Page 4 - savanov2013newsletter

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P A G E 4
V O L . 2 , N O . 3
N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 3
Well, maybe not exactly “to the rescue”, but now that I have
your attention, there is plenty to be optimistic about in terms
of a food alternative to rice and manioc grown by “tavy” (slash
and burn) method. SAVA Conservation (SC) has begun
collaboration with CARE International, who is promoting the
cultivation of yams (
sp.), locally known as ovybe
(“big potato”). Yams can weigh up to 35kg each and are far
more sustainable to grow in that repeated clearing and
burning of land is not necessary between the growing seasons.
There are nutritional benefits as well, since yams contain more
fiber than rice and are definitely less toxic than manioc which
contributes directly to goiter and requires considerable
processing to remove naturally occurring cyanide. Yams are
also much more resistant to cyclones (as they are entirely
underground) than manioc and we are even told that rats
won’t eat yams so they can be stored safely for up two years
after harvesting which is considerably longer than rice as well!
In northern Madagascar at least, yams are already considered
somewhat tasty as street vendors sometimes serve a sweet
yam porridge called “soaba”. Wild yams (“ovy-ala” or “potato
of the forest”) are sometimes illegally extracted from nearby
protected areas (Marojejy and Anjanaharibe-Sud); encouraging
local cultivation should also reduce habitat disturbance in
these reserves.
A well-attended training in yam cultivation was carried out
in September near the SC demonstration fish farming pond at
Ambodivohitra. Yam sets were then planted on adjoining land
at the site, which is owned by project friend Desiré Rabary. As
with the fish pond, the yam plantation will serve as an easily
visible demonstration site, which will encourage local people
to try planting the tuberous crop. In the future, taro may also
be grown there as it is more valuable than yams, considered
more delicious, but is much smaller in size and a little more
difficult to grow.
Tavy cultivation of rice on an overcrowded landscape is the
single most important contributor to forest destruction and
degradation throughout eastern Madagascar. Offering a
reasonable alternative will hopefully help to reduce tavy in the
SAVA region, and at the same time provide local people with a
nutritious substitute for the ubiquitous rice and manioc.
Ovybe to the Rescue!
Yam cultivation training by representative from CARE
Photo by Lanto Andrianandrasana
Preparation of planting holes for yams at Ambodivohitra
demonstration site.
Photo by Lanto Andrianandrasana
By Charlie Welch and Dr. Erik Patel
Dr. Erik Patel holding a yam (in his right hand) and taro (in
his left hand) .
Photo by Lanto Andrianandrasana