Ranotenie: interview transcript

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Ranotenie: interview transcript

Ranotenie is a farmer living in Tanandava, Androy, Madagascar. She was 46 when she was interviewed on 18 November 2009 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in the language of Tandroy and carried out by a staff member from the Andrew Lees Trust. The interviewer had an existing relationship with the community and had experience of in-depth interviewing from a previous oral testimony project undertaken with Panos London.


Thank you then for taking part, then, in this research with me here in the fokontany (smallest administrative unit) of Bemà at this time, with Ramatoa, Mrs Ranotenie. So this investigation, its goal is to do a report on the poverty of the rural community, being undertaken by IFAD. So you then, you are a representative, to talk about your way of life, to put that into the report being done, to enable them to develop a strategy towards reducing the level of poverty in the rural community in the future. , So then it would be good if I… if I told you my name so that we could get to know each other, so me, I'm Emily working for Project ALT. Now I'd also like to know your name, for we will be conversing here together for the duration of one hour, so it would be good to know your name, so what then is your name? Ranotenie.

I, then, Ranotenie, I want to ask you some questions, that you might tell me, what has your life been life since you were a child, until this time, that's what you might tell me a little about, if that would be okay.
I then, in the telling of my childhood, my father did not teach me, (he did not permit her to go to school) so I didn't go to school, I was raised as a child, controlled by my dad, controlled by my mum.  After all that, I being [fully] grown, was given in marriage. That's our Malagasy custom, to be wed. "So here", says my dad, "this child of mine, I will give in marriage as I have not schooled her. So better then, that I get her married." So I married this man, at the beginning, I being but a child - I was 14 years old when I bore my first child to that Rangahe (title: mister).  So I continued to bear these 12 children and none outside of this relationship, but only of that Rangahe. So until now that childbearing, and my farananake (last child) is that child you saw with me yesterday. I've never had a different husband but only that Rangahe.

As I'm relating to you at this time - that was my life. I didn't go seeking a job, I didn't go to the city, but was only here with that Rangahe. No other man, just that Rangahe. So I've been healthy, no sickness or disease have come to me in my life. I was just healthy as now. I ate and continued healthy. I'd go and be healthy.  Since I was a child I haven't had a disease, until now!

Now then regarding that,
Yes.

If we compare your life from that long time ago to this present time, then how is your life?
When I was a child I had muscles, but now at my age my flesh is becoming flaccid, and everything on me is kind of tired. This [she points to a part of her body]... my back and all… as from all that childbearing, both my hips are painful, these muscles of my body here.  So I go to meet with a masseuse, an older woman masseuse, and she massages the birthing area, and then I'm okay.  So like me now my life is changing by degrees, because I'm becoming tired, I'm getting old.

How many male children do you have, how many female children?
My daughters: seven; my male children: five.

Are they all here with you?
Ah, some of them have gone away to karama (literally: salary; salaried jobs, especially distant ones), they're pretty much all grown, and… two of them are married, three of the girls are in Llakake (the sapphire mines), and two men are in Toliara (the regional capital).

So what then causes them to have to go find a job at a distance?...  Are there no local jobs or occupations?
Right, there is nothing produced here, but like us, mother and father… that spade works so we [cultivate] miava (literally: weed; generally: agriculture); so they ask of their parents; "Listen Mum, what about this living of ours here? It would be better if we went to seek work."  [And I say]: "Stay around a while since you're still not of sufficient spirit (mature enough), child of mine, that you should leave me".

But as for me sitting here, Missus, my Dad is dead, my Mum is dead. I was 10 years old and my Mum died, 14 years old and my Dad died. So I'm alone, and I'm but a married woman right now, and it's for my children that I stay here.  But that doesn't satisfy those smart ones. "We're going to go, Mum, to seek clothes to wear." And so they go, and they buy clothes and bring me clothes. "Here's your clothes, Mum." "Okay", says I. And like them, like those girls that come to me here, those from far off, they bring rice, bring dishes, kettles to me here and say; "Here Mum, a kettle." Then along comes a heavy drought, and I sell that big kettle, I sell those dishes they left here. "Take these to sustain your life, Mum, and that you might raise our younger siblings." So that's why they go, even if I, their mother, don't want to release them, but there's no work in this land of ours - there's no big city; so in the end, they go abroad (away from home, not necessarily overseas) to purchase clothes for their Dad, to buy clothes for me, their mother, to support me. That's why they go, but we would not have accepted their going. So in the end, only the small ones are here with me. All those little ones are studying at school.

So you were saying a few moments ago: "Rangahe and I, we do field work." You plant things then? Could you then perhaps tell me a little about your farming practice, especially…  I mean let's compare the 10 years that are past to the time now, the… how was your farming back then?
In our farming some time ago, there was no harvest. Now this and recent years we have had a modest harvest. Ampemba (sorghum), vañemba (small red bean), tsako (corn), antake (a large variegated bean)… eh… vazavo (watermelon)… that is, we had a small harvest. And then we'll feed that [to the animals], and we'll eat the corn, and we'll feed, to mamandroñe (put away, store) for tomorrow. And like that sorghum: "Let's put this sorghum away, Rangahe", so I put it away and don't eat it, to store it for tomorrow.

But now beginning this year, we don't know about this year's harvest… for the harvest of last year is gone away. So our production from the past year is now all gone. And so this [pointing] is what's left of our food, in fact that's for feeding animals and we'll take 4 kapoake (standard measure for grain, 285gm), like the corn, we'll take out 4 kapoake for there's no firewood to cook it. And like that bageda (sweet potatoes), there's a field, two, three; we'll take this half and leave that half.

That's from this year's harvest, but we don't know about the harvest this next season, whether the rains will come or what.  We don't know if this next year will bring rain, we can't tell if there will be any, as so comes the [inaudible].  And we'll sell this too [pointing to something] to sustain our lives, as we'll have nothing to eat and our bodies will weaken, that's why you don't see any vara (literally: wealth; furniture, tableware, kettles, etc) in this house, but like for this year we were able to raise some, but just a little, so now in this year beginning, if the rains don't come we'll be left behind again. That then, Missus, is our production here.

