Dan and Elizabeth Turk
Dear Friends and Family,
This past fall, I visited farmers in Antanetibe and Mahatsinjo. Antanetibe, in the mid-west, is where over 75 farmers have planted an average of 20 tangerine trees each. The trees look on-target to begin production within the next four years. With poverty estimated to be growing from 77% of Madagascar’s population in 2010 to 84% in 2013 - and poverty defined as income of less than $2 per person per day - the added income for the children of Antanetibe will come none too soon. The people have been successful at keeping grass fires at bay; fertilizer application and irrigation have been adequate to keep the trees growing at a reasonable pace. Most orchards have field or vegetable crops growing among the trees. Other trees besides tangerines that farmers planted at Antanetibe include low-chill peaches and nectarines, various grafted citrus, and over 50 jaboticaba trees.
At a workshop in November, Ralaivahoaka Andriamparany, a farmer whom I had not seen for at least five years, brought photos of his fruiting jaboticaba tree. As his tree is growing in the mid-west, it demonstrates that jaboticabas have potential elsewhere in the mid-west like Antanetibe. A twenty-two jaboticaba orchard at the FJKM development center in Ambositra (the largest jaboticaba orchard in the country) also produced a good crop this year. As best I have been able to find out, the first jaboticaba tree in Madagascar was planted in Ambositra around 1935, but until 1998 there weren’t but about ten trees in the whole country. In 1998 the FJKM Development Department began propagating and distributing jaboticaba trees. Now many trees have started to produce fruits, and thousands of jaboticaba seedlings are currently available in FJKM nurseries. Perhaps it will end up as popular in Madagascar as it is in its native Brazil.
Mahatsinjo, which is about 5 km off of the main road NE of Antsirabe, is where Ms. Hanta Ranatenaintsoa of the FJKM Development Department has worked for years with several local associations whose members weave silk using hand looms. They weave both native tan-colored silk as well as introduced white silk. The people have also grown apples for many years, but the productivity had declined. They did not know how to propagate their own apples. A news article stated recently that apple production in all of Madagascar has decreased by about 50% because old trees have not been replaced. Earlier in 2012, while I was still in the U.S., colleagues helped the people set up apple nurseries using cuttings to grow rootstocks, and the farmers were ready to get the trees grafted. When we visited, we trained the people in grafting techniques and helped them graft several hundred trees. What really surprised and encouraged me was the great enthusiasm of the people at Mahatsinjo for growing fruit trees, especially apples. In 2013 we will work to diversify the types of trees they are growing and to ensure that the trees are well-maintained.
Another exciting component of our work was the arrival of fruit trees, bamboos, and native Malagasy palm trees from the U.S. this past August. The trees are now out of quarantine, and we are already in the process of propagating some of them by inarching and cuttings. We should get a lot of the fruit trees planted in the ground in the next two months.
My colleagues and I are in the process of preparing reports for 2012 and getting plans for 2013 finalized. We intend to do more training in 2013 than in 2012. We all look forward to great strides ahead for the FJKM environment program in 2013. Everyone in Madagascar is hoping and praying that 2013 will mark the end of the crisis that has gone on now for four years and has been so devastating for the whole country.
Dan and Elizabeth Turk
PC(USA) Mission Co-workers