Promoting Natural Agriculture as a Cost-effective Alternative to Pesticide
By Shumei International and AGRINATURE Association

Overview

In 2013, AGRINATURE Association partnered with Shumei International to develop a Natural Agriculture project to help local farmers restore the land and reduce their reliance on agro-chemical inputs. The partnership was based on a mutual respect for nature and a desire to address the shift in Malagasy farming practices that was leading to greater land degradation. Natural Agriculture projects were established in three regions, and the projects included educational programs for farmers, Natural Agriculture farm sites and school gardens. In only a few years, community members have seen an improvement in rice harvests and this has gained the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture.  Plans are now underway to expand the project and increase farmer education programs across the country.

Challenges

In Madagascar, approximately 75% of the population is farmers and the majority of them cultivate rice. There are more than 5,000 varieties of rice in the country, and it is among the world’s leading consumers of rice, with 138 kg/ per capita consumed a year. However, the push towards conventional farming practices has encouraged farmers to buy expensive farming equipment and agricultural inputs, such as hybrid seeds, fertilizers and chemical pesticides. As a result many farmers are not able to be self-sufficient in growing their own food. The introduction of these artificial inputs has also impacted the island’s natural ecological balance, leading to land degradation and insect infestations.

Strategies

AGRINATURE and Shumei developed various strategies to introduce Natural Agriculture to local communities by:

  • Raising awareness of Natural Agriculture as an effective and cost-efficient way to restore the natural ecological balance of the land and manage insects and biodiversity without the use of harmful chemicals
  • Educating farmers and their families about the true costs of conventional agriculture and its impact on their health and the health of their enviornment
  • Demonstrating the Natural Agriculture approach and that it is possible to grow food and important crops such as vanilla and rice without the use of agricultural  inputs

Implementation

Natural Agriculture Project Site: Antananarivo

AGRINATURE began raising awareness of the problems associated with excessive chemical use and presented Natural Agriculture as an alternative. They also enlisted farmers to adopt Natural Agriculture practices in villages throughout the region. Their activities included:

  • Educating farmers, especially women farmers
  • Establishing programs in two public primary schools
  • Creating a model farm in Ambohimila and a rice growing farm project in Ambohimahatsinjo
  • Providing guidance to local farmers interested in introducing Natural Agriculture
  • Distributing natural seeds for farmers to start their Natural Agriculture plots
  • Helping farmers to create compost from the local environment instead of using chemical fertilizers or manure.
  • Distributing Natural Agriculture crops produced by local farmers to villages

Natural Agriculture Project Site: Sambava


Madagascar is the leading producer of vanilla globally. The unique flavor is due to the conditions of the soil and the climate, which are fundamental to its taste. In order to meet the high demand for vanilla, many farmers believe they must use chemical inputs to increase their yields. At this Natural Agriculture project site, AGRINATURE and Shumei wanted to demonstrate the ability to grow natural vanilla in northern Madagascar that would retain the quality of the Malagasy vanilla while eliminating all chemical inputs. In order to do this, Shumei and AGRINATURE:

  • Started working with planters through the local authorities and the Regional Office of Agricultural Development SAVA of the Ministry of Agriculture as their local partners
  • Established a Shumei/ AGRINATURE model farm   to produce natural vanilla following the tenants of Natural Agriculture
  • Created the demand for Natural Agriculture vanilla through the Miho Museum, which is using the vanilla to make ice cream at their restaurants

Natural Agriculture Project Site: Anjiro

In Anjiro, the focus is on the traditional Malagasy farming culture and the future generations of farmers in Madagascar. For this site, Shumei and AGRINATURE created a “Field School”, where activities include:

  • Teaching students traditional growing methods and the benefits of Natural Agriculture
  • Enabling students to grow their own Natural Agriculture vegetables
  • Distributing the produce from their Field School to parents

Impact and Results

Shumei and AGRINATURE’s collaboration has shown Malagasy farmers the value of their ancestors’ traditional farming practices and the benefit of incorporating Natural Agriculture, such as:

  • The restoration of the land to promote beneficial insects and soil microorganisms
  • The cost-effectiveness of saving seeds and eliminating agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides
  • The consumption of pure and natural foods for overall health and well-being

After viewing the results of Natural Agriculture programs in Ambohimahatsinjo, where locusts did not attack the Natural Agriculture rice, the Minister of Agriculture became convinced that Natural Agriculture could be an effective alternative to pesticides. In addition, by eliminating chemical fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics, Madagascar could save up to $100M a year and invest these savings in other development initiatives. Currently, the State and AGRINATURE Association are working together to explain the benefits of Natural Agriculture to farmers and expand its adoption.

Additional plans for expanding the Natural Agriculture partnership in Madagascar include:

  • Creating another demonstration farm
  • Working at the policy level to influence decision-makers
  • Establishing three rice growing demonstration sites in Antananarivo and three sites in the Southwest
  • Conducting agriculture programs in public and primary schools, orphanages and with the Boy Scouts
  • Expanding seed-saving and distribution with a focus on rice
  • Marketing Natural Agriculture products at local markets
  • Organizing visits between farmers to exchange views and share best practices