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Madagascar: African Development Bank supports women's empowerment and protection of the environment in Bas Mangoky
Farmer and single mother Bertine Mariazi’s life changed dramatically. Bertine Mariazy is a farmer in Tanandava, a rural town in Morombe District in south-west Madagascar. Her standard of living has soared over the past eight years, as a result of development works in the irrigated area of Bas Mangoky (supplied with water by the Mangoky, at 822 km in length, the longest river in Madagascar). Having better quality water and in greater quantity for her land has enabled her to double her rice production and her cropping area. "I've been able to increase my income in recent years. I've bought new plots of land. My family and I now own four hectares of farmland," explains this single mother of two daughters who had inherited two hectares of land on the death of her parents. For many of the region's women rice growers, like Ms Mariazy, the general increase in purchasing power coupled with a spectacular leap in local production represents a unique opportunity to secure their landholdings.
Trained in new rice cultivation techniques, Ms Mariazy benefited from a micro-loan made possible by the increase in her earnings. She used this to invest in a power cultivator to replace the zebu traditionally used for ploughing. This led to a spectacular increase in her yields. "Being able to educate my daughters remains my greatest pride," she was keen to stress. "Thanks to the increase in my income, I was able to send them to follow the courses that they wanted. My first took a nursing course in Toliara (the regional capital, 198 km from Tanandava). My second is at the agricultural college in the neighbouring town. I'm really pleased about that."
"Being able to educate my daughters remains my greatest pride"
- Ms Mariazy
In 2017, according to its High 5 objectives, including those of feeding Africa and improving the quality of life of the people of Africa, the African Development Bank launched the second phase of the project to restore and extend the Bas Mangoky irrigation zone. While the first phase, completed in 2015, contributed to the restoration of the water intake, the aims of the current phase include the development of water resource infrastructure, the development of irrigated plots, and the use of improved seed over a bigger cultivable area. The Bank's objective is to make the south-west of Madagascar the "Big Island's" rice bowl with, crucially, additional annual production of 44,000 tonnes of rough rice and 2,400 tonnes of lima beans.
Funded by the Bank in partnership with the Malagasy State, the project will cost a total of $61.7 million, and involves some 9000 hectares in this region rich in animals and endemic plants. Daniel Ralieno, chair of the "Asity Madagascar" association in Morombe, calls for a better understanding of the biodiversity of Madagascar and its conservation in its natural ecosystem, as well as its valorisation. "Asity's role is to ensure that this project is implemented in a way that respects the environment and biodiversity," he explains. "Whether it is monitoring the river Anbetomety, where gravel for construction work is extracted, or the land loan site, or the conduct of an environmental study, we ensure the protection of endemic species," said Mr Ranielo. "We recommend that these measures should be duplicated in the new protected area of the project," he said, explaining that "we have been involved from the beginning, because it was vital to ensure that the baobabs were protected for the project to be successful." The second phase of the project, to extend the cultivable area of the Bas Mangoky, is scheduled to be completed in 2022.