A women's group in Madagascar fights all odds to produce quality seeds
(Blog post courtesy of Tefy Irina Andrianina, Gaudiose Mujawamariya and Negussie Zenna)
In the irrigated perimeter of Bas-Mangoky in southwestern Madagascar, women have formed an association called Mirandava to increase their revenue from rice farming. Their tasks on the farm typically consisted of assisting the head of the farm and the household (namely their husbands). The access to and control of resources and incomes were highly unequal between the women and men farmers.
Through the members' own initiative, the Mirandava women seed producers' association was created in 2008 and benefited from training in rice seed production techniques. Since then, the association has been producing seeds in close collaboration with the Regional Office of Agriculture and Fisheries of Atsimo Andrefana through various projects. Over the years, men started joining the association, although women constituted a larger proportion of members than the men.
In 2020, the women of Mirandava decided to revitalize their association and restrict it to women members only. This decision was made following their active involvement in on-farm demonstration and Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) activities in the Bas-Mangoky perimeter led by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and the National Center for Applied Research on Rural Development (FOFIFA) in 2019. These activities were part of a process that led to the release of four improved rice varieties for the irrigated lowland ecology of Madagascar namely FOFIFA 187, FOFIFA 188, FOFIFA 189 and FOFIFA 190.
According to the members of the association, reviving the association allowed them to learn modern rice farming techniques by directly interacting with technicians from development projects and public institutions, and not necessarily through their husbands. Their willingness to produce quality seeds was so powerful that it boosted their morale and kept them encouraged.
Even though their seed production area was only limited to 35 ares, the association was still able to obtain the authorization of the Official Seed Quality Control Service of Madagascar (SOC) to engage in seed production. Empowered by the certified seed production techniques that the members had learnt through the AfricaRice training program, in 2020 the association harvested one ton of seeds of the FOFIFA 189, out of which 880 kg of seeds received the official certification from SOC. This was a remarkable achievement, especially during the COVID-19 period when farmers have been facing difficulty in accessing inputs. The certified seeds were sold to a development project to be used by rice farmers in the surrounding area, and the association is continuing to produce quality seed.
Seed production is very profitable, according to the women members of Mirandava association. It can be even more profitable if the association does not have to pay half of their produce to the owner of the plot. The profits from selling seeds are kept in a savings account and subsequently shared with the members. The revenue from the sale of seeds benefits women members in various ways: it helps to get them out of debt to start the farming season; it covers small and large household expenses such as the payment of children's tuition fees, medical bills, etc. Some members such as Mme Martine Razafindravola and Mme Justine Razanadrasoa confirmed that with the income from seed production, they were able to pay the children’s fees in secondary school.
The small size of the Mirandava’s seed production farm area remains the main challenge for the association. Because of the currently practiced sharecropping system, rights to the property are not fully secure even if the owner is a member of the association. The association has already initiated the request for land in a new irrigated perimeter.
The ambition of the women members is to participate in the national rice production competition for the next season, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to motivate farmers and seed producers to improve their performance.
 Direction Régionale de l‘Agriculture et de la Pêche