What difficulties do communities in southern Madagascar encounter?
Southern Madagascar is a dry area compared with the rest of the country. Though we do get some rain during certain periods of the year, temperatures can exceed 40°C. That causes evaporation, threatens plant survival—particularly during the flowering period—and risks considerably reducing agricultural yields. So we train smallholders in agroecology and prove its effectiveness through field-schools. That way, they can compare yields with conventional techniques and ultimately adopt new practices.
What are the proposed techniques?
One technique is companion planting, which is a natural way to keep bugs at bay and helps reduce the use of inputs. There's also agroforestry, with the cultivation of Cajanus (pigeon pea), which takes nitrogen from the air and puts it into the soil. It also retains humidity with its roots, which encourages the development of other plants. Plus, dead Cajanus leaves turn into a humus that fertilizes the soil. We set up effective crop rotations by alternating grains with legumes, for example. We also encourage the use of organic fertilizers, a practice that is sometimes taboo in Madagascar but that is being used more and more by farmers there.
What are the results so far?
In 2017, we worked with over 2,900 smallholders, 2,356 of whom adopted the agroecology techniques proposed by AVSF. We conducted a survey that revealed a reduction in the hungry-gap period and a significant increase in yields and income. Thanks to agroecology, smallholders went from producing 5 or 6 metric tons of manioc per hectare to 35 metric tons per hectare in 2017!