Innovation and collaboration: A solution for hunger in Madagascar

Anahita Boboeva
Sep 4, 2017 · 5 min read

Improved production and food transformation enable farmers to fight drought, tackle food insecurity

Madagascar is one of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts in the world. The southern region experienced three consecutive years of severely low rainfall, aggravated in 2016 by El Niño, which left 850,000 people in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance. While this region produces large quantities of cassava, with around 2.6 million metric tonnes (mt) produced in 2015, most of it is wasted. The southern regions of Anosy, Androy and Atsimo Andrefana are important areas of production, yet they suffer from food insecurity. In 2016, families lost up to 90 percent of their harvests due to low rainfall, depriving them of food for many months.

In the drought-ridden southern part of Madagascar, gari — a type of locally processed cassava flour/flakes — empowers producers, especially women, to fight hunger and improve their livelihoods. Photo: WFP/Zoara Ramandazafy

Since October 2015, inspired by a practice common to western Africa, the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with the other Rome-based agencies of the United Nations (RBAs) — the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has been implementing a project for transforming cassava into gari. Under this project, the RBAs work together to design, implement and monitor innovative capacity-strengthening activities for farmers and producers, mostly women, and raise communities’ awareness on the adequate consumption of gari. This is empowering women, improving nutrition and enabling communities to work together to enhance their food security and livelihoods.

Usually local communities consume boiled or fried cassava, or dry the tuber along with the skin for later use. Drying cassava affects both its quality and taste, and above all, is the number one cause of waste. When cassava is processed into gari, a form of flour or flakes, its shelf life is extended, it can be used in a variety of recipes, and fortified during transformation. This also contributes to food diversification.

Blandine Legonou (back, far right) also known as ‘Maman Gari’, with members from Union Mamiratra, a women’s association producing gari in Andalatanosy, Ambovombe district, participating in the project. Photo: WFP/Zoara Ramandazafy

As part of the IFAD-funded Professional Organizations and Agricultural Service Providers (AROPA) project, producers benefiting from WFP’s food assistance are empowered to create and work collectively in organizations. These organizations are then provided with the necessary equipment and capacity strengthening trainings. WFP develops the technical capacities of farmers’ organizations to improve the quality, storage and handling of food products, and increases their market access by linking them to the Home Grown School Meals programme as well as other initiatives, including those led by the government. WFP also increases household nutrition through nutrition education and encouraging community-based cassava fortification.

In southern Madagascar, gari offers communities an affordable and adequate food option, particularly during the lean season. The transformation process allows producers to gain better incomes as gari fetches higher prices on local markets. The introduction of improved processing technologies, techniques and practices also reduce post-harvest losses by 30 percent.

Union Mamiratra members peeling and washing the cassava root as part of the gari transformation process. Photo: WFP/Volana Rarivoson

The first participants in this project were women’s associations from two communes of the Androy region, currently producing and selling gari in local shops and markets. Initially, as communities were not familiar with gari, technical trainings and activities to raise awareness were undertaken, including cooking demonstrations organized for communities and informative programmes aired on local radio and national TV channels. With support from the RBAs, these producers/farmers also participated in the 2016 Fier Mada, an international exhibition for rural economies in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Thanks to their participation, they established connections with the Regional Office of Nutrition, a branch of the Madagascar National Nutrition Office, for discussing opportunities for fortification.

“When communities lose their harvests to the effects of droughts and cannot access food due to limited resources, WFP and other humanitarian actors must take action,” says Blandine Legonou, Head of WFP’s Ambovombe Field Office. “The south of Madagascar suffers from structural problems, limiting people’s access to food. Initiatives such as these are a solution for tackling the persistent food insecurity, and sustainably strengthening communities’ resilience. Having food security enshrined in our mandates, continued and close collaboration between the RBAs can help us achieve Zero Hunger together.”

The gari transformation process by Union Mamiratra members. Photo: WFP/Blandine Legonou

In the coming months, this collaborative approach will be linked to other activities in the region, such as school feeding. In the Ambovombe district, 20 schools have been selected for a life-skills education training, with the aim to enable women’s groups to utilise school plots of approximately 400 to 500 square meters for school gardening, using a micro-irrigation system. This will allow the cultivation of vegetables, Moringa and cassava, as well as the transformation of cassava into fortified gari to be supplied to these schools. Care will be taken that the gari produced complies with the quality standards prescribed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the Ministry of Health of Madagascar.

The project has so far reached 200 families. Most of the participants, around 60 percent, are women. In 2017, this innovative RBA collaboration will extend the cassava transformation project to 1,500 households in 15 additional communes of the Androy and Anosy regions, supporting farmers in accessing remunerative outlets for their gari, such as local markets or schools. Alongside this, our efforts will also encourage the exchange of knowledge and experience between the experts in gari production from west Africa and our participating communities in southern Madagascar.

WFP is thankful to its partners, particularly the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) and Governments of Monaco and Andorra for supporting initiatives to sustainably tackle food insecurity in southern Madagascar.

Story by Anahito Boboeva and Volana Rarivoson

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