In your farming, then, is it your fields or do you borrow from relatives, or…
They are our fields and they are written, recorded with the government. But those fields are small. There's not much that will come out (she said: angatse ghost/spirit; for akatse, come out)1, but just a little.  Like right now, we're getting some bageda that we're eating at this time, and this will all be harvested, uprooted, for we will change to planting something else there, so we'll pull out all those plants, and then if the rains come, and we're at the season of planting right now. Corn now, sorghum also, and antake, and vañemba, our cropping now again, to begin in this Christmas coming up now.

We're behind right now, and we'll be pulling up this bageda now: "Remove all of this bageda!" But there's nothing yet to plant, because we lack production, so we're planting on those fringes, that's our planting now, so we don't produce much as the land in which we're planting is insufficient. A little, yes, a small amount, so if we do get something it may be one gunny sack, maybe two gunnies, for us to thresh. Because we have insufficient fiakarañe (means).

There's thus been no change in those fields, in the past 10 years, then, those same fields are still your fields,
Are still our fields. There's been no change. It was our father's field.

You were saying back there that you plant sorghum, you plant… from what seed  seed are you planting your sorghum?
 Now to that, some of us were able to store seed and we purchased from them at market, yes at times we'll purchase two kapoake and we'll scatter that in our fields: "That produced", [we say], and we were able to purchase these things [pointing] with drala (money); now I also was able to find a little and I'll take a small amount of this [pointing] and sow it in its field. I'll sow it there to produce. Yes, that's how that goes. 

So relative to those fields now, is their production similar from 10 years ago to now?
They are not the same; for in the past Rangahe tilled only by hand, he did not have a lasars¿ (plough), so now that the plough got popular and was used in the fields, it throws out all that won't produce in the field. So now with those strong winds - they'll sweep away anything we plant there. But before, Rangahe was a capable farmer able to fill sarete (ox-cart)loads of harvest and pull them; nothing was lost of what was planted. Now everything is lost that's planted, be it corn, or sorghum, or antake, [her voice now rises to make the point] nothing succeeds. Yes, if the rains are good some will produce, but without rain they die and are cattle feed. No harvest is seen; so then when the exhaustion comes on: "Ho! There's a chicken. Let's take this chicken away." What's to be done? We don't have anything to eat from the fields, better that we part with that one chicken, [voice goes very low] better that we sell that one kettle, better that that piece of clothing that's still okay we take away, we take it out for the sake of life.

The flesh is weak, and there's nothing to find in the field, there's nothing to live on; so then with those big people, the leaders, there, the family complains: "What are we all going to do? We here are hard hit, we here are starving. Begin to agitate you leaders, for we're dying of kerè (drought, starvation) now. Our children, now, there's nothing to eat, there's dried sakoa (barbary fig)"  - they pound those [pounding hand into palm] and eat it.2 Pounding on the ground, like there in the yard, they pound and pick out what's in this thing [apparently presenting a sakora shell in her hand], they eat it, and peck at it.

I've decided now, Madam, now Rangahe is away in Llakakawith his children, I'm the only one here, what am I to do, Zesosy (Jesus), about this child of mine [softly, prayerfully]?It's just me here, Rangahe is not here now… I've decided, in my soul - those things (her children) when they come in and lay down at mafanavoho (9am when the sun is high) nothing at all can go in and food can't be found. I put them in - he gave me an idea - Zesosy gave me an idea. I take those little ones to class, those small children: "Here I'll take you to school." But those anaka-sandry (small bodies – referring to her children) are nothing to look at. So I, their mother, got out a long piece of clothing, [quietly] a rag, but that's what I'll use for, I can't use this… so I took it, I took it to school. After a week I entered the school and what! They were alive. An idea given by Zesosy.  After that now, I'd succeeded with them, Rangahe arrives, and well! The children, I put them in for I didn't - I didn't know what to do with myself to keep my children alive as my children here they would just have died. I brought them to school, and they're alive up to now and to know their studying. There was some assistance from the Masera (Catholic Sisters) as they must have heard about us as they were here daily, but only my children weren't written in [on the list for help]. It was only Zesosy who kept those kids alive, as I was pleading, "Ah Zesosy, what about these children of mine?" So what I saw in the morning was that Zesosy had provided a small amount of food.

Now I invite in people who laugh, among some of my relatives, and so there are those who speak together: "Oh those children of mine, they're not to be killed", says this woman friend of mine, "Here take some of this food".  I sell a little on consignment, I sell old clothes for a little, and I'll fetch from people what I can get [drifting, very quiet]. Up till now. Done! Not me, but Zesosy, who is raising them, if I had the strength I couldn't have sustained them, if I'd had the shaft of a spade, I couldn't have supported them, but it is Zesosy who is upholding them. Even if Baba (Dad) had massive muscles he couldn't have sustained them. And my children were just as well off as all of those that were cooked for, who were like botrabotra (literally: plumpness of children). That's then the produce of this our land, sometimes we harvest vontsy (full, satiated), other times we harvest tsy misy (nothing). And so I might get anxious about material things, because you are not able to increase harvests greatly in order to permit you to purchase things, that you might sell again on a day of trouble, but we're just weakened by work, just tired [she sniffles], there's no harvest. We could say: "Eh let's sell this cow, let's sell this goat of ours, let's sell this here sheep", but we're in difficulty—so the field is sold. This field that we eat from, it's to be divided off. What are we going to do in this present dilemma: cut off this field. This field is divided, it's recorded, and given to the one who has cattle, to keep for his dilemma (when he is in difficulty).  Because tsy tra'e manañe (literally ‘it didn't catch having'; it came at a time when we didn't have any cattle). So the field is sold. That's why that field is so small. It's sold off little by little, to stave off these dilemmas we're in, such as, funerals for the deceased. So the field is sold and that's what is used for the funeral.

