Berthe Razafindramanga became a group leader by accident. She only attended a highland rice training session in the hopes of getting free seeds.
Famongena is a resettlement village. The people were brought here in the hopes of starting a better life. But, the village is located in a hilly region of Madagascar so irrigated rice paddies are not an option. Regional authorities of Analamanga are committed to increasing food production. However, their Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) goal of increasing rice production from 30 to 100 Ha in 7 districts in 150 days is of little interest to Berthe.
What is interesting to her is food security and avoiding last year’s disaster (lackluster production destroyed by hail). Several years ago the villagers tried to organize themselves to do exactly what is happening now, create village level teams to improve rice production. According to Berthe it was a failure, ‘we fought amongst ourselves, our goals were not the same’. People didn’t do their fair share of work and they lacked the financing needed to improve their farming techniques.
This project is amazing because you can see how from the Chamber of Agriculture right down to Berthe the government and citizens coordinate needs and actions. Using the Rapid Results Approach people from the Chamber of Agriculture, Regional Authorities, and the recipients are all part of one extended team.
The local team has technical support in the form of Robert, who lives nearby. They also have social mobilizers in the village. And of course they have Berthe to lead them. At the Regional level there is an RRI coach helping regional authorities work with the government to plan and execute their activities for the project.
The project provided all the farming inputs necessary. But, it’s not just charity with local participation. For example, a Micro-Finance institution is working with them to provide financing. The micro-finance institution also acts a savings bank. With an eye towards sustainability the Chamber of Agriculture will require the teams to repay twice the amount of seeds they borrowed and save 10% of their profits to help with inputs for next year.
As for the problems working in a group, things are easier since the team has compulsory meetings (as part of their contract with the Chamber of Agriculture), Berthe as their team leader and technical expertise in Robert. With all this support they are coming up with creative solutions. For example they divided the land (and its produce) into ‘family’ plots to increase incentives.
I think this is an amazing project because it looks like community development, regional and central planning have found a nice synergy. The central and regional government is helping locals in ways that matter most; accessible technical assistance, management skills transfer to local team leaders and financial support that leads to sustainability and not dependency.