The end of ECDD is just the beginning …

 

As we publish the final reports from the ECDD project, the Project Coordinator looks back over his last six years in the Comoros.

 

L'équipe ECDD

L’équipe ECDD

It seems like another age when I arrived in Anjouan in October 2007 to get the ECDD pilot phase up and running. I’d spent three months in the Comoros in 2005 leading a student project researching the causes and consequences of deforestation, and then worked hard to build the support and partnerships to make a longer-term intervention a reality. So my arrival was both the start of something new and the culmination of a lot of effort.

I remember fondly those early days when everything was new, I was able to spend much more time in the field, and there wasn’t the pressure of substantial funding and a large team and programme to manage. We started work in the first village, Kowé, in January 2008. Both Badrou and Siti were with me then, and both have since had kids that are frighteningly old already! We spent at least a couple of nights each week sleeping in the village, sharing mattresses with those who were generous enough to put us up. And during the day we discussed the livelihood and environmental problems the villagers were facing and planned our first intervention with the creation of a community vegetable garden.

Gradually the team grew as we expanded to our second village Nindri and recruited agricultural experts to manage our livelihood interventions. Moustoifa was another early recruit who is still with us, taking up the role of wise old owl in the team, as well as Misbahou, who evolved into our local coordinator and is now in the UK on a Darwin Initiative Fellowship. The expansion of both our intervention zone and our activities continued, and by 2010 the team was up to 20 and the initial annual budget of £40,000 had grown to over £300,000.

Our work in the field underwent a similar transformation since those early days. Whilst the vegetable garden made a lot of money, a large proportion of it didn’t go where it was meant to, and our participatory analyses were both too long and failed to give us the full understanding that we needed to devise appropriate interventions. It’s been a long process of trial and error evolving from those first stages, and of learning from our partners in the Comoros and in the region, particularly Madagascar.

Kitty, en action lors du tournage

Kitty en action lors du tournage

Now we are justifiably proud of our impact on rural livelihoods and agriculture in the Comoros: over 1800 farmers have been supported to improve their revenues in a sustainable manner, which makes around 10,000 direct beneficiaries when their families are included, and innovations that ECDD introduced are being reproduced by our partners in the Comoros and integrated into agricultural policy. Similarly, the forest maps and species distribution models produced by the ecological team – all unique for the Comoros – have been provided to the authorities for integration into national conservation planning and the creation of protected areas. Our work on collective natural resource management also laid down a first for the Comoros, with the development of a model for collective work based on voluntary labour – I was particularly delighted when we managed to learn from our early mistakes in Kowé to support the villagers in replacing their ageing water supply system and transform water availability for the entire village. Another personal highlight was seeing the impact of the Hadisi ya Ismaël film that was produced at the end of 2012 and drew on a lot of what we had learnt through the project to encourage more farmers to engage with our work and adopt sustainable agricultural practices. The film went viral in our intervention villages as well as winning the second prize at the Comoros inaugural international film festival.

We went through a lot of ups and downs to reach those achievements; working in the Comoros proved more challenging than I could ever have imagined. The large number of failed interventions is both testament to difficulty of working in the Comoros and one of the reasons why it took a long time to gain trust in the villages. The lack of social cohesion and respected power structures made all the work tricky, particularly the efforts at collective management, and the isolation of working in the Comoros produced many challenges. I am hugely grateful for the commitment of the different team members through the life of the project to stick at it through all the difficulties. That commitment and their skills shine through to anyone that meets them, something that never fails to make me proud.

 

The culmination of ECDD is of course the creation of the new NGO Dahari, which is now coming to the end of its first year of existence. We took a lot of care and time over the development of Dahari, and I think it’s perhaps the one aspect of the work where I can’t see where we could have made big improvements in the process we followed. We have a fantastic set of members who have voted an engaged and competent Conseil d’Administration (the French equivalent of a Board of Trustees). Several of the ECDD team that has benefited from so much training over the last few years have become employees of the NGO at the same time as the opportunity has been taken to bring in some fresh blood. And the NGO is launched with already a strong integration in its initial area of interventions, and key financial and technical partnerships already organised in the Comoros, in the region, and internationally.

