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Potatoes - a 'seed fund' you can eat

Potatoes Grwon as a seed fund by Zahana in Madagascar

One very telling example for Zahanas seed fund is the potato crop introduced to the village of Fiarenana in late 2009.

Potatoes were one of new crop identified as suitable for a diversified crop rotation in Fiareananas climate. Zahana hired an agricultural expert (not the same as in 2007) in conjunction with the teachers training who spent one week in the village in November 2009. Introducing potatoes was indeed one of his recommendations. He also taught innovative techniques to increase rice yields and recommended new bean varieties suitable for the climate. The community was very pleased with the training and Zahana will invite him again as soon as he is available.

With our master gardener Jean in the lead, Zahana was able to implement the experts suggestion, hoping the potato crop can be sold at the market to generate cash income for the farmers in a season where the rice seedlings are already planted, but the green rice "cash crop" is far from being harvested.

The villagers were provided with 100 kg of small potatoes as seed stock. The community decided to distribute 2 kg of potatoes to each family. Lists were meticulously kept, and each family was instructed to pay back their 'loan' in potato seedlings after the harvest, therefore increasing the community's 'seed fund'.

PoThe potato harvest was very successful: over two tons of potatoes were harvested in the village. The only major problem was, admitted the villagers with great embarrassment to Zahana in March, that instead of selling the surplus potatoes for cash, they ate every single one of them.

This example illustrates what success means for Zahana. From a traditional microcredit point of view the project is a failure, because it did not generate additional cash income for the farmers as intended. From Zahana's perspective it was a huge success, because people did not only increase the community seed fund enriching it with a new crop, but also had food to eat in the "époque dure" or the "hard times" period before the rice harvest. The fact the potatoes are very high in vitamin C, is a great public health benefit during the rainy season where people normally go hungry for many weeks.

Zahana has currently a dedicated microcredit project with GlobalGiving. Click here to learn more

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