Randriamahefa: progress through migration
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Randriamahefa: progress through migration22 décembre 2014
Randriamahefa, aged 49 and a father of 10, lives inTanandava, in Androy, southern Madagascar. Much of his story is about how he has responded to challenges and opportunities over the years.
As a child, as soon as he could "handle a spade", Randriamahefa "learned to plant". His father died when he was very young, his mother had 11 children and "there was no other means of livelihood than the spade", he says. Later he worked as a herder, receiving one cow a year as payment.
Randriamahefa married at 18. He and his wife gradually improved their circumstances through careful management of resources, particularly cattle. "I had five cattle…," he says, "and bought the land with three of those cattle… And time went on…the children were multiplying…so I built a house of fatiolotse (boards), selling one of the cattle and… finally living in a wooden house."
After the birth of their sixth child Randriamahefa left for the north of the country, where he "chased every avenue of making money" and mostly worked as a security guard. Five years later he went home, having saved enough to buy a plough, an ox-cart and other equipment. When "destiny changed again" he went to work in a sapphire mine. "…After a long time," he says, "I had amassed some savings and went home, buying cattle, having found that small stone (sapphire)…"
After the birth of a seventh child Randriamahefa's fortunes changed drastically when all his cattle died of famine. He then turned to fishing. "Now the lobster trade was improving, and I learned the ways of the sea…," he says. His lobster fishing was successful and "we improved our living… [we] bought goats, bought chickens, bought turkeys…" But Randriamahefa decided to migrate again: "I said to my wife, ‘though this work of the sea, this fishing, can fill our stomachs, it can't put clothes on us, we won't find possessions in it, so I'd rather go.'"
This time he went to farm in Majunga, under various share-cropping arrangements, finally enjoying "a massive harvest" of peanuts, which allowed him to go home again and buy farming equipment and 30 cattle. However, after a while he decided to sell some of his cattle and build a stone house as a form of investment for the future.
Randriamahefa now has 10 fields and is growing tomatoes and papaya, which sell well enough for him to "obtain small savings little by little". However, production is generally poor, he says, "…due to the loss of nutrients in that soil" and because sometimes "the rains don't come". Recently, he has had some success with growing sorghum.
Although he no longer goes to sea himself he is aware of the problem of overfishing in their local waters. Since neither farming nor fishing are productive these days, and because "maybe there won't be room in a few years" for everyone to have land, Randriamahefa hopes his children will have professional jobs. "We've seen those who have been to school and are now teachers," he says. "…[A teacher] doesn't weed – that work handed down by our ancestors –… He doesn't suffer… His salary clothes him."
Randriamahefa explains how health service delivery has improved in his community. He explains that people still use traditional remedies for some ailments. "[My] stomach might be upset, so I'll run to the forest for a certain herb… So according to the illness, I know whether to use herbs or to go to the hospital", he says.
Asked about priorities for development work, he says that what is "close to my heart" is stabilising the sand dune that has "six of our ancestors buried under it" and is now invading the fields. His personal aspiration is to have a grocery store "because those little stores bring an income". He adds that such a store "isn't just for one person, but serves the whole community".