 

The challenge for Dahari in the field is to integrate habitat and biodiversity protection measures into the landscape management model – something that is being explored through the adoption of a payment for environmental services system – whilst developing a better monitoring and evaluation framework and continuing to improve the agricultural support. And institutionally, the key will be to gradually improve the NGO’s functioning to leave it more and more independent of external support whilst continuing to build its profile in-country and in the region. I am confident that the necessary bases have been already laid for Dahari to achieve wide-ranging change in the Comoros into the future, and I aim to accompany Dahari in its first couple of years of existence to solidify those foundations.

 

So that leaves me with the job of thanking everybody who contributed to the success of ECDD and made the creation of Dahari possible. On behalf of the team I want to thank them all, from the beneficiaries who were patient with us as we learnt, to local and international partners and advisors who stuck with us during the difficult times. We hope that they are as proud as we are of the role they played in ECDD, and as excited about what Dahari can achieve in the future.

L'équipe Dahari - Janvier 2014

L’équipe Dahari – Janvier 2014

Dahari offers hands-on support to 400 farmers on Anjouan

During its first year of work in the Comoros Dahari has offered meaningful hands-on support to around 400 of Anjouan’s farmers.This means that around 2,000 people – including the farmers and their family members – have benefited from our work programme. This has been achieved alongside our efforts to develop as an organisation, to establish our place in the Comorian institutional landscape and to pursue financial security. To best provide this support, a team of six technicians have set up home in the villages where we intervene, and they have spent 80 per cent of their time out in the field.

Dahari’s first set of impressive results has come from its training courses in potato cultivation both in and out of normal planting season. Eleven demonstration plots in four villages were set up in partnership with some of Anjouan’s most enthusiastic producers in order to demonstrate techniques to improve yields, such as drip irrigation, compost production, and fertilisation.

These demonstration plots have also become learning centres for Farmer Field Schools. The 147 participants who signed up not only received high-quality potato seeds thanks to Dahari’s partnership with CIRAD and FNAC-FA, but were also able to develop their skills through a set of five training sessions from the Farmer Field Schools, with a total of 40 training sessions taking place both in and out of season. Judging by the data we’ve gathered, we estimate that 37.5 tonnes of potatoes have been produced from the 7.5 tonnes of seeds that were distributed. This has generated estimated revenue of 102,000 Comorian Francs per beneficiary (equivalent of around 200 euros). We are grateful to the Swiss Embassy in Madagascar for funding our potato cultivation campaign (both normal and off-season planting), and the British High Commission in Mauritius for funding the off-season campaign.

 Alongside these efforts, Dahari has also provided support for campaigns to promote market gardening with the delivery of 7,500g of high-quality seed. Following the method described above, we have helped to set up 22 demonstration plots and have provided 231 producers with the seeds they need. In addition to this, producers have also been able to widen their skill sets by attending a series of six Farmer Field School training sessions, which have been held in nine different villages, with a total of 60 sessions taking place over the year. We are grateful to the Swiss Embassy in Madagascar and the Programme Frano-Comorien de Co-développement (PFCC – off season campaing only) for their support to our market gardening campaigns in 2013.

Despite some initial difficulties getting people involved, Dahari has managed to get 31% of our beneficiaries to attend at least 80% of sessions. We view this as a success, especially as no expense has been incurred, with producers attending the sessions without benefitting from per diems.

Dahari has also helped six entrepreneurs to open local agricultural input supply stores. All were given start-up stock and three technical training sessions on how to use phytosanitary products responsibly (so that they will be able to offer valuable advice when making a sale). We are proud to announce that, by the end of the year, each supply store had already had to renew its stock twice on average, and that five stores had chosen to carry on trading in 2014 (the sixth has now closed down). These stores were developed thanks to financial support of the PFCC.

In addition to this, Dahari has also run campaigns for hedgerow planting to reduce erosion and fertilise plots. We piloted a methodology based on getting the village committees to manage to the work and the sharing of tree cuttings amongst the beneficiaries, with those who had benefited in previous years providing cuttings to those in need. We focused our campaign on a single pilot village, and we were able to plant hedgerows on 12 plots. This is few, but we’ve learnt that circulating cuttings can be a good local alternative to costly hedgerow planting, particularly as the process can be managed in its entirety by local communities and doesn’t cost anything to run. In this vein, Dahari has continued to develop its approach to circulating the gliricidia cuttings generated by village committees.

We’ve also set out to get more young people and women involved in these activities, and to develop out-of-season crops, and we’re pleased to share the following results: on average, 32% of the people we work with (across all aspects of our agricultural support) are women.

