Francoise Haova: interview transcript

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Francoise Haova: interview transcript

Francoise Haova lives in Tanandava, Androy, Madagascar. She was 66 when she was interviewed on 19 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.

We are here in Faux Cap in the fokontany (smallest administrative unit)of Bema; and we thank you Madame Françoise for agreeing to participate in this research, which is part of a report on poverty conducted by IFAD, and which we'll be doing today. The aimof this report is that it might help to develop a strategy for combating poverty in this rural area of ours here, and in the future.. So at the least our talk may last about an hour, and half of this research we're doing here will be broadcast through that report, so I'll be recording your voice if that agrees with your heart.  And so I was saying just now, the work we are doing here may last an hour, so I'm asking you to speak on how you have lived 10 years ago, and how you are living at this time, and your thoughts about how you will be living some day in the future. So it's about poverty in this rural area, I mean it's about how we live, that I'll be questioning you about today. Now before we start it's good for people to be acquainted, and like me, my name is Charlotte, working in Andrew Lees Trust  (ALT), and now you may tell me about yourself. 
Mmm, regarding the life before, that's true, because, me being a person… our life before, that's what I was telling you about yesterday. I quite understood that, though I didn't understand it fully but only in part as I was still small then. What I recall from then - that's what I told about yesterday - that is that women before spun thread, that is what I have seen, and after that she wove it, having woven it she made it into clothes. She made a sikotry (man's loincloth). That woman gathers kinaña ( jatropha shrub, seeds of which are processed for oil) and when that's done she goes in search of firewood. Life was well organized before. Life at this time –  I can't find the words to describe it – but before, it went smoothly and the rains came steadily, not being cut short. Then as [the rain] came, she'd have a [functioning] household. And she planted and worked hard for a living. In my case it was on my mother's side that I married, and so I was taken in marriage and when that taking was done, I exerted myself, and went to Toliara, and got a sarete (ox-cart), and acquired a… lasarý (single bladed plough). Then, after that… we got our livelihood from the field, and bought fields to continue our efforts to make a living. We purchased fields and cultivated them; life flowed along, huh!

Mate (her husband) died - I was 18 years old when I was taken [in marriage] by my husband, still young. Then as happened, the weeding (or cultivating) was done, the weeding continued—he died. What now, my little puppies (referring to her children), are we to do, now that your father is dead? But they were all still mineñe (without knowledge; unaware) being only six years old… some seven years old, some 11 years, 12 years; some were still small, that small boy must have been only five years old, those small ones he left behind, and so it was the Masera (Catholic Sisters) that helped me to raise them, Sister Dolores and Helenae, mm! And when they come down here they'd say: "Where is that Rozi-kely (small Rozy)?" That was my oldest daughter who did boarding school with them. "Where is Rozi-kely?" "Here she is", I'd say. "Come along", they'd say, "let's go for a ride". And she'd go along with them in their work. There I was working away at that cultivation. What, says she, does one have family for? My cattle were dispersed, that sarete was gone, I had to take them to manage the funeral of their father, so I continued with that angaly (spade). I exerted myself with that spade to raise them, and that was my schedule night and day. But God is there, and they all grew, and he educated them all, they all went to school.

When school was finished each day they would work hard, hauling water from Faux Cap. Mm! That's what was used to purchase notebooks, that was what - and I also uprooted befelañe (rosy periwinkle: dry roots and stalks of which are sold and exported for medicinal use). By those means I educated them, completed their schooling and addressed their problems, and their level of schooling kept going up: to CEG (middle school), to the 6th class. Meanwhile [I said], "You continue carrying water while I cultivate, for there is none that will support us but ourselves only", and so they made an effort, and I'd continue weeding the fields, then uproot befelañe when the weeding was done, then fetch firewood, until, as we're speaking, now.  But then came '86! Hah! There was no solution to that, I'd go gather those leaves of the raketam-bazaha (variety of prickly pear), I'd scrape the spines off, I'd scrape it and cook it in the kettle, and I'd leave it there for their food, when they'd come home from school. It was lio-hakeo (literally, innocence) that brought in this raketa-mena (variety of prickly pear introduced by South African fishermen to in the 1960's) and they would graze on those, so what do you say? That it wasn't arranged by me, but all things are ordered by the Fragrant Prince (the Creator/God). But I haven't recovered from it yet, that's what's made me so weak, all my concern for my young ones, continuously, they and that spade.