You then have sold the fields.
We have sold the fields, at the death of our father. The father of Rangahe died, he's the owner of that stone house over there [points with lips]. We, at that time, hadn't a single chicken when that death caught us. The sons-in-law of that man, none were present, I was the only one present, and Rangahe. The old man was ill at that time, on Monday… Sunday I was seeing him in that anjomba (house) over there. "Inao anake" (listen child) he said to me: "You've given birth. Plant for your children, for I won't be here with you, I'm dying. Your children will end up stealing if you don't have money, take that spade"; his word to me, the spirit he gave me. "Ok," said I. And there was that one cock here, for that also had been a poor year: "I'll sell that cock." So I sold it at market to purchase food for him. I bought rice from there, and I brought it to him still uncooked. I then cooked that food at his place, he ate of that, then during the day of Tuesday [said slowly as if calculating] he died, as he had been then. All that food I brought him was still there. "Oh my! The old man has died," I said to Rangahe. He wasn't fooling when he urged me to take up a spade to support my children, we didn't have anything ourselves, we sold the field.

It was auctioned, not for its value, not for anything [like that], but carelessly (in a hurry) so he wouldn't be left to rot. At that time, we sought wealth (material support) from other people but the people didn't give. So we had to sell the field. I sold it just as I am here right now. We sold the field and the man gave us an eight-life cow (eight years old or as large as that). So we had a big ari-tory (all-night wake) for that man, and we built a cross for the man, so we sold a piece of the land like so [with a sweep of the arm], and got 160,000 ariary (80 US$)3 and had rice bought in Tsihombe, to have a [proper] ending for that man.

We  succeeded well with that man in that we owed no one anything. By a field only did we bury that man. Now then his mother died, so we just sold another field, because we didn't have any wealth in the town. So it was a field again which buried the mother of Rangahe. So that's why we don't have enough of a field, we just plant around here, around the fringes of the village. We go over to that edge and that's all we have to farm in. Then if there is bageda then we'll plant bageda there.  So that's why we aren't really well supported, for the harvests are small, we don't have a big field. There!

According to your story about putting your children in school, you must have had a school nearby.
Yes there's a school at Antaolañe below Anovy down there. That school over there.

That's where they're…
That is where they are studying at this time. And they were just little tots during that miserable drought when I put them in there. It was the spirit, the idea, that Zesosy gave me the thought to put them in there.

So in addition to farming then, did you have, that… in regard, then, to your [thoughts] about the learning of children in school. Eeeeh, do you have a strong feeling  about education, what are your thoughts about the teaching of children?
My thinking pertaining to their education, then, I'd wish that they could have a profession. That they might get to be a teacher or might get to be a midwife - if I were so blessed. But for us down here, even those who have gone to school as children are not often blessed with a profession. But at this time there are a few who have managed to become teachers among our people here. But though we would mikezake (make an effort) we cannot achieve the occupations for which our hearts yearn. So what I'd really hope for is that they'd have employment, that they could support me, for I'm getting old now, too old. That they could maintain me, with a job as a teacher or [with excitement] as a rasaze (midwife), that's the thirst of my soul [laughing] that she could attain to... If I could be blessed, me his mother. But like me, those whoare not blessed, in t the desires of my heart, well they're exhausted in vain with learning. Mm!

How many then are in school?
There are quite a few older children in school among those children. Yes, many quite old, like that teenage girl of mine who graduated and quit at CEG (6thgrade). So I taught her, advised her, saying: "The custom of us Tandroy is that we get married. We don't just travel, wander. So if you now detest school, then second to education, you marry, for that is our custom." "Well just hold on a minute, Mum, there's a guy wooing me here, and I'll get married." So the young man who was wooing her appeared and now she's married at this time. And she bore a child, she bore a boy and her husband has taken her to Majunga (Mahajanga, in the NW of Madagascar). But those who are studying there now are all small, none are older, they're all young. Maybe, well about 10 years. But many of the others are, are big. Yes many are older now, but the small ones among mine are probably only six. Mm.

So it's a big thing to educate those children?
Yes, it's important to educate children, for I'd like that they had employment. For me, the mother, and Rangahe, we'll be worn out for we can't continue like this forever! Yes, and our muscles will weaken, just like that now, Ama, [pause] – I'm strong today and still sharp. After next year, I'll be carrying the staff of a spade with me for a crutch.  My strength will no longer be there, but I'll be weak. I'll be leaning, I'll be crawling. That's why my wish would be that they'd have work. If I were blessed, me their mother. That is my hope that I put them in school.

You were talking about your child who just got married. I'd like to find out more clearly, now if she's not learning [in school] then she must marry. I'd like to have you weigh that thought to me that ‘if not in school then get married'. 
My need for her to get married?  Here among us here, there is the use of aoly gasy (traditional potions), among us here. Education is no longer in her thoughts, so I'd rather she married in case I get the disease that she has. So here comes a base fellow from beyond, because the young woman is here, he comes to me, her mother, and sprinkles the aoly gasy at that time. So if this daughter of mine refuses him he'll hex her with an evil potion, so she dies in vain. So in my thinking in my heart [is]: if she gets married, and I know she has someone she loves, and her husband will also support me, her mother - as he is working way off in Majunga at this time - so that settles me in that, Ho!

My daughter is married for she has given birth through the one she is married to, her child is not lost. But if she were as I am now (single), motso (they are lost). That child born to her wanders to and fro, having no worth - among us Tandroy. But if she has a father, born to him, he having fetched her in marriage from us her parents, and has a child there, then they are settled as I their mother am. She settles fast in the land where she is and has progeny there, she raises wealth in that land of her marriage, just like her mother here. So that's why I had her get married, because this land of ours fools around with aoly gasy potions. Yes, that's why I had her do it.