Cultivation in the off-season is new to Anjouan, and an innovation that Dahari is promoting due to its high potential to increase farmer revenus. But it requires a high degree of techincal accomplishment and involves taking risks, so we are very happy that we were able to convince 67% of our potato beneficiaries and 30% of our market gardening beneficaries to cultivate in the off-season. Unfortunately this year we’ve not been able to record the average age of our participants (this will be done in 2014), but we have seen more and more young people getting interested in Dahari and its methods.

Building on this will be a priority for Dahari in 2014.

Understanding the hydrogeology of Anjouan and the impact of deforestation on the availability of water resources

Arnaud Charmoille, PhD in Hydrogeology and volunteer for the NGO AVSF, came to study the groundwater resources of Anjouan and our intervention around the forest area Moya for two weeks during the month of August 2012. The objective of the study was to better understand the problems of deforestation and its impact on the availability of water on the island. The full report (in French) with summary entitled “Outline of the hydrogeological functioning of the island of Anjouan (Comoros): Typology of available water resources and discussion on the impact of deforestation” is available through this link.

In August 2012 Arnaud Charmoille, hydrogeologist and volunteer for the NGO AVSF has collected testimonies, data and field observations on the island of Anjouan to better understand the hydrogeology of Anjouan and the impact of deforestation on the availability of water

In August 2012 Arnaud Charmoille, hydrogeologist and volunteer for the NGO AVSF has collected testimonies, data and field observations on the island of Anjouan to better understand the hydrogeology of Anjouan and the impact of deforestation on the availability of water

As mentioned on several occasions in this blog, the island of Anjouan is facing a supply problem for drinking water and reduction of its surface water resources. Deforestation is systematically evoked to explain the apparent decrease in the flow of rivers, by the public and the various authorities of the island.

My name is Arnaud Charmoille, hydrogeologist and volunteer for the NGO AVSF. I have been sent on this mission to work with the ECDD project to give an opinion on the specific water problematic of Anjouan. The question, the expectations of the population, being the first to do this kind of work in Anjouan were prime motivating factors to carry out this mission.
My work began with a visit to Anjouan in August 2012, I collected testimonies from the different water actors and collected data and field observations. These data were hydrological, hydrogeological, geological, hydrochemical, geomorphological and geographical.

This visit was followed by a major work of interpretation of the acquired data and observations in the field. In particular, I compared the results with data available in the literature dealing with volcanic islands that are contextually approaching the island of Anjouan.

Example of analysis of hydrochemical results. Samples are represented depending of their sodium and chloride concentration. This kind of graph allows the differentiation of shallow aquifers from deep aquifers.

Example of analysis of hydrochemical results. Samples are represented depending of their sodium and chloride concentration. This kind of graph allows the differentiation of shallow aquifers from deep aquifers.

This analysis allowed me to draw a diagram of the hydrogeological and hydrological functioning of the island. Once this was done I could analyze how the deforestation could have an impact on the water resources of the island.

A cloud forest in Anjouan.  This forest type is formed on the peaks, slopes and ridges, the reliefs are often bathed in fog

A cloud forest in Anjouan.
This forest type is formed on the peaks, slopes and ridges, the reliefs are often bathed in fog

Originally, a part of the Anjouan natural forest is a forest type “cloud forest”. This forest type is formed on the peaks, slopes and ridges and is often bathed in fog. In these forest types, specific plant species develop that are capable of capturing the fog droplets. This phenomenon is frequently observed on islands of small area and high relief which is the case on the island of Anjouan. In tropical region, the provision of additional water produced by cloud forests increases the amount of water available for infiltration and maintains high flows during the dry season. This ecosystem also prevents flood during rainy season, two points that are currently lacking on the island of Anjouan!

Impact of cloud forest mutation and disparition on hydrogeological cycle (Foster, 2001)

Impact of cloud forest mutation and disparition on hydrogeological cycle (Foster, 2001)

At the isle of Anjouan deforestation, except in some areas, has completely removed the original vegetation cover; part of the cloud forest has been transformed into a habitat consisting of species introduced by man as coconuts, clove, banana, etc. However even if there is a certain vegetation cover, these introduced species do not exhibit a good intercept of fog droplets. There is no provision of intercepted additional water by the fog. Groundwater that feed streams is therefore seeing its rate decrease significantly during dry season. Considering that the majority of primary forest has disappeared, we can imagine that the situation is being stabilized…

These findings, which are the result of the early work of this type carried out on the island, must of course be supplemented by work and further investigations.