So that's how you raised your children?

So then what…
That's how I raised them, with my effort and with only those prickly pears and those green herbs. This land doesn't often get rain… This life now, is a big problem, a big problem because - the reason I say a big problem. They, that is there are some of those children of mine out there who have sent back help little by little, rags, cloth, Hooh! There is that Creator God! What I've been teaching to my children, is what they are following... They understand now what I've been offering them, but I'm free of guilt before the Creator, those who have gone to find, [gone] in search of that blade of grass (their fortune). When those clothes arrive that they send from there, we at that time are hungry, me and my grandchildren, their children who are staying here, so I sell those clothes to raise them, I sell those dishes, I sell that kettle, so that I might raise all of them. Then I'll say, now, therefore, I'll say to them: "Be strengthened in the name of the Fragrant Prince for you have no father and I have no way to support you of myself. Consider what state I am in now. Since you are the reason I'm here, and becoming weary" [addressing her older children living elsewhere]. But is it I who sets things in order, or does the Fragrant Prince? I exert myself, but I don't know. The one in Majunga drinks liquor. Aiaiaiai... [groans]. I'm innocent before the Fragrant Prince. It wasn't that on which I raised them, but traka (greens), weeding [loud, then falls silent].

In respect to that now, your life, how would you compare your livelihood now with that of when you were a child, raised by your parents. So how do you see your life now, against when you were a child staying with your father and mother.
My life when I was a child, living with my parents, was… I studied, and I studied, but that education was not complete since my husband took me. He being my only husband since the time I was raising those small children, [as] I was recounting to you until now. But then he died, leaving me to be with those children. When I was small I went to school; after school I'd go up to the water, after going to the water, I'd return and follow them in the fields, and then: "Here, kisy (term of endearment for small girl), see to that kinaña over there," and so I'd go and pluck it, and they'd sell it—now, selling before was successful!—they'd sell that kinaña. That's what I see of my former life. My life with my parents, that's what I was telling you about, my life then didn't have many options, but just that schooling. After that schooling then I'd make an effort to do whatever they'd send me to do.

But this livelihood that I'm in right now - it's a big problem! What else, in that one is single, and what my problem is… is that which I have brought to light just now. And so you have to use your head in managing those small children. I go into the field and say Hooh! Creator God, have mercy on my suffering for these children; and then the Fragrant Prince would come to your aid, there'd be someone [out of the blue] who'd give us a kapoake (a dry measure of grain). Mm! So I'd pick some herbs to go with it, by the grace of the Fragrant Prince. That's my life at this time, even as we are talking now, having met together right now. Mm! Our life before was complete, what made it complete, we'd plant the antake (type of bean), we'd plant the ampemba (sorghum), and we'd plant corn –  whatever we planted, that could be done with a spade, progressed well because the rains continued. But at this time, now, we thought it would come yesterday, but zero. None yesterday. That's what is happening to us in this current period. And since there's no rain, if one can muster up even one drala (lowest value coin) by selling that kettle, that bowl, that plate, that spoon, to vanquish that hunger one more time. Now in this past year, the one just over, we found a little, but in those years prior to that one, there has been nothing.

Now Françoise, can you tell me what it was that brought that produce before? Why back then you could expect a harvest and it's just been getting poorer and poorer until you get nothing?
Mm, it becomes smaller and smaller.

Now in your opinion (repeats above question)?
Our livelihood before was well ordered, but if there's no rain! There is a way we Tandroy live, the custom of us Tandroy is: if there is a year in which the rain hasn't come then we do a salaka-rano (animal sacrifices carried out by the whole community) – we split the neck of a goat, one for each corral.

