Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Can rice save the Madagascar forests?

In the Betampona forest of Madagascar our MfM team has been teaching SRI rice production for over a decade. Instead of cutting down rainforest to expand their rice fields, farmers have been able to feed their growing families by growing rice more intensively in the land that they have. Thanks to this new technique the farmers of Betampona are producing between 5 and 7 times more rice than they used to. At last they can enjoy improved food security (enough rice to eat!) without needing to slash down the forest and wipe-out endangered species. In addition MfM is helping farmers to diversify their crops so they can feed their families well throughout the whole year. Families in 73 villages surrounding this special forest reserve are now producing surplus crops like rice, vegetables, wood, honey, palm trees, coffee, fruit and spices, so they can generate cash to pay for medicines and education for their children.

5 years ago MfM's work in Betampona was recognised by the Malagasy Government as a 'model' project to be emulated across Madagascar. But progress has been slow. While the price of rice has doubled in the past 2 years, much has been left to humble NGOs working with scattered communities to try to help the Malagasy to grow enough rice to eat. But with the Malagasy Government making SRI rice production a 'priority' in 2011, could there be hope to bring improved food security to Malagasy people?