Socially, among you here, then, it's important to own cattle? What's the reason for that? You mean regarding marriage? [now louder]

No, the ownership of cattle. Is it important in your society to own cattle?
One's society is as one perceives it, take me for instance. Say Rangahe finds [or earns] money, so, "Here", says Rangahe… like my daughter now has a husband, and that husband will bring a cow to me his parent here. So then when I'm in a quandary, I won't give up that cow. Rangahe will say: "Sell that cow!" But I won't release it. "What are we going to do, Rangahe, if we always just sell off our possessions? Let this one thing be that we might peek at it around here, it won't do to just sell it." So we let that one calve, so from my heart, that I wouldn't give it up, even if Rangahe would wish to take it, I'd refuse. Mitoky (refuse stiffly). "Yes, I mitoky", I say. "Leave it be, Rangahe, we won't die, we'll continue to eat these green things, and this poor food, but we'll be alive anyway. We'll still work together at it, and we'll yet eat what others are cooking." In the end, my heart is able to hold onto that cow, and there it still is. But Rangahe can't hold it. Rangahe would like to take it to market, but I won't give it. Our spirits aren't one, mine with Rangahe's. I hold fast, he wants to take it. In the end, it's here, because I held fast. So that's the importance of that cow.

You raise…
Yes we raise two, a pulling team. And someone brought one on behalf of my daughter who is married in Majunga, My husband traded for those cattle, and received two, that's what we have here. Now I've also been raising birds (turkeys), those big ones, the lahie'e (literally: manly; large  ones, in this country out behind. "What should we do", say I to Rangahe, "We have a yoke of oxen that we don't borrow something from a person, a barrel from someone." He didn't give his barrel. Lest your children break our barrels—we won't give them. In the end, I said to Rangahe: "I'll sell these birds of mine." So I sold chickens, and I sold turkeys, and Rangahe then bought a barrel, not a month ago, he bought one for 70,000 ariary at Anily's (a store in Tsihombe). Just yesterday not more than two months ago that this barrel has come to us. So now I'd received that thing, the lio-hakeo (purity) of my children, if it should crack it I couldn't blame them. Chickens and turkeys got this thing for me that I'd sold in the market. And Rangahe bought it in Tsihombe; 75,000 is what he paid for that barrel.

What do you use the barrel for?
Fetching water [surprised], we fetch from the ocean (there are fresh water wells on the coast) and that's what's in this thing here. Yes for eating, for bathing, indeed for drinking.

Water from the sea is what you're using?
Yes water from the ocean. Mm, we fetch from there.

Is it purchased?
It's not purchased, but it's part of our community livelihood pertaining to the household, according to the Rakemba (title, Mrs; wife) but Rangahe has his own thoughts, that are not like those of the Rakemba, the Rakemba is thrifty with your things, and won't fetch elsewhere. But Rangahe he'd rather hampijiny (give it away): Heh! I'm taking this! We women hold fast, for we don't see where else to go. Like the two of us now, he doesn't have a mother, and doesn't have a father. I, his wife, don't have a mother, and have no father, the two of us at this time. We're both orphans at this point. Let's say my child is sick some time. Where would I get for him if I wasn't thrifty with these things? Rangahe will say: "I'm taking this because it's not on the house accounts." For it's me that thinks about what's in here. "So where will I seek, when my children are sick, where will I fetch when you're ill, Rangahe? You who don't have a father, you who has no mother." I'd like to be able to say: "I'm going to trade some of your father's things for cash with which to take you to the hospital.

Finally, I'm a bird raiser. Like that small produce you gave me yesterday, I'll buy a chicken at market with that. That I might be a raiser. Because we are still eating, as there is still some here. So by tomorrow that will be exhausted, I'll get some out of the market and sell some of that too. That's the economy in this household, according to me, the Rakemba.

So you have a hospital (clinic) here, so it's to that hospital that you go when someone is ill, or do you go to some external person or whatever?
We go to the Faux Cap hospital. For instance for giving birth, and some for abortions go to the hospital in Faux Cap.

So what's the procedure when someone is sick?
You mean like…

I mean the effect on the household of one getting sick.
Like us, now if we are caught having something, then we'll supply from our household funds. This child is sick, this woman is sick, or Rangahe is ill, find a sarete. So we're off and go there. "What's the sickness?" says the doctor. It's thus and so, he checks the blood pressure, and checks out the body of the person who's sick, and some will give injections, some will give -insert serum into oneself; some are held there. You mitaha (be treated) here as your condition still isn't stable, so we stay three days at the hospital. So then when our bodies are cured to coolness (the fever is over) he'll send us home: "She and you watchers may go now for she's well now."

So we cook a soft meal, soso'sosoa (slow-cooked rice porridge) at that time. We make it very watery. We leave off that food which is heavy and hard, and go for the soft food which we can purchase there, so that's what we use for liquids for her to drink. And we cook tea. Like that vare-mañitse (citronella), we purchase sugar, and we'll cook that up for her liquids that she'll drink it often. For her body in that she was weakened from the sickness. And we get water in a cup and that'll be her water to drink, until her body is cooled down (back to health). And she'll stay in the house for awhile, not to go out to the field, to the yard, but we hold him in the house. That's what we do when we are sick. We aren't allowed to work for a while.

So if it's a sudden illness, do you have a kitty in which you save towards that or do you go to someone, I mean if you have an acute illness, would there be someone to… I mean the hospital might charge money…
They do charge money.

So what do you do in that case?
Me then, as when I am, well I'm not hungry yet, I'm still eating bageda, I'm still eating sorghum, I can still squeeze out a drala (smallest valued coin) from myself; I'll store it in the house. Eh, but now let's say I am in a drought as we were telling about, there'll be no cash in the house for it will all be spent during the drought. But as I am right now, [sniffle] and I can squeeze that single drala into the cracks, and take it to be cared for at the hospital. There are times when I'm not caught with any, and I'll then go to someone I know. It's not that I often go to people, but it would have to be a longo sarotse (relative close to the heart) that one would go to. And so I would get money from that distant person and say: "Give me some money for I'm not well." That person will give, if she finds some. But if there's nothing there, then I'm in a fix, just like when I don't have a chicken to sell. Now, here is a chicken, because your illness is sudden, just now. So you sell the chicken and find someone else when you get to the hospital. Save me now, for I'll yet be selling, my illness is of sudden onset. So the doctor can do his saving on me, and those who are not sick can be occupied selling. And he'll bring it, following one into the hospital. 