What is this salaka rano?
It's killing a goat, begging for rain.

Is that some kind of fijoroañe (invocation through séance)?
Eeh! That is, we slit a throat at the lalambey (gate to the corral or village), then due to that thing, we'd get rain. He accepts that practice; it worked back then, but now! Mhmnh! (no!) I don't know what to say, the way things are now, how to talk about it.

Why didn't that continue, I mean that salaka rano, why was the practice neglected whereby you were able to summon rains?
What that requires is a central figure in the community, a person with authority, who manages the rains, but at this time [whispers) it's that liquor. It makes me sorry, it's huge… On that account then, there is no manager of this climate. Everyone does what seems good in his own head. Everyone carries his own head in his hand, and I don't know what to do about it. The rains don't come, and I can't see how to make a living in that case. We work hard [said with force of striving] at this farming, [whispers] but it's all emptiness. There's none that misikily (arranges the seeds on the ground in geomantic séance to determine the days), that can manage the rain. But in former times, as I was saying, there was a supreme elder who took care of that thing, mm!

Okay, given that history of deterioration of the rains, how did you manage to raise your children through that?
It's as I was telling you, nothing but a big effort in cultivating, keep on weeding, keep on weeding… where? It was lost in that burning and burning [by the sun] – all in vain [raises voice]. But I exert myself to bring success for them. They come from class at 9:00, at 10:00 if it's the CEG (pre-high school), and they do what they can until 2pm, coming to help me in the fields, and they all work away at that weeding - in vain - if the rains don't come, we just exhaust our bodies fruitlessly, I can't express it. The rains just don't come, but here a little while ago, it was different. Some people must have done the joro (incantation) for the rain, not that that's praying to the Creator God, but it seems to be required by whatever requires it.

So now we go to the field, I send them to the field, but there's nothing in that field [to harvest]. So comes a Sunday (before the Monday market) when I say: "Dear ones, sell off that kettle and that dish, I won't then know how to fix a meal for you but go ahead and sell off that kettle, that dish". For if the rains don't come I have no choice but to sell my things. I purchase a kapoake at the [weekly] market and put the rest away against another day of need. Mm. "And continue your daba-rano (fetching water for sale) so that we might buy another kapoake", the daba-rano is continued, and they do it on Monday. This works for the EPP (primary school) children who don't attend class on Mondays. "You take that, my little puppy, I'm going to the field." We search and search for that green leaf, but how will we find one if it hasn't rained? Turn it around and around in that kettle, around and around, not that's it's as much as when the spade meets the rain. It swirls around and around in that kettle.1 "Put a lot of water with it dear". So even though we bought 2 kapoake or 3 kapoake we cook it with a lot of water. They buy with what they receive. "Here, mum, is what we got". "That's fine my daughter, we don't order the circumstances, we're alive today!" We don't know about tomorrow, but we'll leave that to Him; that's how we live at this time. Mm!

What is it that you plant in your fields?
What I plant is vatango (type of savoury melon), sweet potatoes, manioc, that is… corn, watermelons, vatango¸ toaboara (squash), vañemba (type of bean), that's what I plant in my field.

Now with all that you didn't produce at all this year, for instance…
Now this year, as I was relating, might have produced, but I was occupied with the death of my father. But those who weren't in such straits—it's beyond imagining how much corn was harvested this year (actually sorghum), that corn and manioc this year. But since I had troubles, zero [was produced]. I give thanks that there were those who made an effort, and I'll lean on the Creator God for the rains, for my livelihood. It was only a little while ago that my father died. Our life when my husband was still alive was sarete, bidò (plastic barrel for rain collection), a plough, cattle, goats—that was our life back then, when I had a husband [whispered]; and beginning with the death of my husband those possessions vanished, I used them all for the funeral.

