Madagascar: Woman learns to produce vegetables—without a garden

| September 7, 2015

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Jeanette Razanamaro carries her young granddaughter, who rests in a sling on her back. A white hat shades her head from the harsh morning sun as she gardens, pruning leaves and watering vegetables growing in old containers on a wooden table outside her door.

Photo credit: Noro Roaeliharison

Photo credit: Noro Raoeliharison

Mrs. Razanamaro lives in Amboditsiry, a village near Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The 62-year-old has been a widow since 1997. She worked for many years as a domestic servant to a wealthy family. But in 2014, she broke her left arm and had no choice but to quit her job.

In May 2015, Mrs. Razanamaro started her life anew. She began growing vegetables at home using wooden crates, barrels, and plastic bags—anything she could plant a seed in.

Her life changed dramatically. Mrs. Razanamaro explains: “One day, I was near the district offices and I saw a demonstration of how vegetables can be grown in plastic barrels and on tables. I was interested immediately. I talked with our local agent and he put me put on a list for training.”

The training courses are part of a project initiated by the municipality of Antananarivo and the Institut des Métiers de la Ville, or IMV.

Tamara Teissedre Philip is the director of IMV. She explains, “What interests us about this project is the food security agenda: that is to say, how the most vulnerable people secure their access to basic nutrition.”

Mrs. Razanamaro learned the basics of farming. Extension agents visited her frequently and advised her on techniques such as weeding and irrigation. To help her get started, the project gave Mrs. Razanamaro two wooden tables and a plastic drum.

But this was just the beginning. Mrs. Razanamaro gradually extended her growing space by adding three more cans and some plastic bags. She explains, “I grow salad [vegetables], leafy vegetables, green onions, celery, melons [from seed], and I can pick up seedlings of other crops from friends.”

Mrs. Razanamaro is in her third growing season. She uses her harvest to feed her family. She explains: “Every morning, I simply pick the vegetables that my family wants to accompany our rice with lunch and dinner. I used to spend between 500-600 Ariary [15 to 18 US cents] per day on vegetables and now I pay nothing.”

Photo credit: Noro Raoeliharison

Photo credit: Noro Raoeliharison

Valerie Andriamanga Andoniaina is an agricultural engineer. She says, “This [growing] system can be used throughout the year.”

Ralalasoa Fanomezana Voahirana is another beneficiary of the project. She is enthusiastic and proud of her success. Mrs. Voahirana says, “I never imagined I could farm without land. But I save 1,200 Ariary [36 US cents] every day by growing food for myself. I now use the money to donate to the church, to buy soap, and for spending on myself.”

Every day, Mrs. Razanamaro’s garden brings her more hope for the future, and more joie de vivre. She says, “Seeing the barrels overflowing with vegetables makes me happy every day.”