At your place here…
At our place.

At your place… how do you receive news, through what means is news from the outside brought to you? There's news out there like thus and so… how is it you hear that news?
You mean like what happens in the land of those distant cities?

Yes, like those distant cities. 
Eh!

That gets out - let's say our president changes, how would you comprehend that and through what means?
The way we understand that is like those with intelligence, they would broadcast that to us here. He goes, he who has understanding, he who has a profession, those who have authority over us. And he comes, someone approaches him there, he broadcasts to us, his constituency and gathers, and he does letters, to this town and that town, like our town here is the town of a komity (on the fokontany committee) himself, so he does a letter to [one] town and [another] town, and we gather together, to listen to the word that he's brought from abroad, and he says this, that and the other is the problem I found in the land I visited. And we say: We leaders here don't control that, and we all just accept it, because we're just listening to the news he's bringing. And so we follow all the stories our leader brings to us. So that's how we hear the news from abroad, like from down—from up there [corrects herself]. And we hear it here.

Or about food distribution, or distributing aid to us. We hear all that here because someone brings it. And like you at Tsihombe, send to us as well. Some call: "Come for so-and-so is here". So she goes to Tsihombe. The fokontany's spread that news along, and whoever has a constituency as well, gathers his constituency; and broadcasts; "Itika koahe" (way to address a crowd: "We people"). "This and this is the assistance in food that we will receive, for there was a complaint sent. Yes and such is the money we will have to spend for that lorry". So we buy the gas, and pay for the lorry, taking accounts from each village. We here are one komity by ourselves here, for we are independent, and so all the rest will do likewise. And so we send for all of that, having done the accounting and all is arranged.

Now is there a development agency working among you here? Here in your fokontany of Bema?
Mm'hmh, not yet

There is no development agency working among you?
No there is none doing development work here. Mm! There is none yet. But kind of like those Masera, now, but that is on account of those children, those who are weak, they are helped by those from abroad. Those are selected out, those children with scurfy, infected bodies, sickly, those that are diseased, that is. Now those are selected, and written down (recorded), and are given uncooked food, [and] given cooked food; that food is cooked up and fed to those weak children who don't have any flesh.  Now yesterday of a while ago, some yesterdays ago at the hospital, exhausted children were provided with food. And those children who were listed that have ugly [said as if she is disgusted] bodies, were provided with rice, that was just yesterday or so, and all that rice was distributed, that child over there gets one gunny and a half, and 5 litres of oil; and of these cape peas, split peas, 60 kapoake per child. Now like us here, if for example we knew food (knew how to keep, store food) and didn't do a lot out there (didn't sell it or distribute it to friends) then it truly would have been good food, but we however, do not know how to manage food. Many fañahy (temptations). We cook a lot in the morning on awakening, and that's gone ksh'sh'sh (sound as if it's skittering off). Eh, and again at noon, we cook a lot of kapoake, and evening again we cook a lot of kapoake, so our food doesn't last.

Now there was some modest harvest (food distribution) here yesterday, and there was the child of my brother-in-law here and he received of that. That harvest of a few days ago, that was at the hospital.

You weren't included?
No I wasn't. Now that work of SECALINE, that boy of mine that was in here last, worked in that. He had a job in that, and mine was too old, as he's over five years, and so we left SECALINE. Now in that road work. We worked in that and were able to attain food for that, this road out here [points to it] and we receive food: corn, sorghum… and split peas, we received one year. Eh, for our work on this road. We here, then, and that Rangahe. I had just delivered in the midst of that work, my daughter. Two of us here received… on that road work, PAM (World Food Programme). Now the work of associations, there was no… you see with us here there is an announcement.  So if there is some association to be organized, at the level of the fokontany, then they're written (lists are drawn up) and a summons goes out. "Come all, let's meet, this is how we're going to associate; this is the work we'll do together". None have done that in this village of ours. So our village is left out. It wasn't made to associate.

What kind of association would that have been?
An association regarding that sorghum. Eh, we aren't in that any more, no summons went out, no paper was written on; we didn't hear of that association. This sorghum that we've planted here is different sorghum. Sorghum from the days of our ancestors - but not this foreign sorghum that you were doing here. So we didn't produce any of that, we don't have any.

Let's say that you were chosen to direct a development project here in your village here, what kind of work would you choose to do? 
That would please me... as for me at this time, I like that work, but what I wouldn't like about it, Eh, regarding those papers - but they'd explain the thing! Regarding the paperwork, that is; because there will be paperwork. But I'm not skilled in paper (not literate). So there is no way I could direct that project among us here, as I don't have paper (am unschooled). Let's say you give me some work to do from abroad: "Here's the work you're going to do!" That's what you'd say to me; here where I am. "Now this is your work and such and so is how you'll direct it" [a child interrupts here & sniffles]. "Okay take it" (to the child). But in the end I'm not literate to report to you: "Here is my paper on my work, indicating how my work is progressing." I'm not literate. That's why I'd refuse it. I would have liked that, but I'd have to refuse, as I don't know paper, that which pertains to the work, to submit to you: "Here's how my work is progressing here." Where? I don't know paper.

Okay but what work would you like to do regarding development, even if you don't know paper, what development work would you like to do to advance your village?  What…
I'd like to do to make it progress is to sell. I'd sell if there were some money. With much money in my hand. With a lot on hand, I'd do a circuit of the markets [in each locality]. At each market I'd purchase goods. And also sell in that market. Having sold, I'd return home. I'd also repurchase with the money on hand and keep raising it. To pull my life along here. In the end I'd be progressing, because, my sales would go and that's how I'd make my living. Eh, that's what I'd like to have done, commerce. To make a living. Because I have thirsts, right now, I'd like to have a plough, to have a sarete, to have some nice things in the village to show that I had progressed, and known as [successful]: "Hey there's someone who's progressed. Through so and so, now, they have been able to produce."

