Dahari in Comorian civil society

 

Ibrahim Said, our Executive Director, talks to us about one of his key missions for the NGO’s developement. 

One of the key factors to Dahari’s success will be developing effective collaborations with the different civil society, state and scientific stakeholders in working in the Comoros in our domains of intervention. Developing partnerships with relevant individuals and institutions is therefore one of my top priorities in my role as Dahari’s Executive Director

In November 2013 I carried out field visits to build contacts with the Directors of the CRDE (Regional Centre for Economic Development), with representatives of local and regional governments, and with key figures in the various villages that we work in. I also set out to discuss how they could get involved with the events and working groups that we will be organising in the villages, with a view to supporting the coordination and evaluation of Dahari’s activities.

In addition, I met with civil society leaders and a selection of the NGOs that work in Anjouan, among them MAEECHA (Mouvement Associatif pour l’Education et l’Egalité de Chance), UCEA (Union des Comité de l’Eau d’Anjouan) and APEP (Association Pédagogique des Enseignants du Primaire). Our aim was to familiarise these organisations with Dahari’s work and discuss opportunities for collaboration.

These visits provided the opportunity to share details of our 2013–14 programme of activities and to highlight our links with different partners.

In the four villages located in the southern zone where Dahari works – Pomoni, Nindri, Kowet and Moya –I was welcomed by the Mayor of Sima Prefecture, the President of the Moya District Special Delegation, the Anjouan Governor’s Special Adviser and the Director of the Pomoni Police Force. All of the people I met showed a lot of enthusiasm for getting involved in Dahari’s activities. In my meeting with the Mayorof Sima, for example, we discussed Dahari’s next project in Pomoni, which will see us regenerate an area of irrigated land used by more than 40 vegetable growers. In Kowet, my meeting with the village’s key figures and members of the experienced water management group led us to remobilising the villagers to bury underground the main water pipeline in the village following the work undertaken by ECDD.

In Adda, I was met by the President’s Special Delegation and the Secretary General of the village Steering Committee. I then had the chance to visit some of the people that Dahari had helped in the village. With a population of 8,547 people working in agriculture (as estimated in the 2003 census), in addition to its proximity to the island’s main highway, Adda has provided Dahari with its best results to date.

I also visited the villages of Salamani and Nganzalé, as well as Outsa and Ouzini – the two villages up in the highlands in Nganzalé district.

 

Above and beyond our aim of making contacts at the heart of the villages that our NGO works to support, my field visits served to reinforce my awareness of the need to work alongside communities to ensure that we have a shared technical framework and regular provision for agricultural activities, as well as of the needs that community organisations have in terms of support in managing their water supplies and in their reforestation efforts.

Meet Amelaid and his passion : biodiversity

Having spent five years studying Biology, Ecology and Animal Conservation in Madagascar, Amélaïd returned to the Comoros to explore the biodiversity of the Islands of the Moon. He did volunteer work for a few organisations before he bumped into an ecologist who encouraged him to send his CV to the ECDD project, where he was recrutied.

So in 2009 Ameliad joined the ECDD team as a Biodiversity Monitoring and Research Technician. His objective was to set up the first long-term  monitoring of the Comoros’ fauna and habitat , especially endemic species. He also worked to produce the first high-resolution habitat (land cover) maps for the three islands, and istribution maps showing the spatiotemporal dynamic of bird species native to Anjouan. The results of his research have provided information on the current status of these species and also on the way they are distributed.

The results of his work with ECDD provide a foundation for subsequent monitoring of the populations and distribution of endemic fauna; the distribution maps of the islands’ native biodiversity serve as essential tools for students, researchers and tourists. The work is a long-term endeavour, where everything is constantly evolving, but he is certain that his mission will have a lasting impact. In carrying out his analysis, he ensures that the islands’ biodiversity gets its recognition. And it’s this recognition that ensures that it will be safeguarded.

Today, Amélaïd works with Dahari part-time while also teaching fish biology at Anjouan’s Fisheries school. When asked what he has learnt from the ECDD project, he says: ‘practice’. Ninety-five per cent of what he learnt at school was theory, and so seeing the reality in the field has strengthened his skills. But he is also grateful for what he’s learnt during training sessions, in particular the knowledge he’s gained from expats who have worked with the project.