Although a reduction in the flow of streams exists and can be attributed to deforestation, it seems, however, from the results and observations made during this mission that water resources are sufficient for Anjouan. It looks more that the provision to the population is a real problem. In the future it will be hard to envisage that if the population continues to grow, to limit the water distribution system in catchments such gravity. Exploitation of groundwater seems inevitable in certain sectors of the island that are provided with little surface water.

Finally, I wish to thank all people, which directly or indirectly helped me to carry out this mission. Special thanks to the ECDD project team that left me with unforgettable memories of the island!

For those interested in reading the article (in French), you can download it here.

Rehabilitating water infrastructure in the villages of intervention

On February 20th 2013 we celebrated the end of the the project to improve the water infrastructure in the village of Kowe. Approximately 130 people attended the celebration, which shows the enthusiasm of the villagers, who praised expressed their delight at finally having access to water all day long and all year round.

Environ 130 personnes étaient présentes à la Fête de l'Eau à Kowé le 20 janvier 2012. La fête clotûre les travaux des infrastructures en eau dans le village.

Approximately 130 people attended the celebration of the water in Kowé, which marks the end of rehabilitation of water infrastructures in the village.

Between 2011 and 2012, the ECDD project has supported rehabilitation of water supply infrastructure in five villages . This activity has two main aims: firstly to improve the water supply for more than 5000 people, thus also significantly reducing the time required for fetching water, especially for women and children. And secondly, ECDD wanted to develop a model for community-led development projects implemented by the villagers working together without pay, a model that ensures better durability of activities and promotes a sense of ownership for the end-users.

Water issues

Les réseaux d’adduction d’eau sont anciens et très dégradés, qui résulte à une perte considérable d’eau. Sur la photo: captage d'eau détruit à Ouzini

Water supply networks are very old and degraded, resulting in a considerable loss of water. In this picture:: a destroyed water capture at the village of Ouzini

The issue of water is one of the leading concerns for Anjouan villagers. The water levels have been in decline for the last 40 years, linked to huge levels of deforestaion, and thirty permanent rivers have become intermittent. And in most of our intervention villages water supply networks (are very old and degraded, resulting in loss of a considerable percentage of the water that enters the pipes.

In addition, since these facilities were built more than 20 years ago, they are no longer suited to the needs of the growing population. Population density on the island is close to 594 inhabitants per km ² and is still growing today. This demographic pressure weighs hard on the already scare natural water resources.

Les infrastructures en eau ne sont plus adaptées aux besoins de la population croissante.

Water infrastructures are no longer suited to the needs of the growing population.

The people of Anjouan are thus facing a dual challenge: a water resource that is becoming scarcer, and an increasing number of users of that resource.

Community management

The first step was to clearly identify the priorities for each village, completed thanks to studies carried out by our partner l’Union des Comités de l’Eau d’Anjouan (UCEA).

Un projet communautaire: impulsé et porté par la demande et le travail collectif non rémunéré des villageois. Sur la photo: Atelier participatif du Comité d'Eau à Nindri

Community project: initiated and driven by the demand and collective unpaid work of the villagers. In this picture: Participatory workshop of the Water Committee of Nindri

ECDD then engaged to support the villagers to rehabilitate their water infrastructures.
The support consisted in strengthening already existing water management committees in budgeting and business planning, and in mobilising the villagers. In addition, the project allocated 2000 euro for each village for the purchase of equipment and the provision of services for labor. For their part, villagers, participated with in-kind contributions and labor and a contribution of 100 KMF for each household, symbolising the commitment of each.

For the village of Kowe, given the importance of the work to execute, the motivation of the community, and a gift from the governor of Anjouan, the Community contribution reached the sum of 1,000,000 KMF (2000 €), and the project in consequence invested further resources. For more information on the work on the Kowe infrastructure, please have a look at a former blog

Rehabilitation works

Rehabilitation works in the five villages were completed by the end of last year 2012.

Borne fontaine à Salamani après les travaux

Water fountain after the works in Salamani

In the village of Nindri, the water capture infrastructure had not been maintained since its construction so a complete rehabilitation of the catchment was necessary,. In the village of Salamani, the work was concentrated on repairing leaks and constructing public standpipes in each neighborhood. In Outsa a new water capture system was constructed in order to increase the capacity of water supply to the village, and in additionnew water fountains were built for each neighbourhood.