Had you no help?
I had no help, now my men and women, I have a 19 year old girl, and she'd sit by me and I'd say: "This is what you have to do for those crowds." Now those crowds are past knowing now; before, there was  unity between people. And she would agree with everything that I instructed her [to do], and it was successful—the funeral of her father (grandfather). So those things were spent little by little. Each of my relatives presented an ox to that, so they were all used for the burial. Now all of a sudden I was in real trouble, and those oxen weren't there. The sarete had crumbled [due to termites], there was no one to maintain it. All those possessions went their way until [I was as] I am now on this visit right now.

What was the reason behind the loss of those things, that sarete, those cattle, those possessions, what were they all used for?
It was as I've been telling you, in the midst of these hard years that we have to take them to have a funeral. One cannot leave out a funeral. That's everything one occupies herself with day and night. Gone, gone now are the oxen, gone are the goats, the sarete broke down long ago, but I sold all of the axle parts. What can you do if your mother is dead, your father dies, most of the family is gone? Everything falls on your chest.

Don't you have a brother, or a son, who would say to you, "Don't get into it, Mum, let us handle the gifts (animals) required." Have you no such succour?
Here in our land—the life of the Tandroy is very difficult. If you don't have they'll help you but you still must do your utmost. I have some brothers out there, maybe they'll help. There are some younger brothers out there, if they have a mind to they'll help. Even in that birth, and since birth, suffering carries one along. Mm! and there is no one to support me.

In your community here, now if one has great wealth in animals, in cattle, in goats, does he flaunt that or what does he do with all that stock?
If a man has a lot of cattle here, he does not know how to humble himself, but is arrogant. Say at a funeral, I haven't seen anyone of whom one could say "the man is simple". He is always proud, but with us here, our case, it's sorrow, humility, and is not even that which is required of us in the Holy Scriptures, but just the way we are, the position we're in forces us to be humble, especially now that I'm becoming an orphan (through loss of relatives). I can't stand anything dirty. I'd rather be just here in the middle. But of people in this day and age, there is too much pride, fuelled by alcohol. He who has wealth, that rich man mitrèñe (bellows like a bull).

How was this, that which you were talking about, that wealth in animals, ten years ago? Has it always been the same? Or has it changed in that time—on the subject of wealth?
What I can say - and we had cattle too - is that people had self-respect, they knew how to value themselves, and were not over-proud. Now the ox was truly king in those days, even the goat had authority, but they brought it in submission, today however it's gone overboard with pride. If he has 10 head or six head of cattle, then that liquor brings on boastfulness.

How was the submission of those rich people in former times, what was the character of that humility?
Before, his attitude towards those animals was that of raising them towards need, and he'd say: "These animals belong to the Creator God", thus he then had no grounds for pride. The life of those before, not unlike myself, I'll gird up my life (tighten my belt). That pertains to those people before, not that I witnessed too much then, but that's how life was in former times.

You said there that you had better harvests before and poorer ones now, might there have been some method of agriculture you employed back then that you have left behind? Is there any change in how you practise farming? Lest there was some practice of yours back then that you ought to consider employing again.
The custom…

I mean your cultivation before.
Our farming before… just a minute [quiet as if pondering]. Agriculture, before, that's what I've been telling about over and over, that we had good harvests back then. You plant those vañemba, that corn, those watermelons, whatever you set yourself to, then you go home, and the rain comes. When it produced you then sold it, though the prices were low back then, you sold that, and purchased goats, purchased cattle, and purchased chickens. But things were very cheap in those days. I heard of it from my mother when she was still alive, that everything was of low price that was planted and that kinaña. So then she'd say: "We'll buy chickens as the basis for our livelihood". That done we'd then purchase a goat because we'd move forward little by little. Things were well ordered, says my mother, before; but things at this time! Mhmhn! I don't know how to make a living at this time, one tries, but mhmhn!

How did this come about? I mean with your farming?
How did it happen? It came about due to our receiving no rain. You made a real attempt, but in vain if there's no rain. A human being works at it, but for the lack of rain there is no response to his effort!