Among the challenges of working in the field, Amélaïd lists the physical fitness required to scale the steep mountains, the efforts he’s made to integrate himself into the village communities, and managing the linguistic differences between the archipelago’s regions and islands.

This human connection is also what he defines as his ‘greatest success’: managing to become part of diverse communities and enjoying the connections he’s made. But he is also proud of his expert knowledge of Comoros biodiversity, in particular relating to birds.

He also feels that he has overcome his greatest challenge: when he arrived, he made his observations but there was no one in the local team qualified to analyse the biological data. As a result, he found a distance-learning course that would train him to carry out this task himself, and he was thus able to develop his skills through two years of complementary study for a Research Master’s in Wildlife Management.

Amélaïd becomes animated when discussing his work and tells us more. For example, he mentions a memorable moment that has stuck in his mind: the day that his fear of the forest at night disappeared. A few years ago, during a night-time expedition in the forest near to Ouzini with some students and a German researcher, the researcher fell ill. Naturally it was Amélaïd who turned back to find the nearest village, 4 kilometres away. He was very uneasy, to say the least… but after making a list in his head of all the fearsome animals (mygale spiders, venomous snakes, even tigers) that don’t live in the forest, he came to understand that his fear of the dark was unfounded. Nowadays he is much more relaxed and no longer fears what he cannot see.

So what’s in store for the future? Amélaïd’s dream is to be a great researcher and a prominent representative of Comoros biodiversity. He would like his work to be used by others as a reference tool, and hopes to find opportunities to share his knowledge internationally. But today, with Dahari, he hopes soon to be in charge of a project that will place him at the heart of the management of protected species. Indeed, the ECDD project has worked to understand the situations of different species and the threats that they face. Dahari, taking the reins in that area, must now focus on more concrete preservation work: for instance, Amélaïd hopes to devise a system to protect the roosts of the Livingstone’s fruit bat, an endangered species. And he certainly intends to succeed.

By chance ! Dahari just receiverCoup du hasard : Dahari vient de recevoir, fin décembre, une bourse de 8.000 euros de la part de la fondation Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, pour lancer ce projet pilote de protection des dortoirs de Livingstone. La suite? C’est Amelaid qui vous le racontera … http://www.speciesconservation.org/

Dahari launches into eco-tourism by welcoming the Mayotte Naturalists

welcoming the Mayotte Naturalists

This October Dahari was privileged to welcome to Anjouan a delegation from the Naturalistes de Mayotte. The Mayotte Association for Naturalists, Environment and Heritage (www.naturalistesmayotte.fr) aims to teach people about Mayotte’s natural and cultural heritage and to inspire them to protect that heritage. This partnership was an opportunity to exchange knowledge and points of view centring on a mutual passion: that of the Comoros archipelago. “I loved meeting the people and finding out about what Dahari has achieved, all of which portrays a positive picture of the country.”

For five days, our guides accompanied these guests to discover local communities, Anjouan culture, and the island’s landscapes and biodiversity.

In Mutsamudu our tourists got lost in the Medina (the capital’s Arab quarter) and trod upon the stones of the famous citadel. In Domoni, they visited the mausoleum of Ahmed Abdallah and the Royal Palace of Abdallah III. In the island’s interior they journeyed to the Dzialande lake. In Bambao, after a trip to the Royal Palace of Mawana, they had their first taste of maize stew during one of the communal meals, which were valuedmoments of connection with the local population. “I found Anjouan very moving. The people are welcoming and full of smiles, and their daily life demands respect and admiration.”

On the southern coast they got to know Moya, one of the Comoros islands’ oldest villages, which had long been cut off from above by the Moya forest and from below by the Ouvanga ridge, but was reconnected after independence by the construction of Anjouan’s only tunnel. And they made the most of its beautiful beach.

In terms of fauna, flora and ecosystems, they were able to glimpse the famous Livingstone’s fruit bat including watching mothers carrying around their babies, as well as seeing native birds, aromatic plants such as Ylang Ylang, clove, lemon grass, orchids and medicinal plants. Finally, not far from Sima they had the chance to see one of the branched coconut palms, a rare and striking phenomenon.

Our tourists were impressed by the market gardening production on the island. In addition, they were especially moved by the issue of deforestation on Anjouan, which has caused the Lingoni hydroelectric power plant – which usually supplies the villages on the south side of the island – to function erratically. “I loved the balance between nature, culture and the social dimension – seeing the scenery, some historical sites and getting a first-hand view of what the lives of farmers are like.”