Captage d'eau à Ouzini après travaux

Water capture in Ouzini after works

Several activities were needed in the village of Ouzini given the state of degradation of the water capture unit at Magouni,. Namely, dredging and trenching, repainting of inner and outer coatings, construction of a retaining wall and installation of a fence and a hatch to Block the leaves and other materials carried by the river. Finally, at Kowe work consisted in replacing in the network of galvanized pipes which had become completely rusted.

Reflections and ideas for the future

Although it is too early to fully assess the impact of the work, the first echoes from the communities are very positive. They highlight that water is available in the villages throughout the year, waiting time in front of water fountains has decreased, and water collection distances have been reduced. The villagers can therefore take advantage of this saved time to invest in other activities, which implies an improvement in their living conditions..

Kowé après travaux

Fountain at Kowe after works

This first phase of supporting communities forcollective work also helped to better understand the mechanisms of organization and functioning of village water committees and to better identify the support and guidance needed.

The project is very happy with these results and is currently in full reflection with water committees to develop more activities, based on a model of ownership of small projects, and towards the participatory planning of landscape management – something extremely complicated in the Comoros context

Telling Ismaël’s story: creating a film to inspire young people to invest in agriculture, sustainably

Kitty, en action lors du tournage

Kitty and Ousseni in action during filming

It already seems a long time ago since I was bumping along the road to Adda in December for the first screening of our film Hadisi ya Ismaël. The bus was packed full of my colleagues, journalists and musicians – the latter belting out tune after tune to keep us entertained as our radio was broken. I was feeling a sort of first night nerves; it’s a scary feeling finally launching a project and declaring the product you’ve spent hours and hours perfecting as “finished”.

But it turned out we had nothing to worry about – over 600 villagers came to the event and their reaction was incredibly positive. Since then we ran a very successful screening event in Mutsamudu for our partners and the Comorian media, and then on Christmas Eve we heard the news that the film had won second prize in the first ever Comoros International Film Festival for my colleague and co-director Ousseni Mahamoud.

 
 

So we’re all a little bit chuffed, and as we’ve just made the film available online (in ShiNdzuwani with French subtitles), I wanted to tell you all a bit about putting Ismaël’s story to film.

Environ 600 spectateurs, lors de la première projection du film à Ada

We counted more than 600 spectators at the first showing of the film in Adda


Since starting work in Anjouan in 2010 I’ve seen how effective film can be at grabbing the attention of a wide range of people – especially if it features local places, issues and people. Organise a screening in a village and you will usually attract a crowd. So developing video projects has been an important part of my role as communications and outreach manager over the last couple of years, whether to promote ideas and agricultural techniques, or raise awareness of the project’s work.

This time our goal was to create a film which would get younger people in Anjouan thinking about agriculture in a different way. A problem our field team runs into is that a lot of young people are not really interested in farming: it’s tough work, and with agricultural yields in decline due to erosion and a loss of soil fertility, many people are forced to walk high up into the mountains to plant their crops. They want to be able to make money quickly, and many of them see their best option as trying to get to the neighbouring French-administered island of Mayotte.

Le kwassa kwassa, petit bateau de pêcheur, souvent utilisé pour tenter la traversée à Mayotte

A kwassa kwassa, or small fishing boat used for crossings to Mayotte


When talking to a group or men in one of the villages where we work, I asked the question “who here has been to Mayotte?”.  All ten had been at least once, spending their savings to cross in small fishing boats at night in an attempt to dip under the radar of the border police. Living in Mayotte without papers means risking being sent home at any point if the authorities find you. Often people farm in Anjouan just to make enough money to make the crossing again, rather than investing in their field for benefits in the long-term.

The work of the ECDD project and our partners has shown that it is possible to restore the fertility to degraded lands by protecting the soil against erosion, composting and making better use of livestock to fertilise fields. Lots of people in the villages we work in have already started doing this. But we wanted to get the message out to a wider audience, in particular to young people, that it was possible to make a living from agriculture in ways which ensure good production year after year, using new and improved techniques. And this is where the film comes in.

Ismaël Issouf Abdallah tire encore chaque jour les bénéfices de son investissement dans l'agriculture

Ismaël Issouf Abdallah the central character of our film


Ismaël Issouf Abdallah is from Adda. Over the last ten years or so he’s made six attempts to stay and work in Mayotte. Three times his boat was stopped by border controls during the crossing, and three times he made it, but was later caught by the police and sent back. In 2012 he decided he’d had enough and that he would stay in Anjouan and try farming.  He came to seek advice from the ECDD project on how to restore the fertility to the field he had inherited from his father, and with the help of Badroudine Ali and other technicians from the project he created a successful market garden and started to make a good living from it.