But for example, as the two of us now, just an example [voice peaks] but not that it would be me, you would give to me and say: "Here mother (term of respect) is some money, sell such and such, and make a profit, and you will know how to manage it." I'd make a profit from that which was from you and I'd purchase an ox-cart, I'd buy a plough, then you'd come through this land, and I'd invite you in. "Please come into my house. Here's what I've received from that profit."  That's the thirst that my heart would have done, I'd get ahead and you'd come, we'd greet each other and I'd say: "Come in for a minute – Look, this and this have I done with that profit from you." And I'd show you: "Here is the sarete I got, this is the plough that I got, with the loan you gave me, from my selling with it." And you'd also be happy at that time, saying: "Hooo! This woman knows how to miompy (to make a profit) that sum I provided her with." That's the thirst of my heart. I'd have sold (done commerce) had I the funds. I'd take it to the markets, sell rice there, and there again I'd pick up produce there and sell it there also, that would grow, there would be the profit, and from that I could purchase the things that are bothering me.

Here now is a… what is the method of expressing poverty, is there a particular expression?
There is. There is, for poverty.

An expression for it.
An expression for it. It would be mahàtra (poor), a worn-out person, doesn't have… possessions, no food, does mischief [loudly], doesn't wear clothes, and begs at market. That is what mahàtra is. That's what…

Is there no other name?
There is no other but mahàtra. But not like… not like one who doesn't go out. That, now, there are three which we are talking about: that mahàtra and this misotry (destitute or in anguish). Those terms refer to someone of no flesh, who has no supporter. Those vazaha (official meaning: Caucasian; In Tandroy: anyone in authority not of one's family) are supporters, like the Masera (Sisters). That's like one over in Tanandava (a nearby village) that carries a holey basket, because she's poor, and destitute. The Masera would write her down (put her on the list). And they, the Sisters, would be support for her. They provide clothes, cloth, they give food, they give oil, for them to eat.  But if they aren't given clothes then they wear just a cloth around the chest – around the chest, having no clothes. That's the name of that. Wearing a sheet fastened around the chest only. Going around like that. Some are then captured by idiocy, they do crazy things,

Mad?
Yes mad. So the Sisters put clothes around them. And off they go wandering. The Sisters give them clothes and food: "Here's some food, here's some clothes… to cover him." So tafike is the word, and it means to wear a cloth in this manner [demonstrates]. Otherwise they go around naked, so clothes are put over them, that's what's expressed as misafeke (patched and worn clothes), for he has nothing to wear; the vazaha takes care of them.

In your society here is there such?
There is, and there is one in Tanandava here; those ragged Rakemba wearing only rags, it's the Sisters who clothe them.

What causes that in them?
It's their mind; their brain has been tweaked, tweaked in the brain since they were small. Brains that don't have enough in the head; they, when they become old, it turns into something different. It changes into absent mindedness, and they can't support themselves. And so they just beg around, in the market place if they can get up; if they can't get up, someone will take their place to get food for them. That's what comes to the mind.

So to you, who would you call poor?
To me a poor person is one who doesn't have a life. But as for me, the state I'm in now, I have a husband. Now Rangahe, my husband may not be for it, for he'd rather work for pay that I might eat, clothe myself, and raise chickens, he'll go off and force himself to uproot raketamena (red prickly pear cactus: edible weed) [for pay]: "Here's some raketamena, please work it" (remove it), and so he'll work at it, all because he doesn't want me to suffer. And I'll still be wearing clothes, because I have a husband. But the meaning of that, say one is independent, one doesn't have a spouse, and getting exhausted in not having a husband there, but if one is still strong, one can support oneself, but if not strong enough then you'll just be on the tsikelo (winnow4), a house-bound mahaferenay (literally: wounded life; sad case); if you don't have children. If she does have children they will help her and provide food for her, and if that child lives nearby, is married and lives close, that child brings snacks and food over, will help with pounding [grain], cooking: "Here, Mum, your meal"; then she'll depart to manage her own household.

So to you, what in your opinion is the real source of that poverty in this social sphere; your thoughts on it.  
The cause of much poverty at this time… take me, I might have been sickly when I was young, was given lack of strength, so in the end I'd be weak, now, because I wasn't strong when small. Now in a state of oppression, I'd beg. I wasn't strong, didn't work, had no muscle. That brings about suffering, begging, and mahatra is the name of it. Eh! I wasn't able to plant [in strong emphatic voice]. But I plant, I plant at this time, I plant and plant, I eat and can make increase. I'm not poor because I plant, but what brings on this poverty is votro (said of one unwilling to work, laziness) weakness, can't cultivate, and so begs. And so he begs, because he doesn't have muscle for work, and doesn't have work to do. Sits in his house all morning lying around, sleeps, can't get any cooking done, then the ugly moroseness comes on, the craziness in the head, the begging, and he is always begging, "Give me", on the roadside; "Give me", there's nothing that can fill his stomach. But ever since I was little I carried a spade, I weeded, and planted, and cleared, and didn't stop work until noon when I returned to my house; I just continually cultivated the clearing [very low voice], now if there's some rain, the vañemba get ripe, I don't need a town (to go to market). I gather it into my house. For that work is in these hands.

Some day when I'll have to beg - when my body gets stiffer, and I get too weak, at the end of my life - I don't know - for I will change and won't be able to accomplish anything when my hands have become weak; these knees of mine [slaps one] are weak - then I'll beg also. For I, at this time, am still sharp, I plant, I go to the fields, I go to the water (sea or wells), I wash clothes. But I also might turn, turn into that. And beg [softly]. Not that I've done that, but some day towards the end I will [strong voice]; I'm still strong now, I can cultivate, but the day will come when these hands are weak and can't plant, and I'll have to beg. That's how it happens.

