Manantane Babay: spreading the risk

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Manantane Babay: spreading the risk

"Indeed [education is] important, but it was my affliction that caused me to leave," says 19-year-old Manatane Babay, from Tanandava in Androy, southern Madagascar. After the death of his father Manatane found his "head wouldn't work any more" and he left school at the age of 11 to help support the family. His story focuses on the ways in which he has tried to ensure a livelihood.

Manatane relates that he "planted, planted, planted, planted" for four years before deciding to migrate in search of work. He took several jobs as a rickshaw-puller but could scarcely make enough to survive: "…that suffering had no end, it only got worse…" At one point he worked in a gypsum mine: "I dug and dug, and blistered my hands, it wasn't working either," he explains. He is now back in his home village, farming and fishing.

Agriculture nowadays is "very difficult, for the lack of rainfall", according to Manatane. "…[Before], the rains were eager to come, now they don't come at all, or seldom. There's no food nearby, and at market all the kapaoke (standard measure of grain, 285gm) are costly."  He advocates more collective farming, with a shared granary.

"When not farming I'm fishing, netting, diving, paddling…," Manatane says. However, fishing, like farming, is an erratic livelihood, as he explains: "…Sometimes for the catch of the net, there is no one to purchase it. So we… eat part and smoke the rest, the next day the sea may be rough and we can't work, so we take from those smoked and eat them. The weather is nice, we go with our hooks, we catch fish, then no one buys. There's no one that fetches them for export. If there is someone to take them...we give them up." He continues, "The money from that will purchase the kapoake to eat, will purchase a chicken, and when that income reaches in the thousands to 10,000 ariary1 (5 US$) we purchase chickens, or clothes to wear. That's fishing."

Manatane own his own net and fishing line; "but for the canoe I'm in an association," he explains. "Occasionally I'm not able to get up early enough and won't get a place on the canoe as there are many of us, and it fills fast, so I sit [around]." He states that assistance to enable him to buy a canoe and a shark net "would really make me alive, raise me up".

He stresses the importance of young people continuing with traditional livelihoods. "Education is good, but [a young person] must learn how to fish at the same time…", he insists. "Farming cannot be going on too far from him…he'll be in that as well. But in fishing he must be an expert, for when the rains don't come and there's nothing to eat, he can go to the sea for some urchin, net for some fish, and be free of want that day."


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