his is the oldest traditional king (ampanjaka) that was still alive during our field trip. He passed away August 2019. At this picture he is 96 years old. While he lost his official power due to age, he still had important symbolic power. The village will now elect a new king, which entails a transition from the traditional political system to the official administration. Like elsewhere in Madagascar, customary law is grounded in traditions that both coexist and conflict with the statutory law system, which is largely an externally imposed system based on French law. Western ideas about land ownership have to be understood very differently in the context of Marofarihy, where land has not only an economic value but often also an existential meaning.
The rural community of Marofarihy lies 15 km west of Manakary city, in the region Vitovavy Fitovinany, which is one of the poorest regions in the country. The easiest way to reach Marofarihy centre is by ‘taxi-brousse’, but the other sub-villages are mostly only accessible by foot or motorbike.
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Political and administrative structure
Marofarihy means ‘a lot of rice fields’, which is the main source of subsistence in this village. The total land surface of the whole village is 75 km2. In 2003, the population counted 8.382, which has doubled in 2018 to 16.232 (photo below).
The commune consists of 5 sub-villages or fokontany that are dispersed between 3 - 9 kilometers. Two of the five fokontany - Ambotaka and Mideboka - are considered first-comers of the land (tompon-tany or autochthonous), and still adhere to a traditional structure. While the other three fokontany, Ambohimandroso en Alakamisy Anivosoa are inhabited by migrants, who have settled there around 60 years ago. These are governed by ‘official’ administration. These different systems have a profound impact on the value of land and the ways in which access to land is arranged.
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Marofarihy centre: the market
Marofarihy centre also forms the fokontany Marofarihy itself, which is the centre of town. It is strategically located along the train route, and every Thursday the market attracts people from far away to trade, work, socialize, drink and play. Since the construction of two pumps around the marketplace, villagers feel much healthier as the food they make, sell and buy is clean and everybody can drink directly from the tap.
Traditional fabrics for sale on the market.
The roofed market place in Marofarihy centre.
Catch of the day.
Women sell locally sourced honey.
The pump at the market place in the centre of the village.
People use the pump a lot just to drink a cup of water.
This family is selling jack fruit on the market, a type of food that is eaten a lot in the eara.
Also birds are traded on the weekly market.
Marofarihy is connected by the train route FCE (Fianarantsoa Côte Est), and the Route Nationale RN12. The train rails covers 162 km and is the only functioning train in Madagascar, which has therefore an importan economic and infrastructural function. It is a spectacular journey and leaves one full of awe for the amount of cargo that people manage to take accumulate during the trip.
People make use of the abundance of rain that falls in the rainy season and they try to capture as much water as possible.
This is the main medical centre in Marofarihy. As is visible on the pictures, the conditions are deplorable. There is a lack of good infrastructure (beds, matrassess, washing facilities etc.), lack of medicines that forces the health practitioners to recycle already used needles and to work with impure equipment.
Also the schools face a lack of material. There is generally a lack of pens, books, or pencils and not all families can afford to buy them.The teachers are paid by the parents of the students. Their salaries depend on the school.
This 99 year-old lady finds it too far to walk to the pump so she get her water from the open well on her terrain. She does not drink it directly, but cooks with it. Sometimes she asks other people to get her clean water from the pump and people are always willing to help
International women’s day
International women’s day (8th of March) is a big celebration where a lot of different women’s groups come together to sing, dance and talk about the ongoing developments and politics in the village.
When we arrived in Marofarihy we learned that since our last visit, a new mayor had been appointed. He received us with a very warm welcome and expressed his deep gratitude to us about the water pumps. Furthermore, he told us that there are still 17 requests for new water pumps from different communities. He explained that since the 2016-2017 drought, there was a big influx of people from all over the region who came to ask for water. Particularly since that drought, the motivation for everybody in the village to use the water responsibly has increased: “Everybody now knows how important potable water is. r is. Even my old mother, who always used to get water from the river, is now taking water from the pumps". He also mentioned that since the construction of the first pump 10 years ago, a lot of awareness has taken place, and he has seen behavioural change in relation to water use, which is always a slow process.
The main challenges for him as a mayor is the lack of finances, so he cannot make any investments for the development of the village, like the water pumps for example. Despite the fact that Marofarihy has a higher standard of living since there is potable water, it remains very poor and many people continue to struggle every day for their subsistence.