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Raise for Resilience: SEED Madagascar Christmas Appeal 2023

SEED roundel

‘The first famine in modern history to be caused solely by climate change…’ This is how Time Magazine described Madagascar’s food insecurity crisis in 2021. Two years on, unpredictable weather conditions, significant cost increases in staple foods, and people having to leave rural villages for busier towns in hope of a better life have continued to be a common trend in southeast Madagascar throughout 2023. We’re already receiving word from rural communities of food rationing, months before this would typically be seen.

This is why this year; SEED’s Christmas Appeal is about resilience programmes that include and go beyond simply emergency response. We will be helping those in these rural communities to plan for the long term and create resilience for their families through sustainable employment and learning skills that can be passed through generations. Our Rural Livelihoods projects are our holistic response to protecting both the environment and livelihoods of the people who rely on it for their income.

To show you the impact we are already seeing, we’ve decided to focus on the lives of four people involved in our Rural Livelihoods projects; Project Renitantely, Project Mahampy, Project Oratsimba, and Project Stitch. Your continued support this Christmas will help change the lives of many more individuals, families and communities across southeast Madagascar.

Read on to meet those who are a part of our Rural Livelihood projects, and help SEED ‘Raise for Resilience’ below!

Project Renitantely

Beekeeper Fidson

Beekeeping is always a long and technical process, but in rural southeast Madagascar, with changing weather patterns and basic harvesting methods, beekeeping as a livelihood is even more difficult. Project Renitantely is our programme to support these rural beekeepers in making it a much more sustainable employment option.

Fidson is involved with Project Renitantely as a beekeeping technician, representing the beekeepers of his fokontanty (village) Vatambe. With more rain now, and at times when previously it not have been expected, there have been notable decreases in the amount of honey yield over recent years: “The product has decreased because now there is a lot of rain during pollen season due to climate change… I cannot take the honey because I need to think about [the wellbeing] of the bees.”

Before joining SEED as part of the project, Fidson’s apiary (collection of beehives) of over 50 hives was destroyed after a devastating parasite* struck his bees. Since joining Project Renitantely however, he has managed to rebuild his apiary, learning natural remedies that use local trees to fight off any further outbreaks. He now helps other beekeepers in the area to apply these techniques, as well as build hives and extract honey: “Although I have done beekeeping for a long time, Project Renitatantely allowed me to expand my knowledge… my honey would not be like this if I did not work with Renitantely… we now get a better price for our product… meaning we can afford our children’s education…”.

Beekeeping provides many in southeast Madagascar with an alternative livelihood to the competitive farming and fishing industries. This Christmas, support our work to improve the knowledge of more rural beekeepers in dealing with changes to the climate and fighting deadly parasites. With your help we can carry out our plans to significantly increase the reach of this project in the New Year, bringing more stability to other beekeepers like Fidson. Buzz over to the link below!

*the Varroa Destructor/Varroa mite, is an external parasitic mite which feeds on honey bees and usually leads to the death of a whole honey bee colony. It is known to be one of the most damaging honey bee pests in the world.

Project Mahampy

Mahampy weaver Madame Honorine

Whilst the weaving of mahampy reeds is a common site in many of the rural communities of southeast Madagascar, very little is known about the reedbeds from which the product is taken from to allow for this income opportunity. SEED’s Project Mahampy has helped to facilitate not only an opportunity to sell mahampy products at the local Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative, but also improve literacy and financial skills of the women employed there, empowering them with the knowledge to monitor and report on the health of the wetlands where it is grown.

This is Madame Honorine, she is 64 years old and joined the Mahampy Project three years ago, before becoming Vice-President of one of the five committees at the Mahampy Weavers’ Cooperative. Whilst she has always been involved with the weaving of mahampy, being a part of the cooperative has allowed her to develop skills she would not have otherwise had access to: “What I enjoy most [about The Mahampy Project] is that it is making my brain bright… I am motivated [to learn]!”

SEED provides education classes to improve the business management skills of those that work at the cooperative. Your support this Christmas will allow more women like Madame Honorine to learn to read and write, giving them the independence to be able to sign documentation, track sales information at the workshop, manage the employment of more local women, and much, much more!

Project Oratsimba

Fisherman Mora Bernardin

Home of Madagascar's primary lobster fishery, the Anosy region and the 40 communities fishing here have previously been responsible for 75% of the country’s lobster yield. With such a large output comes a dependent community of fishers however, and it is SEED’s work in the communities of Sainte Luce and Elodrato that is aiming to improve the sustainability and financial viability of lobster fishing here.

Speaking with Project Oratsimba Coordinator Namby, the vulnerability of the fishery was made clear. “...the weather is so bad, that they are working only 10 days per month… climate change impacts the productivity of the communities… the pirogues (traditional boat) are not suitable for the weather now… if there is no change on the development for fishers, then the situation is very bad...”

The importance of the project therefore has never been greater in ensuring the survival of this vital livelihood source to the region. This is Mora Bernardin. From the fokontany of Sainte Luce, southeast Madagascar, he is the Committee Secretary for the No Take Zone (NTZ), a protected area of the fishery established as part of Project Oratsimba. Having been born here, fishing is in his blood and was the natural choice of employment. Despite the hardships facing the fishery, he was quick to recognise the impact the project is having: “...the sea is our income generation so before the NTZ, the product was very low. SEED came to train us and made the NTZ that changed our life and the product. Before our children just stopped going to school, `we couldn’t afford for them to go to the university but recently we can… because we get more product and because of the NTZ”.

Mora’s story is a positive one, but to ensure the durability of the fishery and safety of the fishers we need your help. One regular topic of our conversations is the need for more life jackets to improve the fishers safety when out in the water. Each year, fishers get injured and some die in the fisheries of Sainte Luce and Elodrato and this is likely to increase given the unpredictable weather patterns we’re seeing. Help us raise funds to support the purchasing of more vital life jackets this Christmas.

Stitch Sainte Luce… what can be achieved from SEED’s Rural Livelihoods Programme!

Embroiderer Madame Senilla

Since beginning as a SEED Rural Livelihoods project back in 2012, Stitch Sainte Luce has come a long way… and is an example of the possible achievements for this area of our work! With limited sources of income for women in the rural fokontany of Sainte Luce, the workshop was established as a place where women could develop embroidery and business skills. 11 years on and with nearly 100 additional employees, it is now a fully independent cooperative that SEED only now supports with international sales, marketing and logistics.

We met with Madame Senilla, a 23 year old who joined the Stitch Sainte Luce Cooperative six years ago. As a child, like many of the families in the community, her family relied on fishing as their main source of income. Stitch Sainte Luce has allowed her the opportunity to earn independently and support her six month old son: “My family says that I am better off being a part of the Stitch programme… [the financial saving scheme means] I can make more money and sales.”

With price rises on everything from threads and fabrics in Madagascar, to postal packaging and international shipping costs however, the amount of money being made by the embroiderers is becoming less and less sustainable. Why not purchase one of the beautiful embroidered pieces as a gift to yourself or a loved one this Christmas? Check out Stitch Sainte Luce Etsy store at the link for the full range of handmade, uniquely Malagasy purses, bracelets, pillow cases… and more!