Now beyond agriculture, what other kind of work do you do to raise your children - as there isn't that money today? So how do you work to find money to raise your children?
In my life not so long ago, I bought eggs in Monday, then in Thursday (the names of local markets according to the day they take place) and out to Ambotry (20km west), and brought those eggs to sell in Fort Dauphin. On one of those trips it didn't go well, the eggs all broke—how many days did I do that round trip to Fort Dauphin (two day trip)? Transported them in view of those young ones, where? Zero! So I changed that, then I worked as kinanga (fish seller) every noon time, on those fish down there in Faux Cap, that is there had to be a catch that day, for if not, you'd leave empty-handed [sound of hand slapping elbow]. But if the catch was good, we'd work those fish until night and walk all night to Tsihombe (40km).  We were about six women, five women. They (the fishermen) having caught again we'd race to meet them coming in, to catch the canoes coming in. We'd make little by little, but it would happen that people's money would rot in there (the fish that had been in the canoe too long would rot) and we'd have to run to and from just to reimburse the loss of someone's money. But you refuse to give it all back at once in that a kapoake (daily bread) must come out of that also. So the only profit was a little on the money of others. We'd not release all the fish for we had yet to buy food for the young ones. That's how we lived in those days. Then it came to the point, I'm too exhausted with this chasing the buck for my children, I'll go back to my spade, and the chance beañe (the root of a weed whose leaf resembles that of the sweet potato). So I came back to the use of my spade until now, [this time] that we are visiting. So that's how I raised my children.

That's how you sustained your children?

Now at this time, you have that ship that's sunk out there, and you were just telling about how you worked as a fish seller running fish for your support, now what effect has that ship on your trade, on your livelihood?
True we can't use the fish, due to the fact that ship that went aground out there. If we went down there, they say: "You can't eat the fish here". That was the word about that thing pertaining to that ship sunk out there. And so that work is stopped. Those fishermen, those seamen, they are in sorrowful dire straits. But those of us up here that work the spade, we can pick greens here and there, we can pick around these sweet potatoes, but of those fishermen, they're a sorry lot. They just do this [she makes a motion to indicate sitting]. They do what they--but word has it they can't eat the fish from the sea. That's why those fishermen are in such dire straits, but we out here, we can pick here and there, and [find] those sweet potato leaves. If the ban lifts, then my [grand]children will go to the sea when they get out of class, and gather (as a bird pecks) cowry shells, that's what they eat and… what's the name of that thing? - drakake (a kind of crab), and that's what they bring back. How could we afford fish, they're expensive? I'm not a tihy manam-pitondra (a mat having a carrier) that could carry all that is seen, but this is all you can hope for, why hope beyond what that spade can do? But if on the other hand, you could do sales of small goods, did fandrosoañe (development; she means buying and selling) then you might be eating like humans, even greens, if you did fandrosoañe. But there is no money (capital) available to do this so that you'd be free to eat what you liked, Mm!

So that's how it is?
The forest before was complete, one could even find dry wood, that was a long time ago, for we used to fetch firewood from that forest up on the high road. The forest was complete (diverse) then. When we'd go fetching before, we'd say: "Here's some", but not at this time. There's none, the forest is gone. When we go up there to look now it's only green wood available. In the old days we could just pull off dry branches and go home. Now it's difficult to find firewood.

You are talking about fetching wood, what do you do with that wood?
I'm not going to tell a lie and claim that I've ever sold wood  in my life. I only burn it. So I send those children after wood in my effort to support them.

So I don't sell wood, but burn it immediately, I'm too tired from that weeding to turn around and fetch wood for sale, mm!

You were saying that the forest before was thick and now it's very thin, can you tell why that's happening?
You mean before…
[repeats her question above]
You mean the former as against now?

Yes, [repeats question again using different vocabulary]
In former days the elder who managed that joro did not approve of anyone overusing the forest, but now we don't have that and all do as they please, especially those with cattle.

So that's the reason for it?
That is what keeps the cattle alive, the forest, for there is no grass for them, the cattle are in there ripping it apart. That's why there's none.

