Madagascar’s Bamboo Village is back in action
INBAR’s South-South project addresses issues and brings hope to the local artisans
The day begins at 1AM for all men of this tiny hamlet, situated on top of a red mountain. Welcome to Beravina Telomita, the bamboo village of Madagascar. With over 55 households, this village in the Analamanga region is home to more than 70 traditional bamboo artisans of the country. For over four decades bamboo furniture making has been the only way of life for these people. The entire family works together to make bamboo products. While the male members of each household are responsible for harvesting bamboo and bringing it home, the women are mainly involved in processing it. The men usually harvest 15 poles every week which costs them about USD5 (nearly 15000 Madagascan Ariary) and earn a meagre USD12 by the sale of their finished products.
However, in the last few years this too has been difficult. The village, once bustling with activity, has mellowed down. Pointing at the rounded mountains in the horizon, Razafiarisoa Julienne tells us: “They were all bamboo forests. Men would go at any time and could get as much bamboo as they needed.” But it is not the same any more. Forest resources are fast depleting, leaving the households, traditionally dependent on bamboo, in a dire state.
Overexploitation and the absence of a plantation program has caused a fast decline of existing resources, negatively impacting the community.
Keeping this in mind, INBAR, through its project South-South Knowledge Transfer Strategies for Scaling up Sustainable Pro-poor Livelihoods – generating employment opportunities and income generation along with its implementing partner PROSPERER – has been making efforts to address the problem.
Under the project intervention, continuous efforts are being made to address issues related to resource availability, sustainable plantation and the sustainable harvesting of bamboo. The project is also imparting training and guidance to local artisans in diversification of products.
Training on bamboo plantations, maintenance and sustainable harvesting practices has been given to the artisans. To address the resource-deficit issue, the project has supported the planting of bamboo in the village vicinity. This intervention has come as a relief to artisans, who previously had to walk dozens of miles to harvest bamboo.
During training, there was an emphasis on producing new and innovative designs to meet the prevailing trends and market demand. The artisans were trained to think differently and to experiment with their designs, to encourage product diversification. Training on different weaving styles was also organised for the village women. New techniques and processes were introduced to ensure enhanced product quality and life.
“I do not need to worry about running my house and feeding my children any more, as through the intervention we have been trained to sustainably harvest the resource, thus securing our future,” says Saholinirina, mother of five. She has also been trained in the process of bending to make rounded furniture. From the days when her husband would return without finding bamboo to the days when bamboo is back and flourishing, she has been a witness to all.
The village artisans have been formally structured to form a co-operative Bambou Avotra, which is helping them develop better market linkages. Ratsivoson Marco, President of Bambou Avotra, adds, “The enterprise is giving a sense of pride to the locals who have never before worked in such an organised manner. At the moment, the artisans take their products to the neighbouring areas like Antananarivo Avaradrano, Antananarivo Atsimondrano [and] Manjakandriana, but now they are feeling more confident and are working harder to take their products to the mainstream markets.”
INBAR and its partner, PROSPERER, are also building a working shed for the artisans and providing them with the required tools to build a future from bamboo.