Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Project aims to improve biodiversity and livelihoods for women in Madagascar

Sangita Shrestha, Communications Manager, Feed the Minds

FEED the Minds is running a new one-year project alongside our local partner organisation Tanjona Association to improve biodiversity and livelihoods for women in Madagascar through sustainable silk production.  

Poverty, poor environmental practices, and gender disparity in Mandrosoa, Madagascar

Madagascar, an island nation in sub-Saharan Africa and the fifth-largest island in the world is ranked 164th out of 189 countries, positioning it as one of the most disadvantaged countries worldwide (HDR, 2020).  

The country is rich in natural resources. However, deforestation has had a heavy impact on its rainforest. According to the World Food Programme, 90% of Madagascar’s rainforest has already been lost. A study by researchers in 2021 revealed that, on average, 189.6 hectares of mangrove have disappeared annually from 2017 to 2021 in the Rural Commune of Boanamary -and most of it occurred near Mandrosoa, a Madagascan village near the Bombetoka Bay in the Mangrove Forest.

People that live near mangrove forests in Madagascar rely on the forest ecosystem for survival; nonetheless, environmentally harmful activities such as slash-and-burn agriculture, logging, and the burning of charcoal for cooking fires continue to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (WRI CAIT), land use and agriculture emissions accounted for 98% of Madagascar’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2011.

In addition, Madagascar is marred by long-term challenges regarding education and gender equality. In Mandrosoa, traditional cultural expectations result in women accounting for a lower proportion of educated individuals. Harmful practices such as child marriages have been linked to education and poverty in Madagascar. 

Data from the United Nations Population Fund indicates that ‘almost two-thirds of girls in some of the poorer regions of Madagascar are married before age 18’ and ‘nearly 70% of girls with no education marry early, compared with 28% of those with secondary education’ (UNFPA, 2017). Despite these ongoing issues, community members – many of whom are uneducated – have built resilience to improve their economic status by pursuing livelihood activities from the mangrove forest. Nevertheless, such practices cause devastating environmental damage and are highly unsustainable in the long term. 

Improving biodiversity and livelihoods for women in Madagascar through sustainable silk production

Feed the Minds’ new project in Madagascar will empower 90 beneficiaries from a women’s association group (Liam-pandrosoana) in Mandrosoa to better their livelihoods through training in making silk using environmentally friendly methods, which will help them generate more sustainable income and break the cycle of deforestation. The training by the experts from the silk production industry will also incorporate practising exercises in functional literacy, numeracy, and financial concepts to enable participants to form productive micro-businesses.

The project’s aim of improving the livelihoods of 90 beneficiaries through eco-friendly farming practices will be achieved through a sensitisation campaign targeting 850 community members in Mandrosoa and two nearby villages. As part of the mangrove seeds plantation, a plantation event will be held on 175 hectares of land with 175 community members to promote engagement in afforestation and reduction of dependence on cutting trees for livelihoods.   

During this period, a 20-day silk potentiality assessment will be conducted to assess the abundance and presence of silk. The findings will provide accurate information about the capacity of silk to support a low-carbon economy that is sustainable for beneficiaries. In addition, 2 local experts will be recruited to train beneficiaries in silk production which will cover sessions on the lifecycle of silk, the ecology of cocoons, silk materials, quality and quantity of silk production, management techniques and best practices. Financial management training will also be delivered so that beneficiaries can learn how to budget, save and invest from the sale of their silk production.

Project participants will benefit from the 2-months of literacy training that include reading and handwriting in Malagasy (their native language), writing numbers, simple arithmetic, and the use of calculators. Classes will also be extended to 50 community members (30 women and 20 men) from Mandrosoa to improve inclusivity and to take a holistic approach towards education. In addition to this, 24 project participants will attend a knowledge exchange programme in Soatanana village.     

It is anticipated that 490 individuals will indirectly benefit from the project, gaining increased awareness of the importance of mangrove protection, and encouraging them to pursue a sustainable livelihood that can improve their quality of life.

We are honoured to be working on this new project with Tanjona Association, a grassroots Malagasy organisation which is formed of local ecologists, economists and social scientists working towards improving rural life and also protecting the environment and wildlife. 

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