So how do the cattle bring this condition upon you?
That is the ox will take that sharp amatse (type of Euphorbia) leaf in his mouth and tear it from the stalk. The ox chews that to survive. There is nothing else for him to eat. Now that's been going on for a long time, and the forest is now getting thin.

Now is there here in Faux Cap anyone who due to the loss of the forest, or due to the general famine says, "I can't survive down here, I'm going to pull up and go away"?
Hoo!  Aren't they being broken on that trip, they die along the way. This fleeing the famine. It fell on me also and on my father and his younger brother. We ran away in '86 and died (suffered) faaar (spreads out the word for effect of distance) into the land of Bekitro, to run away from that famine. After that the people up there did an accounting (probably worked for pay) until they could make it back down here. But from that forest, there is nothing we could sell. Our life is really difficult here when the rains do not fall. They're all lost up in the cities trying to survive. If they do save some money they come back here.

Now why did they leave this place, your community, to seek a blade of grass up north?
They leave this village because they want to become like other people, saying: "Me too, I'd like to be like those others!" Arriving abroad, they are not blessed as they dreamed, and remain ages up there. They stay forever up there because their yearnings weren't met. They'd just like to be like people. So if it's not according to his dreams, a person stays up there and becomes one of them, dwelling up there.

To you, what is the advantage of migration? The advantage of fifindra-moniñe (a non-Tandroy expression for migration)?
Ty fitondra-moneñe (arranging of a household)?

No, fifindra-moniñe
That fifindra-moneñe… [repeats, testing the big word on her tongue], that is to say:  one will be  blessed if she relies on the Fragrant Prince in his attempts, but if you don't exert yourself, it will not be different from living down here, he'll live just like he lived down here. But if one really tries, in that migration, the Creator will respond. If you work at it, but if you do the way you did down here before you left, it won't work. Now as I dwell here, I do my utmost to raise those children, and although poor we get along, and they make an effort in school in that EPP and those grades of T2, T5, T4, T3 (various grades at school), and then they move to the CEG (pre-secondary). And they work at it. Now their exertion is not mine here, but theirs for themselves—they do daba-rano, that's how they support themselves (in school).

What's the reason you educate your [grand]children, what profit do you gain from sending them to school?
Regarding raising…

No, regarding education!
The reason I educate them, I say to them: "Go to school you children, for even though you are orphans owning nothing, the Fragrant Prince knows. So try hard at school." For we don't know - but they are exerting themselves in school even as we speak. Now they should be here now for they convene at 2pm and at 4pm. That's why they're sitting around out there. They still try.

What do you see as an advantage to them being in school? What made you  want to educate your children?
I'd like them to exert themselves, that's why I want them to learn, so that they might have a means of making a living wherever they go out there. But if there's no one to support at that end, and no way for them to get going, there's still that desire that they will put their hearts into it. If you'd like to learn even when there is no means… for some have dropped out. Whatever they can attain then one has that hope that they'll make the effort, for I would not have them [with me] forever. For at that time they would support themselves. And that's why I want them to try hard, to succeed, and progress, but then if it isn't for them what can we say? Mm!

What kind of changes have you witnessed in schooling, for instance was there a school 10 years ago?
These schools: there was only one school in Faux Cap before.

How long has that been there?
Hake! That's been there for a long time, since I was a child. Well, there was one school building with a causerina tree, that was crosswise like this. [she points] Oh! Please excuse me for pointing at you! (It's extremely bad manners)

Oh, that's okay.
West--somewhat north of the Délégué here… the building was crosswise west to east. That's where they had all those grades, but they still didn't have these CEG's. They are new. They had T2, T1, T5, T3, T4. That's the only school I've seen in all that time. But now there are schools all over this land, there's progress.

What changes have you seen in education here?
The changes, it's been a long time that I've been educating my children [and grandchildren], but there is no progress since then and beyond. It may be changing with this CEG, there is a director appointed there now. And this year we should have been helped by the Fragrant Prince and have all of them passing, as this director has been installed there.