Now if you evaluate your household and compare it with others around you, how would you compare your situation? 
So as I see mine and consider the other person's… to some God gave great wealth, some wear bracelets, have gold earrings, wear gold on their necks. But as for me, I wasn't given that portion. Mine is a life anyway, even though I don't have gold, or earrings, or nice clothes; just as God has created me, and I'm not jealous of what others have, saying [as if purring]: "That woman is wonderful, she's cute, well made up, has a lot of things, fancy things in her house. But that portion of another's was not apportioned to me."

I accept all that God has given me here in my house. Even food, if he gives it to me, it's not me, but the work of Jesus [softly]. And if he doesn't give me food today, that's fine, it's arranged by Jesus. And that another has wealth, what's that to me, I have my body for my wealth. I don't hope for what another has, saying: "Hoke! You have 20 head of cattle, kolahy (a polite form of address)! You have sarete, and that thing, and plenty of food." Eh! I don't have the portion of that person here in my house. Or if Rangahe is poor, God allocated that poverty to him; and though Rangahe has nothing and so was given me, I can bear it, for I bear it in that even if I perceive a person with two robes, all kinds of wealth, it's not me that's blessed with that wealth—that wealth would be extinguished if I came into it. For it's not my portion to have all that wealth. My portion is to be easygoing, so I'm easygoing here in my household. I don't, at this time, have any cattle or sheep, or goats, it's just having peace here in this house with Rangahe. So I'm not going to envy that person, saying: "She has this and that and the other that I'm going to be like her." It isn't out there that my hope is but I put my hope in myself in my house here. If God keeps me alive here, I'm alive; and if sick then sick in here.

Now if you compare your living in this your household through the past 10 years, comparing your livelihood now with your situation 10 years ago?
My life 10 years ago… I raised children, I first brought up young children, and didn't have a thing [very high voice] when I raised them as small tots.  And their clothes were what I was wearing, I didn't hoard clothes, now when that outfit became tatters, then I'd receive another. At two years old my child would have a younger sibling, two years, and another, they nitohizozoke (came out one after the other like beads on a string). Then when those children were grown, now I've been able to save something for myself, I have this chicken there in the yard, I have a turkey being raised in that yard, raising them for many; but when my children were small I didn't have any. I couldn't even find food for them. Now that they're older they in turn are supporting me, it's like I've become their child. Now their muscles are with me. So me then, this body of mine now, I don't raise [children], I take care of myself, and so if I happen upon a few coins I'll purchase a chick, and leave it there to be seen by my children, then I won't have to fetch anywhere, but will have—as when one of my children out there will come then I'd catch this chicken to serve them, for I'm the one who sprinkles cold water on (blesses) them. It might be that the younger siblings of Rangahe would come, they'd come in for a visit, and we'd catch that chicken, and sacrifice it for them, that's our Tandroy custom. When one comes back from migrating then they'd find us sacrificing [an animal] for them [for thanksgiving meal).Then the word gets out: "They have guests", and we're happy because our children have returned safely to us. And it's not like the scarcity I had before, when I was occupied in the straits of raising children, now, for me at this time, I have some breathing space because that childraising is over. 

Mikezake (diversifying),
Yes, I'm doing new things.

Are there times within your household that you have had nothing? When would that happen?
That occurs in a year with no rain. That's when it comes for sure; because the soil is dry; now we're eating bageda, and all that food we just harvested this year, and when that's gone—indeed it is, for even now there's none to speak of; the bageda is just one here and there, not like it was. Other food that would be planted, like corn, we're buying that in the market now if we find some money, like that food we don't have around here, that all depends on the market. When the time comes that there is absolutely nothing then we dare to sleep. We just sleep, it's not like we could say: "Well here's a little, or there"; for there would be none. Then I'll go gather that grass called varemañetse, I'll fetch that and put it in this large kettle and add water, boil it up and call my children, akororoke am-bolebey (pour it back and forth from bowl to kettle to cool it), and have them drink the tea, and put them to bed, and we sleep well till morning on only that warm water. Then in the morning: "My child's dead" (not literally), says Rangahe. "I'll go wander about". So he goes down to Faux Cap to find temporary work, carry water. He finds something down there to purchase rice and brings that back to us. He may buy 2 kapoake, whatever he can get from there, and there it is all wrapped up in a plastic bag: "Here's your food, cook it up and I'll look for more tomorrow." So we cook that up, then, next morning, I'm going to hañariokarioke (literally: wander around; look for work).That's what it's like at a time when there is none, truly no food to be had. We endure, and squat (sit around), having nothing to cook.  Um! And that's true, there's nothing.

What are your concerns for the future, your plans to make things better?
My hopes for the future are that the rains would fall, to rid myself of those bad thoughts. Yes the rains come, I plant and all those evil thoughts in my heart vanish. Then I plant and get something from that, get a harvest, get some chickens, and if the harvest is plentiful, I'll be able to have sheep, have goats, then those being with me, I'd raise them. So it's only rain that I need to fall, so that I can make a living, eh! That's the thirst of my soul, that's what it needs.

What would you do in order to become rich?
People who have an important job might become rich.

What kind of person? 
A person who has migrated, there are those who can pay, they can find support out there, and he comes, saying: "Here's my project, do this work." Now if we're capable of that work then we do the job, and you receive your pay, you purchase a cow, the cow calves, then one is no longer in a strait.  We're at peace in our house; the cow calves and we have four, five in a matter of months, years. There's Ano's (so-and-so's) cow that he received that year he had work. That's what improves our livelihood, the cow calves and multiplies. There might be 10, all born from that cow at your place. That is if there are no problems; but if one is sick, not well, in bereavement, then the cow that you purchased is sold, it doesn't calve. That's what one has to think about if he yearns to be rich.