Dahari’s expertise and sustainable tourism

Dahari offers a sustainable tourism founded on respect for people and nature, on a wild island still sheltered from mass tourism. This activity generates direct profit for the local population, as well as bringing indirect revenues through reinvestment of any profit that Dahari makes into its field activities. That’s what the Mayotte Naturalists really liked: “This eco-tourism experience makes you feel like you’ve come face to face with real lives”, “I really enjoyed this type of trip, which gave the opportunity for real dialogue with local people, a sincere and spontaneous encounter.”

The central theme of this journey of discovery was Dahari’s mission for the sustainable management of natural resources. Our friends also learnt in detail about Dahari’s activities in the villages and were able to meet beneficiaries of Dahari’s work. They suggested that for a future visit we organise “a morning of physical work on a plot” in order to “lend a hand for harvesting, collecting or hedging.”
“I’m especially impressed by the quality of the NGO’s work. You don’t often see an organisation’s employees going to such effort, with genuine concern for involving those who will benefit from the work, respecting their needs: that much is clear from the quality of the links that have been developed with the people.”

Dahari’s strength lies particularly with its expert team, made up of agronomists who are well integrated into the communities – such as Badrou, for example – and biodiversity specialists like Ishaka and Amélaid, who knew how to share their knowledge and how to listen to the tourists and their questions: “The combination of Badrou, Ishaka and Amélaid gives three voices to show and explain a complex reality, that of the land.”

Check out the naturalists’ photo album here on our Facebook page Facebook..
For any further information, please contact us directly.
And you can read Lonely Planet’s article on tourism in the Comoros which features Dahari here: lonelyplanet.com.

The farmers of Adda talk about their experiences with ECDD

One month ago, I’ve been to Adda. It was the occasion to meet our farmers and to have a better understanding of their everyday life.

How did you get involved in the ECDD project

Saidin said that one-day, he saw a car in the village “with a white man in it.” He wondered what was going on, went to enquire, found out about the project and although he was not on the initial list of beneficaries, managed to get involved in the project.
For the others, they took part in meetings either after being invited or coming across them got quickly involved in the project.

What activities did you develop with the project, and what were the result?

The beneficiaries are mainly involved in the agricultural activities of the project. Some of them are now growing market gardening crops like potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, carrots, peppers, others food crops such as bananas. Several of them combine these crops.

Returns differ according to each person and each plot. It does not mean that every attempt was successful, but they are unanimous: the results are there.
For example for Saidin, chilli was the main resource this year, gaining him anincome of 20.000francs per week over six months. For Kamlati or Ouséni, after planting 50kg of potatoes, they collected almost 300 kg of potatoes, including 50kg of seeds set aside for replanting during the next season.

What did you learn during the project ?

Our villagers all agree: they all consider the training and all the skills acquired the most valuable learning they got from ECDD. They feel more self-confident, and believe they have learnt the skills to enable them to be independent. Several also noted their ability to transmit these skills to others.

Saidin quotes more precisely the battle against erosion (through old unused tires), the preparation of compost and the construction of cattle parks … Kamlati emphasizes the techniques used to prepare seed nurseries, Ouséni speaks about the the spacing between plants to ensure better productivity, or the importance of crop diversification to keep his fields fertile and give him better yields.

What impact did the project have on your life?

The two women, Nasihuati and Kamlati, talk about the wayincreased incomes have helped them with paying to put their children into school . Saidin was able to buy a secondhand motorcycle, which allows him more movement in between his parcel in the centre of the village and those further away
Overall they all live a little better, and most of them are more confident in the future and more curious to try new crops and new techniques. Shibako is is optimistic for the future and is aware of all the improvements, but he also feels he’s too old now and regrets not being able to get more involved.

Nasuati est l’une des femmes agricultrices du projet ECDD

What are the challenges you are facing? What are the issues to be addressed in the future?

They are all unanimous on the major problem: access to water. For them, it is the central issue that needs to be resolved in the near future. How to do it, they are not sure. But there is already an irrigation zone in construction with Dahari, to provided water to the famers of the village.

Do you think that the support you received will have a sustainable impact?