What changes then have you seen?
All of these schools that have been started up and scattered over this land, the canteen (food) for the youngsters, is going well. And there are those selected out of the parents to cook for them. That there is a meal for all of the small children is what I see as the biggest progress in those schools.

Okay so that's the progress you've seen to come out of the schools. Now tell me how you receive your news.
You mean the news on how the food situation is progressing?

No! How do you hear the vaovao (official news) from Tsihombe, what's going on up there, how is that delivered to you here? Beyond the bounds of this fokontany.  
Oh beyond our fokontany!… I don't usually… that is I don't often travel so that I would hear anything. I'm just here and stuck here, and then in my field, those are the limits. And so…

Where would you hear that?
There's no problemo that I hear thus and so about. It's not…

For example...
With all the pleas we've made to this current mayor, from way back; I don't know what to answer to that, so it remains that we work hard at making a living, to survive. Mm. But since the establishing of this—mmm—I don't know what to call him, mother (out of politeness).

Now if you had some money, a small amount, where would you store it?
One doesn't know the amount, if it would suffice, but we'd raise chickens, we'd raise goats, and then stuff some in the cracks to be found tomorrow. The small change would go to filling that kapoake (provide food to eat). So if there were a good amount it would go into husbanding chickens and goats, and the remainder for a pill (medicine) tomorrow. That's how we put away funds when it's significant.

Now how about hospitals, what changes have there been in your lives, given that there is a hospital now? Have you no hospitals?
Oh you mean now!

So what changes have occurred in your life since the hospitals have been installed as opposed to before when there were none?
Then, if we were treated at all it would be in Tsihombe (40km), that is in Tsihombe back then, and the district one was in Ambovombe (110km). But at this time, people are blessed, blessed since all the hospitals are now close. In every town - I say every town but I mean every fokontany – there's a clinic in every fokontany now. Blessed!  - But back then! If one was really sick, they'd be carried like a baby to Tsihombe, unless one had a sarete, carried all the way to Tsihombe to seek medicine. That was before.

So now that you have hospitals local to you?
That we have hospitals close by?

Yes, considering you had to walk all the way to Tsihombe before.
Now, what's in our thoughts when we get sick is to go to the nearer hospital, to be treated by the doctor. And considering he's been sent from elsewhere to do this work, they'll get well who get well; and who won't get well won't, but the terminal patient is not his responsibility.

So now if your child is sick, where will you take her?
I'd take her to Faux Cap… Faux Cap is our centre. Before it was exhausting to have to carry patients all the way to Tsihombe. It's easy now that the hospital is at hand for treatment. And now our child recovers when taken to the hospital, but not before. It was too long a haul to Tsihombe. It's very tiring to carry that child against your chest all the way to Tsihombe. Rest here, rest there. But here we're blessed. People are all pleased that there is now a hospital.

Now we'll talk about development work: have there been any associations or NGOs that have worked among you, and how have you benefited from them?

What organizations have worked with you here?
On these organizations we--we haven't very often been associated with those organizations, so I can't really tell you what progress if any has come from them, to be able to report such or such to you. Or..! We just recently, thanks to the Fragrant Prince have discovered something.

What projects work with you here? Has Nutri-mad been here, has Project so and so, been here? Even if they don't exist now and were disbanded, was there some benefit from them? 
I don't follow that very well. I haven't touched any of those. That's what I mean by saying I don't follow this about a project now or before… Now I have heard say that there is some cornmeal being distributed, there are some pails, things like mosquito nets. Whatever is called a thing, I've heard it talked of, cups, soap (every object is expressed with doubling speech like kopikopy instead of kopy for cup to indicate that the teller has not seen, but only been told of the thing). I've heard of all those things, cups and soap, etc, I do understand. I've seen a little development. At Faux Cap I've seen - excuse me but I don't want to point toward you - Anovy. I've seen that the women with weak children all go up there. I've seen that and it seems to be progressing and in Bema (the centre 5km north). And they get cups, and pails, and soap. I've seen it up at the fokontany of Bema (centre). And we thank you sincerely for coming to the meeting we scheduled, and you will help this land progress, and we, in the time before worship begins, have organized what may be called an association, that requires effort. It's now finally that we've received [support]. But we in this fokontany of Bema, from that long time ago, some will receive and some will not receive (meaning she has not).

