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Two municipalities in Madagascar - Ambahikily and Andranomangatsiaka - are experiencing new leases of life, thanks to new water and irrigation infrastructure projects financed by the African Development Bank.
In 2012, the Government of Madagascar funded final design studies for the rehabilitation of three major irrigation areas of the country’s south-west region (Ranozaza, Taheza and Lower Mangoky). The studies confirmed the extreme vulnerability of the infrastructure to climate change and informed the Bank’s decision to support the rehabilitation projects, collectively known as the South-West Region Agricultural Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (PRIASO).
The intervention has revived the agrarian economies of Ambahikily and Andranomangatsiaka towns, improving agricultural productivity, farmers' incomes and the socio-economic conditions of communities, after nearly a decade of drought, poor harvests and economic insecurity.
Located some 364 kilometres apart, Ambahikily and Andranomangatsiaka are in the Morombe and Betioky Sud districts of Madagascar’s southwestern Atsimo-Andrefana region. The towns have a combined population of about 60,000 people, all living under the threat of famine and insecurity for nearly a decade, according to Johanès Frédéric Randribnitsamamanan, president of the federation of water users' associations, who also affirmed that the region’s social and economic revival has occurred mostly in the last four years.
About 80% of the Ambahikily and Andranomangatsiaka residents are engaged in agriculture: mostly fishing, livestock, rice, sugar cane, cassava, lima beans, potato and cowpea farming. Johanès recalls that prior to the Bank’s interventions; farmers tilled their own plots with unsatisfactory results, with little or zero access to infrastructure support and extension services.
“With the restoration of the agricultural infrastructure, we've learnt to work together again," Johanès explains. "And we've received financial and technical training under this project. We are getting more irrigation water, and it is better quality, but on top of that we know how to grow our crops better and to sell them better. And the result of all that is that we earn more money.”
“With the restoration of the agricultural infrastructure, we've learnt to work together again"
- Johanès Frédéric Randribnitsamamanan, president of the federation of water users' associations
The resuscitation and expansion of the Bas Mangoky growing plains were carried out in two work phases, from 2002 to 2008 and 2012 to 2016, resulting in the refurbishment of the water intake from the river Mangoky, the improvement of water resource infrastructure, development of irrigated plots, and the use of improved seeds. The rehabilitation projects also established a land-rights security process that enabled 5,032 property titles to be issued, with women accounting for 30% of beneficiaries.
Johanès reckons that agricultural production has consequently been doubling and tripling with the resultant gains in food security and in improved quality of life for the people of the region. "We are constructing permanent buildings all over the village now. Before, only the mayor had a motorcycle. Now, there are 150 or 200… All this is linked to the increase in our buying power. We've been able to install solar panels to provide our homes with electricity for the first time, "
Another beneficiary, Mr. Realy, who is treasurer of the federation of water users' associations, said he once contemplated moving out of the region about five years ago: with no water to farm or drink, it had become impossible to grow rice, the nation’s staple crop, and he was unable to feed or provide for his family. His fortunes, however, began to change when the second phase of the PRIASO project was launched. The construction of 74 km of canals, 32 km of rural roads and 40 km of protective dykes meant he could revive his rice production business. That same year, Realy bought a beast of burden to cultivate his one acre of farmland. He acquired more land and farm equipment over the next two years.
"Now, I have eight hectares that I cultivate with a plough and a rotating wheel. I've also started to save money, investing it in livestock. Five years ago, I had five head of zebu, for feeding my family. Now, I have 30 head," he said with pride. Mr. Realy’s 12 children can now all attend school, with the eldest already in her third year of a philosophy course in Toliara, capital of the Atsimo-Andrefana region. She had once been forced to drop out of school due to problems caused by drought. Mr Realy is also now able to provide quality accommodation for his wider family, building four houses, all fully equipped with electricity and other modern amenities.
Mr Realy's success story is not an isolated case,” says Dieudonné Rasolofonirina, the Mayor of Andranomangatsiaka. "Our town has 15 rice threshers, so we can sell white rice. We also have warehouses so that we can afford to wait prices to rise before selling to the highest bidder. On average, we can sell rice at 1400 Madagascan Ariary (about €0.35) per kilo…Of course, all this is only possible because the rural roads have been refurbished under the project", the Mayor concluded.
Inhabitants of the region will further improve their income and quality of life when the third phase of the agricultural infrastructure and capacity development projects – which commenced in 2017 – are concluded at the end of 2019. Extension of the project area from 5,000 to 9,000 hectares also means more smallholder farmers, now numbering some 11,500, will benefit from improved irrigation and access to better quality seeds.
The South-West Region Agricultural Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project will eventually be beneficial to a population of almost 105,000 inhabitants.