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Tuesday, 12th November 2019

Moving Forward with Project Mahampy

By Maggie Poulos

The Project Mahampy team recently wrapped up its exciting baseline research phase, focusing on establishing an understanding of the economic, social and conservation elements of mahampy weaving. Through interviews, focus groups and surveys, the team worked with women weavers and mahampy resellers in Sainte Luce, Mahatalaky, Fort Dauphin and Ankaramena to collect information about mahampy weaving for the baseline assessment report. After 65 interviews, 5 focus groups and 104 surveys, there were plenty of fascinating takeaways from the research that will be valuable for the future of Project Mahampy!

Weavers will always sell what they weave on a weekly basis, even for a low price, because they need the money

Among the interesting key findings from the research was that the average age of women weavers in Sainte Luce is 33.7 years old, and nearly all weave big mahampy mats. Weavers will always sell what they weave on a weekly basis, even for a low price, because they need the money and they have no room to store bulky mahampy products until the prices climb again. It was also found that the price of mahampy goods is very similar between Mahatalaky, Fort Dauphin and Ankaramena, as well as that the best time of year to sell is from June to August since that is rice harvesting season. A majority of the weavers we spoke to have tried weaving with other materials (such as tsituktuku and raffia) and like some, or have not tried other materials but are motivated to learn how to use them. We also gained insight into the process of both harvesting and weaving mahampy, which is nearly five days long and made up of multiple steps, including harvesting, drying the reeds, weaving and bringing the products to market. 

Mahampy reed items for sale in marketWhat has been discovered during the baseline research phase will be integral when moving forward with the creation of the Weavers Cooperative over the next month. It was essential to employ holistic, community-centered research methodologies in order to capture all angles of mahampy weaving, especially since this knowledge will be merged into future project design. There were no shortage of ideas surrounding the use of the mahampy studio, to be built early next year, and the possible training sessions that the Cooperative will hold for its members. For example, during focus groups it was noted that the studio could be used to weave in, as a point of sale and to display mahampy products. In regards to training, women weavers expressed interest in marketing and communications training, as well as English language lessons. The Cooperative will allow women weavers to leverage their position as a large group against resellers, who usually offer low prices for mahampy goods. Most of the resellers who women weavers from Sainte Luce sell their mahampy products to are from the Androy region, because these resellers can offer the best prices since mahampy products are sold for more money further west. 

Over the course of the research phase, there was widespread enthusiasm from members of Sainte Luce surrounding the future of the Weavers Cooperative. By the end of November, the Cooperative will be established, composed of women weavers from all three of Sainte Luce’s hamlets, Ambandrika, Ampanasatombaky and Manafiafy. The Mahampy team is excited the continue with this next stage of the project!