After meeting Ismaël we were convinced he was the perfect candidate, not only did he have a story that would resonate with a lot of people in the villages we work in, but he was completely at ease in front of the camera and keen to share his experiences with others in similar situations.

Working with Ismaël, Badrou, and other members of the team we planned out how we would tell this story on film, and how to incorporate different elements of the agricultural situation on Anjouan: we wanted to show what the problems are and the different solutions that have already produced good results. The aim was not to inform – after watching the film you would not come away with all the knowledge you need to start terracing your field or growing tomatoes. But hopefully thoughts would be turning…

Pendant le tournage: L’objectif n’est pas de présenter les détails des solutions , mais plutôt de faire réfléchir les spectateurs sur les différentes pistes et potentialités de l’agriculture anjouanaise.

During filming: the objective was not to present the details of agricultural solutions, but to make viewers think of different option and the potential for agriculture in Anjouan.

From the initial reaction we are confident this goal will be met. After the screening in Adda the film went viral, with a few PCs working hard to produce copy after copy of the DVD. Another farmer who we work with felt inspired enough to produce his own film to show his neighbours the techniques he was applying in his field – a good demonstration of the potential of participatory film making, an approach we’d like to support in the future.

The film should also have an impact at the national level; one of the Comorian TV station broadcasted the film every day for a week, and further screenings at the Alliances Françaises in Mohéli and Grande Comore are now being planned which will include debates on the issues raised by the film.

Hadisi ya Ismaël was my last project for the ECDD project, as I’m now moving to Madagascar to work for our project partner Durrell. I’m very proud to have been part of the team that produced it, and it’s a great way to round off my time in Anjouan. This film was produced on a minimal budget, and while it’s technically rough around the edges, the reaction we have seen so far demonstrates the potential of locally-produced films to tell stories and engage local audiences.

An English subtitled version will be made available online soon.

Propagating better bananas to protect the forest

Banana frying Comoros

Unripe bananas frying

Bananas are probably the most important food crop in the Comoros; nearly every farmer produces them and everyone eats them, on most days. Most bananas produced are n’trovi, or cooking bananas and are harvested while green and unripe for frying or boiling as a staple carbohydrate. Certain varieties are left to ripen and become massinza. The banana plant is also an important food for livestock in a country with limited pasture land.

Banana plantation forest

A field recently cleared to plant bananas on the slopes of Mount Tringi

In Anjouan, bananas were traditionally grown within the forest because land lower down the slopes was taken up by colonial plantations. Bananas demand rich fertile soil, so this practise continues now as most of the agricultural land near the villages has lost its fertility. Farmers often trek over two hours into the forest to plant and harvest their banana crops.

Even if large trees are untouched, planting bananas in the forest involves removing the forest understory layer – including the saplings which are the next generation of forest trees – so degrades the quality of the forest habitat, and often opens it up for exploitation for timber further down the line.

With the twin goals of improving rural livelihoods and relieving pressure on Anjouan’s forests, the ECDD project is working to help farmers overcome the barriers to planting bananas on land near the villages. This involves technical training in fertilisation using manure and compost, in optimal planting and in managing banana plantations. To demonstrate these techniques and the results that are possible, we’ve set up demonstration plots in each village in visible locations and have organised open days for farmers to visit.

Banana intensification Comoros

The ECDD project is helping farmers produce more bananas in existing agricultural land, rather than in the forest

Improved banana variety Fhia Comoros

The Fhia variety produces more bananas of better quality, giving farmers a better income

Another axis of the support is to help farmers access ‘improved’ varieties of bananas. These varieties have been developed by plant breeders to be more resistant to disease and produce better bananas in greater quantity. In the Comoros, a variety called ‘fhia’ has proved to be very suitable to the conditions and produce good results… as such it is a highly desired by farmers.

The problem is that there are not enough cuttings of this variety available in Anjouan to satisfy the demand.

