2 focus groups in one day, exhausting but very insightful

From Wednesday afternoon on we were in Antsohihy, an urban municipality, the capital of Sofia region located about 120km from Port-Bergé. Here we planed two focus-group for the morning of Thursday, September 15th. It has been organized with the valuable assistance of the UNICEF team Tana but also Mr Nabile and Mr. Didon from the ZAP (Educational Administration Zone) in Antsohihy. The villages of Ambodibonara and Antanambao are two neighboring villages, respectively 40km and 37km southly of Antsohihy. UNICEF has built in these villages classrooms as part of their program “Child-friendly-school”, and classrooms have kept their promise, very child-friendly! but unfortunately without electricity.

Our focus villages: Antanambao and Ambodibonara

Although both villages are practically neighbors, distant of only 3km from each other, habits and energy behavior are present some differences. Antanambao is smaller, but the villagers were more open and were engaged more actively in the discussions we have initiated. Antanambao wakes up at 5am, and falls asleep again at 9PM. The village still has a small forest where they can collect Firewood for free(in this part of the island commonly called “hazo maty” dead-wood in English), thus the coal is rarely used for cooking (only one bag of 10kg a month per household, 1500Ariary/bag). While in Ambodibonara (population approximately 1300 people) the villagers were less talkative, but perhaps also because of a misunderstanding that has made that they had to wait for us a bit. Ambodibonara unfortunately owned no forest anymore so that they use mainly coal for cooking (3 to 4 bag of 10kg per month = 4500Ar-6000Ar/month).
From the perspective of lighting candles had disappeared, everyone get lights from the “jiro-kapoaka” (Light-can literally which works with kerosene, see picture) . They spend 2000Ar per month (1 / 4 liter are consumed per week). The Antanambao-ans must walk to the next village( about 1 hour) to recharge their mobile phones and pay 300-400Ar for this, there is a video-club powered by a diesel generator in Ambodibonara, where they leave their phone over night to get recharged. (500Ar each).

Some conclusions from the field research

Basically our hypothesis is correct that Malagasy rural energy consumption (cooking not included) is between 1 and 3 Euro per month per household. Internet, computer and Toughstuff are unknown, but the Radio is by far the largest and most popularized way of communication and information. The batteries for the radio cost 400Ar (€ 0.20) and household needs in average 3 to 5 batteries per month (batteries for flashlight included).
At this stage it should also be noted the irrational and individualist behavior of the villagers in Antanambao, indeed everyone walks to the next village to rechargetheir phone while a collection of all telephones in the village would be more beneficial and would avoid a waste of time, only one person should walk there taking with her all the phones in the village. Asked on this issue the Antanambao-ans were just speechless and after a minuteof silence answered that it was true!

Next steps

Having two successive focus group in the same day was very stressful and tiring but still we were satisfied with the collected information and a well done job. The Lunch at “chez Madame Mamie (Hotely gasy)” in Antsohihy was a well deserved one and on top of that as a little recompenses Jerry Marcoss and his whole band (Malagasy music superstar) also took their lunch at “chez Madame Mamie”. Admire the picture!! Please note that Claudia has finished up her Mountain of rice like a Malagasy 🙂

Right after lunch we returned to Port-Bergé because the next day (Friday) early in the morning we would have another focus group with a village situated 7 km south of Port-Bergé (Ampombibitika). But we are going to tell you about this in another post because it is getting late now, and tomorrow (Monday) we have to get up by 6am. Stay connected with us!


This blog was authored by Claudia Knobloch and originally posted on Energize the BoP.