Sustainability of the project comes through in the same way for each villager interviewed: the dynamic is sustainable since it is not just an occasional help, but a proper training. They feel ready to be independent, but most important they believe that the sustainable aspect of the project exists in their desire to share. Ouséni presented it nicely: “it is necessary to share themessage otherwise the project doesn’t make sense.” Although at the same time they all hope the NGO will stay here longer, to support them, and introduce them to other techniques or crops.

It is rare, however, to hear them talk about the sustainable protection of natural resources: it is not yet a priority. Their priority is to provide for their families and to work to live more comfortably. This doesn’t mean that they are not aware that there is work to be done on this side of things: Ouséni has already understood that he can make more by focussing on a small plot in the village than by creating a new field in theforest zone. Kamlati recognizes she still uses chemical fertilizers, but “only at 50 %.” The other 50 % has been replaced by chicken manure, and she aims to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers further.

Do you have a message to convey to your peersabout your experience with ECDD ?

Shibako has a message for the young people who “play football and dominoes”: they must get involved, and not stand idly by, they must act to improve their lives . He suggests that Dahari continues the momentum by creating a school to train young people in agriculture. Nasuiati wants people to consider the farming profession as a real job, where it is necessary to be serious and to train continuously in order to succeed. Puséni calls everyone to be part of this dynamic, “because it is exchanges and discussions that help a community to grow: we need everyone.” Kamlati is aware of the many benefits she received and invites people to work to get the same rewards.
In short, this development can benefit everyone if they have the desire and the ambition to learn how to improve agriculture on Anjouan .

Siti Mohamed talks about her five years with ECDD and her hopes for the new NGO Dahari

This blog is part of a series that we will be publishing over the next few weeks to round off the ECDD project. Here our new communications manager Coralie interviews Siti Mohamed, one of ECDD’s very first employees, who looks back over the last five years, and what needs to be achieved with the new NGO Dahari.

Siti studied philosophy for four years in Madagascar before changing tack to do a masters in sustainable natural resource management. On her return at the end of 2007 she responded to an ECDD recruitment that seemed to match her skills.
Her mission? Project facilitator. Siti covered five different villages during her time with the project, including Adda where she is currently working for the new NGO Dahari. Her field of activity has been varied; analyzing livelihood problems with the villagers, identifying with them different solutions to implement, and developing and implementing the selected activities. Her primary objective was to motivate as many villagers as possible to work with the project.
She was gradually trained in agronomy by ECDD. She also learned to speak up in meetings and in front of audiences, to run and animate meetings, to be heard by different audiences: in essence she feels that she has gained confidence in herself. She has also greatly improved her computing skills and is now able to create and manage databases. It has been a continuing education.
Her greatest source of personal pride ? The many different skills she has acquired from different trainings. And in the field? Knowing that her work has not been wasted, that she has worked with many satisfied villagers and that she can see the results.
Her biggest challenge has been to balance her status as a mother of two young children and her work – she spends up to four days a week in the field. But also to face the difficulty of getting villagers involved in the work, especially in her first village, Kowé, before there were visible results from the project.
Two memorable moments come to her mind. First, her assignment to the village of Moya which coincided with her first child, when she had to give a lot of herself . And the thanks from the villagers of Outsa after the success of the work to rehabilitate water infrastructure in the village. She’s really happy to see that in one of the poorest villages in the Comoros the Project has managed to improve many peoples’ lives and there is more money circulating thanks to the agricultural activities. People have been able to improve their living conditions, which was the main goal, and is a pleasure to see.
And how does she imagine the rest of her career? For the moment, she isn’t looking beyond Dahari. She is happy and she wants to stay in this field. However, she does not hide that she would like, in the future, to improve her skills and develop into a team leader. With the NGO Dahari , she wants to learn new things like project management and leadership.
She sees the ultimate goal of Dahari as to successfully train the villagers to empower themselves. People who are already part of the community should have more responsibility and take control of the activites in order to give more time for the technicians to promote the project. We need the agricultural groups that have been created to run themselves, to have their own rules to become stable and profitable. Someone in the village should be in charge of facilitating the NGO’s interventions, someone who would broadcast Dahari’s message and would serve everyone.
As for the sustainable impact of her work, she sees it in the technical support that has been provided and skills transfer . Because she has no doubt : everything will be transmitted to the neighbors, to the children, to the next generation. It’s a long process, but it will come step by step.