Ninety percent of people in Madagascar work in agriculture, which accounts for a quarter of the country’s GDP.
Rabebinirina Minompamonjy David (known to everyone as Madame Mino) is one of 18 000 Malagasy farmers – half of them women – to benefit from Manitatra 2, a new climate-smart agriculture project funded by the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) programme that aims to conserve soil and forests in the Vakinankaratra region. The once fertile farmland here has suffered from the effects of climate change, such as droughts and floods, as well as bush fires, deforestation and deep ploughing. But thanks to worm composting, it is coming back to life.
We get about 600 kilos of compost each month from our worms. We can only use a quarter of what we produce, so we sell the rest to farmers all over Madagascar.
Rabebinirina Minompamonjy David (Madame Mino)
Before, farmers like Madame Mino had to spend a lot of their income buying organic manure. Now, with the high-quality organic worm compost, they only need about a tenth of what they used before. Yields are much better, and the crops are more resistant to disease and drought. “You need to be dedicated and know what you’re doing, but everyone can do it. We started with just 250 grams of worms, now we have 20 kilos!” she smiles. “We get about 600 kilos of compost each month from our worms. We can only use a quarter of what we produce, so we sell the rest to farmers all over Madagascar.”
More than worms
There’s much more to Manitatra 2 than worms, however. The project, delivered through GSDM, a Malagasy non-profit agricultural research and rural development organisation, plans to plant 1.5 million trees, combat soil erosion, scale up the use of bio-pesticides, and improve grazing for dairy cattle.
Madame Mino’s neighbour, Razafindrakoto Emilson, is also a big fan of worm composting. “We built our first wormery following a farmer training session organised by Manitatra 2,” he says. “Already I’ve seen great results – my corn and rice are much better than before. We started with just one kilo of worms, and today we have around 60. I use all the compost myself. I prefer it to cattle manure and I hardly use chemical fertilisers anymore.”
One main cause of soil degradation in Vakinankaratra is the high demand for rice, the staple food, which is taking up more and more land. In response, Manitatra 2 is introducing climate-smart agriculture in 17 rural communes to mitigate climate change and improve food security.
Razafindrakoto has been quick to adopt climate-smart farming practices. “My harvests have doubled and my workload has reduced,” he says. “My expenses have also decreased, because I no longer need to hire someone to plough my fields.”
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The Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) is a European Union-funded flagship initiative to help the most vulnerable countries address climate change. It focuses on building countries’ resilience to climate change and supporting them in implementing their commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the new European Consensus on Development.