On a hill amidst unkempt grass and wild vegetation in the outskirts of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, stands a shabby-looking wooden hut, surrounded by banana trees and other makeshift shelters.  A few feet below, a middle-aged woman is attending to a few customers that come to buy a few items at her food stand. Her name is Honorine, and the hut is her home. Her life has substantially improved thanks to a USAID-funded food security program.

Christopher La Fargue, FFP Officer, buys fruit at Honorine’s shop. Photo: Bruno Rasamoel

Christopher La Fargue, FFP Officer, buys fruit at Honorine’s shop. Photo: Bruno Rasamoel

ASA or Ankohonana Sahirana Arenina (promotion of vulnerable families) is one of the five social protection centers partnering with CRS in Antananarivo to provide technical assistance and training, as well as food rations, to poor families in this teeming city.  Annually, the center identifies about 40 extremely vulnerable households –mostly headed by women—and provides them with training in an income-generating activity that will help them earn a decent living. The beneficiaries come to the center for a 10-month training, and receive a monthly food ration of corn-soy blend, fortified cooking oil, and rice. On completion of their training, the beneficiaries are given some equipment to help start the business of their choice.

Julienne is one beneficiary of the project, who received training and equipment from the center. She started pig farming in 2010, and she has ever since increased her livestock by 300 percent. Using the sales proceeds, she has embarked on brickmaking and is now building a house for her family.

Germaine used to do the laundry for a living, which would barely help her make ends meet. Joining the center helped her save some money, which she used to buy a sewing machine and start a sewing business. She then diversified into chicken farming and earned enough money to send her children to school. The farming is doing very well, and Germaine is now turning her mud house into a brick home.

Bodo, another beneficiary, is the widowed mother of five children. She felt ostracized earlier because she was poor, and her neighbors and relatives would look down on her. Her life improved soon after joining ASA as she could earn and even save money thanks to chicken farming. She was able to buy new clothes for her and her family, and the neighbors are now more considerate and respectful. Our life has changed thanks to the center and USAID’s support, she said.

With the help of the center, Honorine started a small food stand selling homemade soup, doughnuts, noodles, fruit, and other vegetables. Although she still lives in a wooden hut near a garbage dump, her life has improved. With the money that she saved, she bought two pigs that are kept in the countryside, and she is confident her life will continue to improve, as she has seen with her fellow ASA peers.

Ms. Sarah, the ASA project coordinator spoke highly of the project that helped many vulnerable families improve their living condition. Eight hundred and forty families in Antananarivo have benefited from the project since its start in 2009, and 2,549 people among the five social protection centers throughout the country. Although the food security program ends in June of this year, and the distribution of food rations ceased last September, her center will continue to provide training to the most vulnerable in the city, and she is seeking to expand the ASA activity with other donor support.