Action Zones 

ADRA helps to build community spirit

ADRA has made a difference. In a community once blighted by conflict I discovered a new spirit of cohesiveness. Howa Avan-Nomayo tells of his experience visiting Madagascar.
This really impressed me when, as part of my trainee programme with ADRA-UK, I visited Madagascar in November and December to assist with the mid-term evaluation of the 3 year project "Alleviating Poverty through Improved Livelihood and Health project (SMART Project)". This was in Fandriana, a region within the Fianarantsoa province of Madagascar. The overall objective of the project is to contribute to poverty alleviation for disadvantaged communities in the region. The project is funded by the European Commission (75%), ADRA-UK (16%), and ADRA Norway (9%) with a total cost of 755,457 Euro. The evaluation involved visits to various communities where activities were being implemented.


Everywhere we visited was characterized by the warmth and hospitality of its people. Their enthusiasm to express their opinions of project activities and to convey their gratitude for the improvement in their lives ADRA has contributed to was an extremely humbling and fulfilling experience. This was particularly evident during our visit to the commune of Milamaina to conduct group discussions with one of the farmers associations. During the course of discussions, a strong sense of community spirit and solidarity amongst the association members was noticeable; there was often laughter and joking during the meeting. Association members constantly spoke of a new sense of "community spirit and cohesiveness". The re-occurrence of this theme heightened my curiosity and I was interested to find out more.


A few weeks later in a conversation with Tiana, one of the SMART projects agriculture technicians, I discovered that this had not always been the case. Milamaina had previously been blighted by conflict, which had been deeply entrenched in the fabric of community life and often resulted in violence. The problem as Tiana explained, stemmed from the "scarcity of water in the area". Rice is the staple diet and the majority of Madagascar's rural population is totally dependant on it to meet their food needs.


Access to vast amounts of water to irrigate rice fields is a vital part of the traditional system of rice farming practiced by farmers. Large amounts of water are needed in each plot to produce enough yields to feed the farmers and their households. It was putting a significant strain on the already limited water supply in the commune and inevitably there was insufficient water for all the farmers. The scramble for water was the root cause of the divisive conflict in Milamania. People often fought over the little water that was available. I was intrigued by Tiana's account of the situation, and wanted to hear the story from the perspective of one of the farmers. So with Tiana's help, I arranged a meeting with Rasosokavana Marc, a member of the Tami farmers association in Milamania. A softly spoken man with a warm and welcoming smile, he is also the community warden. He explained "as the warden, I am responsible for trying to maintain law and order in the community."


He continued by saying that, before ADRA began working with them, there was "a lot of trouble and fighting in the community over access to water." Often people in their desperation resulted to "knocking holes in other farmers fields" in order to create a channel to steal their water. "People had to stay in their fields over night to protect their water, and when they spotted someone trying to steal their water they would start fighting". There were often serious injuries as farming tools such as shovels were sometimes used as weapons. The constant disputes and fighting was tearing the community apart. However, ADRA's intervention has led to a cessation of the conflict and helped to heal the damage.


The new rice farming techniques ADRA has taught the farmers is more efficient and requires very limited amounts of water. Rasosokavana states "when ADRA began teaching us the new rice farming techniques, and we started applying it, the fighting stopped. Because we no longer needed so much water, there was enough water for everyone." Now as an association and a community "we are able to work together and help each other. Before ADRA came this would not have happened. There is harmony. ADRA has made community life better."
[Howa Avan-Nomayo. ADRA-UK Programmes Assistant.  Pictured in photo: Rasosokavana Marc]



By courtesy of Adventist BUC news