made with the vanilla coming from our planters in Madagascar. MINA FINAL.122

What is the contribution of Natural Agriculture in Madagascar?

Natural Agriculture is not completely a new technique introduced in Madagascar. Our ancestors have already practiced it for the years when they began to cultivate the rice in a way civilized in Ambohimahatsinjo.  Nevertheless, our country used to promote various agricultural techniques, which included the intensive use of chemicals. Several years passed and the producing farmers were able to see the consequences of using chemicals, which was supported by various state and private agriculture services according to the national politics of the Ministry. At present, the offenders are mentally imprisoned by depending on chemical and organic inputs, with the aim of a better efficiency without caring about the fatal effects of the use of the “toxic” products on the ecological balance and the environment of the world by agricultural production.

Fortunately, Shumei has intervened and alerted the producing farmers of the dangers that can arrive very soon if the current situation continues to deteriorate. Shumei played at first the role of a person who holds a big “bell” calling to return to the source, that is Natural Agriculture. Many farmers today are beginning to understand the bell’s message. From training sessions with farmers, a new logic begins to develop in numerous villages by considering the import role of microorganisms of the soil in agricultural production.

After a few years Shumei has already invested a lot to show the Malagasy farmers the logic of the agricultural style of their ancestors. Shumei reminded people that they can benefit by numerous advantages through Natural Agriculture.

Some examples are:

• The restoration of the environment suitable for the necessary insects and the microorganisms of the soil

• The reduction of the costs to buy agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers, seeds,  and pesticides

• The consumption of healthy, pure and natural products, which contribute to the improvement of the health of every family leading to healthier people in the whole country.

It is necessary to note also that the practice of Natural Agriculture shows people to turn back to the respect of God the Creator. Moreover, since partner farmers are interested in the spiritual world and in miracles, they become more united and practice mutual aiding each other. To conclude, we can now say that Natural Agriculture is one of the most effective ways to cure diseases caused by the excessive use of the chemical inputs, which led us to the disastrous current situation of our environment.

Shumei also helps provide a more united, warm community life filled with mutual respect, which is similar to that of our former ancestors.

Here are some future projects for Agrinature and Shumei:

  • To create a show farm to improve awareness
  • To guide and persuade the decision-makers
  • To convince the decision-makers and the technicians of Ministries, and to lead some local talks with demonstrations in various areas on the ways of natural rice growing. This year we are going to begin with three sites in Antananarivo and three sites in the Southwest.
  • To continue the formation of the farmers who practice in the fields
  • To develop a collaboration with the public and primary schools, the orphanages, and the boy scouts
  • Production of natural seeds, especially the rice seeds
  • To capitalize the experience, the allocation of seeds and farm equipment that are necessary for vulnerable farmers
  • To organize the marketing of these natural products: with hypermarkets, restaurants and the private individuals.
  • To organize visits between farmers to exchange viewpoints and to bring about other aspects for improvement.

Our wish and hope is to see the leaders in the government endorse the practice of Natural Agriculture, and all the farmers in Madagascar to practice it.

The income of  farmers will be improved by selling natural products more expensively than the conventional ones and by saving on the purchase of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Farmers and countrymen will all enjoy a healthy life style by consuming natural products leading to reduction of the medical expenses.

Since crops cultivated by Natural Agriculture are not being attacked by locusts, Madagascar could save up to 100 million dollars a year and invest these savings in other activities of development.  Public spending will be reduced because of the reduction of the purchases of pesticides and artificial fertilizers and medicine

Farmers and nature are inseparable. To protect nature is an essential motive for Madagascar and thus the Natural Agriculture is needed. It is important to raise awareness of the farmers to stop the bad practices of conventional agriculture because it is uneconomical and especially harmful to health.

As the founder of Shumei, Mokichi Okada said « A beautiful environment will embellish the hearts of those who live there », we are confident that we shall realize « Madagascar the green island thanks to the Natural Agriculture» by our partnership with Shumei.  IMG_7035

To conclude, we invite you to visit our beautiful island of Madagascar, which has beautiful beaches, forest reserves and museums. If you visit Madagascar, you will experience the world.

We brought some local coffee. Today you can also buy little baskets for 5 euros. In those baskets you’ll find powder Natural Agriculture ginger, cultivated by the children and their parents.  The littles baskets have also been handmade by the children and their parents.  You can buy one basket for 5 euro.  With these 5 euro, one child can go to school for one year.  I repeat : one basket for 5 euro means one schoolyear for one child.  Thank you for your generosity.

Thank you for your attention.

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