Bananas come from strange plants. You probably learnt as a child that bananas don’t come from trees but from a herbaceous plant – the ‘trunk’ has no woody tissue, it’s made up of curled up leaves. They are also asexual. The varieties that we grow and eat have been developed from a cross between two different wild species, and cannot produce fertile seeds. They can only reproduce by producing offshoots from the base of the pseudostem (the ‘trunk’ or stalk of the plant). Each stem can only produce one inflorescence (the hanging mass of banana bunches) before it dies.

Training banana multiplication Comoros

Fatima learning the macropropagation technique

With normal banana reproduction you might get two to four side shoots that you can transplant from a pseudostem in a year. So each year there will be more cuttings of the new varieties available, but the process is slow. With such high demand for fhia bananas, we decided to trial a technique called rapid banana multiplication or macropropagation which can produce up to 20-40 plants from one mother pseudostem every three months.

The technique involves dissecting the mother ‘corm’ or root bundle to isolate the germ cells or suckers. These can then be propagated in a special nursery. We have just carried out the first stages of the process and started training with the project team at our experimentation plot in Mpagé, Anjouan.

 
The gallery below shows the different stages of the process. Click on the photos to find out what each step involves. Bananas grow quickly, so we hope to have cuttings ready to distribute and replant within three months. Watch this space…

 

Drip by drip to produce more

With the support of our partner AVSF, we imported micro-irrigation (or drip irrigation) kits from Madagascar to test in demonstration plots during the market gardening season. Now it’s the end of the season we can look at the results of this technique in Mafitsi’s plot in Pomoni…

Micro-irrigation développement agricole ComorosWe installed the kit in May, the start of the market gardening season, during a visit by Fenomanantsoa Andriamanalina from AVSF who has a lot of experience in micro-irrigation in Madagascar.
 

Micro irrigation developpement agricole ComoresMicro-irrigation, also known as drip irrigation, is an irrigation method that delivers water directly to the plants root system via a system of pipes and tubes. This system ensures plants get all the water they need without waste, thus reducing the amount of work for the producer.

 
Tomates developpement agricole ComoresAfter the kit was installed, Mafitsi planted 140 tomato plants on his plot of 100 m².

Tomates développement agricole ComoresThis variety of tomato normally produces 1 to 1.5kg of tomatoes per plant… Mafitsi harvested nearly 3kg from each plant. Micro-irrigation more than doubled his yield. In total he produced 400kg of tomatoes instead of a likely 140-210kg with traditional watering.

Comprendre la logique paysanne pour adapter les actions du projet

Agronomie Comores

Préparation du lait du coco

Par Vivien Preschoux, stagiaire en agronomie avec le projet ECDD

Le projet ECDD aimerait adapter au mieux ses actions envers les bénéficiaires, pour cela il est important de déterminer préalablement quels seront les plus aptes à adopter les innovations prônées par le projet et à les diffuser dans les différents villages d’intervention.

C’est pour connaître au mieux l’ensemble de ces paysans, connaître quelles sont leurs capacités, logiques et contraintes de production que je travaille au projet ECDD depuis 4 mois. Je réalise ici, jusqu’en septembre, mon stage de fin d’étude d’ingénieur en agro-économie pour le développement. Mon étude a pour objectif de caractériser les exploitations agricoles des villages d’intervention du projet afin de réaliser une typologie notamment basée sur la capacité d’innovation des ménages agricoles.

Pour cette étude je réalise des enquêtes auprès des paysans en binôme avec Hadidja, étudiante anjouanaise en biologie. Sa connaissance de la langue et de la culture locale est d’une grande aide. En effet, la majorité des agriculteurs enquêtés parle très peu le français et n’a pas ou peu été scolarisée. L’étude se concentre sur 2 villages (Nindri et Ouzini) dans lesquels une trentaine d’enquêtes approfondies suivies de 70 enquêtes plus succinctes sont en cours d’exécution.

Agronomie Comores

Hadidja et Vivien en discussion avec une femme de Nindri

La quantité d’informations à recueillir au cours de ces enquêtes nécessite de passer plusieurs heures réparties sur 3 entretiens avec chaque paysan. Le premier contact est pour moi le plus difficile, il faut réussir à démontrer l’intérêt de l’étude et à convaincre l’agriculteur de nous donner une partie de son temps sans contrepartie concrète. Une fois convaincu, les implications de chacun pour l’enquête sont très différentes. Certains la subissent sans en porter une grande importance, d’autres au contraire sont enthousiastes à partager leurs connaissances et nous faire découvrir leur exploitation.