Now let's say you were appointed to be in charge of development, what kind of work would you undertake?
What I would do… Now there is that which is called an association, but the custom of us Tandroy, and [raises voice in anger] there is that which you would undertake toward progress, but there are always those who would chase you. Eee there is that jealousy. "She's propagated a lie and bought her position so she could make as if it was her wealth that put her up there." That's the problem with our land here… But what I'd really like to do toward progress I can see before me, I'd like to set up commerce for fampandrosoana (development) and another one that would work for progress is to husband goats, but goats--this land is dead, and the goats subsequently die also. That light commerce would really progress, or even things to plant whether they succeed or don't make it. Those are the kinds of things I'd hope for support for this land, little by little.

Now—our time being almost up—about water, the water you drink, can you describe any differences in the water you drink now compared with ten years ago?
The water and its change to date: before if there wasn't rain the water would be salty. But now the water we drink, it's as if it's refrigerated. Wonderful, the way it's changed, for it used to be very salty before.

What do you suppose brought about that change?
Let me think about this a minute [they laugh]. Actually I don't know why that should be, but I have heard that before the water came from the sea (the wells are on the beach). Now at this time, I don't know if it is true or false, but they say the water comes from up here. From Amboasary (where the Mandrare river is)2, and I don't know how to explain that some of the water has been like sea water and now it's like iced (fresh) water.3

Okay now that we've talked at length about the past and present of your life, what do you think about your future? Can you first tell me something that brought joy to your life?
Now let me say to you Nene (formal term for mother) that you'd much rather have lived in former times than endured the struggles of this time. Life today, you want to run, and you do the work with much effort, but what comes of it? It's gone, doesn't succeed. You'd like that field to progress, you do everything for it… you just wish to be like a human being, if He gives just a little, that you could buy a chicken, then a little more.

Okay but what I'm really after is what joy happened in your life?
The happiness I experienced in my lifetime: I have those children who went to Majunga, and there was some progress, and they bought cattle, so I said, "I'm happy, I'm going to offer my thanks in church", and we offered our thanks in church, and we were celebrating here, and I told them, don't you suppose we should offer thanks with that chicken here at our place, so we did that with the chicken (they made a meal of it for their boy). That was the joy we had when my boy came home bringing that news.

So that was a high point in your life?
Yes, but if you ask me about our lives right now, I'd have nothing to tell you. There's no reason for joy. The reason I say none, Nene, is that nothing succeeds. Just exhaustion, morning and night, it's like we will never eat those greens, there is nothing to bring joy. 

Now what do you look forward to, your wishes for the future?
When I let myself think on those lines, I'd really - like to be like a human being. I could be a human being with the help of a little fund, so that I could begin to sell goods (have a small store). But then I couldn't sustain those children on the store alone, so I would have some of them manage the farming. That one would handle the digging while I sold. Those are my thoughts, if there was one who could manage the field I would also make an effort.

That's then what…
What I'd wish to pursue. 

Thank you Mme François for being our guest and giving up this precious time to visit…

1/ Translator's note: She is referring to a weak soup, made with just a few leaves, no heavy food that might hamper the swirling Had there been rain the harvest would have been better, and there would be more in the kettle than a watery soup.

2/ Translator note: it is highly unlikely that water from Amboasary, 150km east, would feed the aquifer of Faux Cap; the Manambovo of Tsihombe would have a much greater effect, as would the whole sandy littoral area north of Faux Cap for these are shallow wells of about 10m. 

3/ Translator note: The reason is fairly simple. Years of drawing tens' of thousands of litres out of that well has not only "developed" it to draw water more easily from the incoming fresh aquifer, but also has washed out the salt adhering to the sand particles. So in a sense what she had heard and retained is correct: the old salty taste did originate from the sea, and the current fresh quality is that the uphill fresh water now holds sway.