Japan propels Malagasy agriculture sector

Antananarivo- Madagascar (PANA) -- South-South cooperation materialised three years ago in Malagasy agricultural sector with the arrival of Vietnamese experts, under the aegis of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to help develop rice farming in Madagascar.
But since the implementation of projects under the Tokyo International Conference on Africa's Development (TICAD), Japan has taken over from FAO in transferring Asian techniques to Malagasy agriculture.
As a result, two Indonesian experts, paid for by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), have been are working since April on mechanisation and seed improvement at the Anosiboribory Seed Multiplication Centre (CMS) in the Lake Alaotra region, one of Madagascar's main rice producing areas.
According to Jun Yoshimizu, coordinator of JICA projects in Madagascar, Japan's contribution under TICAD focuses on agriculture, environment, health, education and road infrastructure.
In Madagascar, where such contribution takes the form of new farming techniques, Japan has opted for the Indonesian version of improved farming methods.
Eden Ratombozafy, director of partnership development at the Malagasy Agriculture ministry, noted a similarity in Indonesian and Malagasy farming techniques, "since Indonesia started the mechanisation of its agriculture with tools adapted to the farmers' income and the size of their farms.
" Consequently, the Indonesians are working in close collaboration with ZINA, a workshop making small farming tools in the Alaotra region, where prototypes small tools are developed, including a motor pump to irrigate high-altitude rice paddies and a manual thresher.
JICA, which provides financial support for the manufacture and distribution of such tools through loans to be repaid by farmers after harvests, said the scheme would be developed if the results were positive.
The manufacture of small farm implements using local materials aims at reducing use of excess human energy and work hours, ultimately cutting the cost of production.
Data from the ministry of Agriculture shows that pre-harvest work accounts for nearly 30 percent of farmers' expenditure.
Ploughing, usually done with the garden fork or small plough, takes up a major share of such expenditure, while there are costs arising from harvesting and post-harvest work, valued at 21 percent of total expenditure.
Currently, demonstration sessions are being held to show farmers the advantages of the new mechanised tools, which would hopefully cut labour cost and enable farmers save money for modern inputs such as pesticides, chemical fertilisers and improved seeds.
An agricultural officer in Lake Alaotra notes that use of improved seeds was not yet common among most farmers.
Less than 6 percent of the region's farms use such seeds.
Field officers and Agriculture ministry officials have difficulty pinpointing whether lack of sensitisation or the cost of seeds, which is less than one dollar a kilogram, constitutes the problem.
In the mid-1990s, the yield at the CMS was 3.
2 tonnes per hectare, up from 2.
3 tonnes in the early 1980s, but the situation has not improved since then.
The Indonesian experts would therefore help the Anosioribory CMS raise its output and rice yield, which does not exceed 5 tonnes per hectare, as against 8 to 10 tonnes in Indonesia.
Direct agricultural cooperation between Japan and Madagascar in the Lake Alaotra region has focused, since the arrival last August of the 17 Japanese experts, on a study on rural development and the development of catchment areas.
The Japanese study would propose a master plan to manage catchment areas for the period 2005-2006.
For the same period, JICA would select pilot projects to implement the master plan.

29 Setembro 2003 14:43:00

xhtml CSS