Au fil du temps l’intégration se réalise au sein des villages, notamment à Ouzini, village enclavé où tout le monde se connait et où les étrangers sont vite remarqués. En étant 4 jours par semaine au village, j’ai profité les temps libres pour participer aux activités du village : jeu de domino et football. La semaine dernière, l’ensemble du village m’a acclamé pour avoir marqué le but de la victoire lors d’un match de football contre l’équipe rivale de Ngandzalé. Depuis, je suis vivement sollicité pour jouer aux prochains matchs !

Agronomie Comores

La vallée où se trouve le village d’Ouzini


Après ces quelques mois, je suis capable de donner mes premiers résultats. Tout d’abord, il faut noter la grande différence de contexte entre les 2 villages : Nindri est situé proche de la grande route pour l’accessibilité du marché et son économie agricole est majoritairement tournée vers les cultures de rente (le girofle notamment) alors que Ouzini reste enclavé, l’altitude interdit une grande production de girofle, le maraîchage s’y est alors bien développé comme source de revenus importante. Ensuite au sein de chaque village on remarque de grandes différences de logiques de production entre les agriculteurs. Certains préfèrent travailler proche du village sur des terres souvent appauvries par l’érosion et une surexploitation, d’autres cultivent en forêt pour la bonne fertilité qu’ils y trouvent.

Agronomie Comores

Les bananiers sont souvent plantés dans les parcelles en forêt où le sol est plus fertile

Ce sont 2 logiques qui ont leurs raisons et n’ont pas forcément la « pression foncière importante » pour origine directe. Pour les premiers, cultivateurs proches du village, ils sont dissociables en 2 types : ceux qui ont de grandes surfaces auquel cas ils peuvent se satisfaire de faibles rendements sans intensifier réellement et les autres qui, faute de surfaces suffisantes, intensifient leur production vivrière ou maraîchère avec une protection des sols (plantation d’arbres pour l’embocagement et mise en place de lignes de niveau) et l’apport de la fertilisation organique. Dans ce cas, la pression foncière parait relative puisqu’il est possible de cultiver suffisamment sur de petites surfaces avec une intensification minimale. La culture en forêt présente l‘avantage d’une bonne fertilité, mais nécessite plusieurs heures de marche pour atteindre les champs et un gros travail de défriche avant la mise en culture. Ce système agro-forestier est en général l’association du bananier et du taro, il fonctionne sur une rotation de 2 à 3 années de cultures suivies d’une friche plus ou moins longues.

Ce ne sont que les grandes lignes des typologies finales qu’il faut approfondir, mais elles permettent d’avoir un aperçu des logiques agricoles et de l’utilisation des terres. Avec ses résultats, dans son but de limiter la pression anthropique sur la forêt, le projet va pouvoir orienter ses actions et soutenir les agriculteurs intensifiant proches du village pour montrer à l’ensemble des exploitants qu’il est possible d’obtenir de bons rendements en pratiquant une agriculture nouvelle sans cultiver en forêt.

Agronomie Comores

Une zone appellée ‘Magouni’ près d’Ouzini qui montre les différentes types d’exploitation.


Cette étude est très intéressante et enrichissante pour moi, elle me permet tout de même de découvrir la réalité des vies de ces paysans qui sont étonnamment assez différentes. Bien que la grande majorité des villageois soit agriculteurs, ils n’ont pas tous les mêmes moyens et la même logique de production. Par là, je ressens le réel besoin de mon étude pour le projet ce qui m’apporte une motivation supplémentaire pour mon travail.

Etudier le rôle des arbres dans l’agriculture traditionnelle Anjouanaise

Agronomie Comores

Enquête sur la parcelle d’une producteur

Par Justine Scholle, stagiaire en agronomie

Je m’appelle Justine et suis actuellement en stage de fin d’étude d’agro-développement spécialisées dans les pays tropicaux. J’ai rejoint l’équipe du projet ECDD depuis maintenant 3 mois. Dans le but de préserver les ressources forestières et les sols de l’île d’Anjouan, le projet à lancer une étude sur l’agroforesterie dans la forêt de Moya. En effet, les systèmes agricoles Anjouanais intègrent très souvent les arbres dans leurs cultures. Le but de cette étude est de comprendre le rôle dans l’économie des ménages paysans et l’importance écologique des différents systèmes agroforestiers rencontrés dans cette région, afin de voir quels sont les plus performants et les plus durables, et comment il serait possible de les améliorer d’avantage. Continue reading