What expectation do you have of becoming rich?
My anticipation is that I have hope in my migrated children. That's where my heart is, thinking: "I wonder how that would be that I could be like others?" My children, those I raised, should not be suffering and should have born children. But still I'm here suffering. I go—considering that it's not one child but many—and say: "Those children of mine should take an account (pitch in) and send me some money that I could purchase some things." But those children, those young women, those men, since they left, have not sent me so much as rai'ale (10,000 note). Until now.

How long?
Ho! Many years. There have been something like four years. None of those children have that thought, that: "There's my mother, I'll buy her some sustenance." In them alone does my heart have hope, because Rangahe isn't in a paying job, and I, their mother, am not employed. But now if we found good paying work that would make us rich: Rangahe is rich, mother is rich, then my children abroad wouldn't have been able to support themselves, they'd be tired out. That's the thirst of my soul: wanting to have things, is it bad to have? Isn't it rather good? Suffering… is not a paradise to pray for. If one had authority to direct God who created him, then he would not choose suffering, but would your heart rather find comfort in the work of another. But that may not be prayed for, but the Lord gives from beyond, then even as if  unbelievably, here I am feeling around and He! I find, and say: "Look, Ranotenie, you've been revived where you're sitting." I never saw where it came from, it came unexpectedly from above: "He! Where did this drop from? That suffering of theirs!" What they're then informed: Here they are alive. It's not that the heart knows, it's angry and seething, but one entreats the Lord. But if it's "as a flea grasping a spade" (idiom meaning an impossible burden), then I'd have grasped to have had, but it can't be had by force, it can't be had by force. But if it could be had by force would I not have grabbed a portion? But it depends on the Lord who created me whether he will give.

Is there anyone in your community of whom it is said: That person has succeeded?
There is. Like me here, who has no plate, no kettle, don't wear nice clothes, but there was one month some time ago that I was raising animals, I was dressed in nice clothes, and there was amazement. The awed came in here and said: "What happened ene (mother; term of respect), what did you come into?" "One of my children came from afar and dropped it off, and that's what you see. That's why you don't laugh at her who bears [a child], and you don't tell off the one who has conceived, you don't tease those who have children." Our livelihood resides in the care of our offspring.

So has there been such?
Yes and many have their hopes in acquiring through that means. They say: "Ho! Look what came to such and such, helped by God." And that's what we say: "The Lord came to the aid of that person."

I mean has someone come back with wealth and has elicited the praise: How she has succeeded!?
The way it happens is through his child. That child has made a good living having migrated, and he sends a large sum of money to his parent: "Here, Dad here is some money." Often he himself will bring it. So if he has been blessed abroad, he will bring the gift himself to his father, to his mother. And then the father might go to the market and acquire 10 head of cattle with that, in one day at market—if the trip of your son was beneficial. One does not need to seek that afar, for even of myself here, it might be said: "Look here who has received 10 head of cattle! I'm saying this [loudly] for when I look at the daily life of that person, it would be just like me, where the children are abroad, blessed by God, one would come back with a large sum of money, and on the next market day we'd purchase 10 head, with some to spare, and it would be said: "See, so-and-so, she's living! Their children have come into wealth." That's how one becomes rich – through their children –  like me and my children, they have employment, I'm malio-hakeo (clean of fault) with God, and God helps me to eat, and my daughter mitotsake (comes bearing gifts) from Llakaka (the sapphire mines) and comes here to her father. Hello there! Hello, and he hands over a wad of bills. Then his father brings a herd of cattle from the market, and one may have many cattle, maybe eight or seven according what the child brings: "Look at Ano, she's been blessed by God, just look at her" [said in a cooing sympathetic tone]. That's where you thought that only in the distance could you find such blessing, but right here you can witness havelo (blessing, wealth). There has been that, and I can say that for myself. So you believe that it's important to migrate in order for that to happen? You might well ask me, but that's what I've been saying.

I mean is it important in this community to migrate far away?
Yes it's - it would be good, but I can't do it, my children are all away, And this homestead would not have anybody, so in the end, I stay, I dwell here, else there'd be none to sprinkle the cold water on them (shower blessings on them) [when they visit], now the children born to Rangahe go, but he stays here, and I stay here. Thus I can't go even if I had that wish, for I'd say: "Who's going to tend this house?"; we don't have a father to be here, a mother to be here, so finally, it's for us to stay, whether or not He gives us to eat, we will stay settled here. So we dwell here even if there are those dreams. I've never seen that place called Majunga. Yes my heart might still yearn for that place called Majunga. But there is really no place for that yearning, for who would be here when a child came home. We're like the mpisoroñe (priest), like the chief of the village in our position.

We've been here over an hour now – maybe you have something you'd like to say to wrap it up?
I do, and even if we were here till evening I would still have, for instance… all that's been talked about is livelihood. We can talk much on livelihood, but about all those interconnections—I probably don't follow. But in terms of suffering, and how one survives suffering, I'm an authority, and if there would be any like you that would say: "This is how you should live", we wouldn't have any reason to refuse, because we'd have you as our supporters. So I'm hoping.

Now would it be okay if I took a picture… and [this is the] conclusion.


1/ Angatse: in the verb form angarañe it can mean chased by uncertainty, as the effect of the weather in limiting the production of the field.

2/ The dried sakoa contains an edible nut similar to pine nuts in flavour, and like a walnut in texture, that must be beaten out of the very hard fibrous shell with a rock. A half dozen sakoa might produce a teaspoon of nuts. 

3/ Average exchange rate (1996 ariary = 1US$) November 2009, Interbank rate, source: www.oanda.com

4/ The tsikelo is a square winnow with raised corners used to fan the grain (the chaff of which has just been pounded in a mortar and pestle). Corn and sorghum are also pounded and winnowed, separating the chaff for the birds and the germ for breakfast. The use of the word winnow here represents the whole process of grain preparation.  It is very time-consuming especially if there are no children to help.