The top priorities, access to clean water, a school and grain storage have been successfully addressed; improving cook stoves and strengthening their own micro-credit systems are already ongoing.
Another central issue has emerged: ‘food security’. Which can also plainly be translated as: people are hungry. Although they are subsistence farmers, most people eat only two meals of rice a day, especially in the period before a harvest.
In the past, the doctors visiting with Zahana had received reports of mysterious stomach aches. Closer investigations revealed that people, including many children in Faidanana only have their first meal of the day around 2 pm (14:00h). The mysterious stomach ache disappears when they have their first meal of the day (mostly rice) and is simply a sign of hunger. Eating the first meal of the day in the early afternoon and a second in the evening is not enough.
Consequently many children come to school hungry,
since they do not eat breakfast, as their parents are too poor to provide
food for them 3 times a day. It is hard to learn in school if you are hungry
and Zahana decided to provide and pay for school food in a pilot project.
Each child got one Mofo Gasy, a traditional staple made fresh daily from
soaked rice dough. The Mofo Gasy are made in the village, providing some
cash income for the villagers who provide it. At a price of around one
US quarter (15 Euro cents) for 10 Mofo Gasy, this income is also very modest.
As a pilot project Zahana started to provide Mofo Gasy to the children twice a week, mainly due to the fact that the woman who had traditionally been making them got married and moved away after the project got launched.
But as the project took off, another unexpected outcome could be observed, illustrating the complexity of challenges with community development in a very moving way. Although most children are hungry when they come to school, most of them have smaller siblings they left behind at home, who are hungry as well. Instead of eating their own Mofo Gasy, many of the student took theirs home to give it to the smaller hungry sibling.
Thanks to a generous grant from the German Foundation “children for a better world” the program was expanded in the school year starting end of August 2008 to five days a week! Zahana was experimenting what can be added to make the Mofo Gasy more nutritious.