Madagascar: Women break with tradition by embracing farming and improving lives (by Patrick Andriamihaja, for Farm Radio Weekly in Madagascar)

| January 9, 2012

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For the last seven years, the women of Fitampito have been defying tradition by helping their husbands to farm. Local traditions did not permit women to work the land. But that era is over.

Masy Ramazoto is a farmer in Fitampito, a village in central Madagascar. “Because of our customs, I never thought that I would one day have the chance to farm,” she says. “Now that I can work just like my husband to improve our living conditions, I put my whole heart into it.”

Since women started farming in a few isolated villages in the High Matsiatra region, yields have improved significantly. In three years, rice yields have increased from two tonnes per hectare to five tonnes.

Faly and Noro Ndremazoto are farmers from the town of Vohitrafeno. Noro is responsible for growing vegetables, while her husband Faly builds ox-drawn plows. The living conditions of the couple have improved greatly since Noro began farming. Faly says, “I now understand how certain aspects of tradition can hinder development. Since my wife starting helping me, I finally have the opportunity to return to my passion, which is woodworking.”

The main crops women grow in the area are rice, cereals, fruits and vegetables. To help get them started, women attended trainings offered by local associations. The trainings focused on growing rice and vegetables. The women have learned the rice growing system called SRI, or System of Rice Intensification. They carefully follow SRI procedures by weeding regularly, transplanting and re-planting failed seedlings. Njaka Harivelo is a trainer with Santatra, an association involved in educating farmers. He explains, “SRI requires more work than traditional rice-growing techniques, but it guarantees better production.”

In addition to SRI, the women farmers were asked to adopt hybrid rice. Farmers in some communities had yields of eight tons per hectare when they combined SRI with hybrid rice varieties imported from China.

Veromanitra Soazanany is a farmer from the town of Anjoma Itsara, near Vohitrafeno. She welcomed the training. “With the training we have been given, I am very comfortable in my work.” She passed on everything she learned and convinced her husband to abandon less productive farming practices. The couple grows a wide range of vegetables in addition to rice. Her husband Besa Narisaona is even considering raising cattle now that his wife has mastered growing vegetables. He is happy: “I’m glad my wife was trained in farming, or we would not be where we are now.”