Several months ago, Dahari and the international NGO Initiative Développement entered into a partnership to tackle the subject of energy, in particular energy obtained from wood.
The NGO Initiative Développement (ID) has been working in Comoros for 20 years in order to respond to the essential needs of basic communities. Today we met Anne Calvel, national director of Initiative Développement in Comoros, to learn more of this partnership and in what context it operates.
Let’s start by giving a bit of context; how long has there been a partnership between the two ngo and how was it started?
It is well known that the Comoros islands are heavily affected by deforestation caused by human activity. We have therefore developed two energy projects that aim to reduce the pressure on wood energy.
From the start, we wanted to work with a local NGO in order to support these projects since they are part of the ID philosophy: to support and assist local organisations. On this basis, we quickly realised that Dahari had proven itself and so we got in touch with the team to think up what the foundations of a shared project could be.
We first developed a small partnership for the FCE project that involved requesting support from Dahari. The objective here was to work together to assess the needs of women in relation to a certain type of equipment: economical cookers.
As Dahari is familiar with the Comorian context and the realities of the terrain and the communities, it seemed obvious to start working with them. We were therefore able to retrieve precious input on the needs of women regarding domestic energy in order to come up with an improved fireplace that is adapted to their habits.
With this first approach having been a success, we decided to look at the bigger picture with a partnership for the FYDAFE programme (Filière Ylang-Ylang -Distillation à cuiseur économe, i.e. a programme that involves using economical cookers in distillation).
Here, we aim to work closely with the natural resource management team, directed at Dahari by the Misbahou strategic coordinator, in order to reduce the pressure on wood energy, as much on the supply as on the demand. In Comoros, if there is one activity that poses a problem for this plan, it would be distillation since we estimate that in a traditional fireplace around a ton of wood is needed to produce between three and four kilos of essential oil.
WHAT are the objectives of a project like this one and how do the partnerships come together?
The first phase of the programme was to first reduce the demand for wood by proposing energy efficient equipment to distillers. With this idea in place, we now need to work on supplying this equipment and therefore increase the supply of wood by implementing a reforestation plan.
This is where all of the Dahari expertise comes in since the NGO has already ran several pilot reforestation campaigns since 2009 and other consolidated campaigns in Adda, Outsa and Ouzini since 2015.
Today, we are in the exploratory phase, i.e. the phase that involves discussing our respective practices and building a relationship to eventually come up with a plan to supply wood for the distillation sector.
This phase also takes the form of field visits to meet flower producers and distillers and to investigate whether they would be interested in participating in a reforestation programme. As well as for finding out if they are they are up for it, the investigations also allow us to identify some useful information: to understand how they get their supplies, what species of trees are used, what the environmental impact and the associated cost are.
What has come out of these surveys and visits?
The biggest issue today is knowing which approach to choose; should we go for the “timberyard” approach where species that grow quickly would be planted on well-defined land or would we it better to go for the more holistic approach, i.e. agroforestry.
With regards to the distillers and the stakeholders of this annuity sector, it seems that the majority understand the issues concerning wood and want to stick to a plan to economise the resources – the proof of this being that Initiative Dévloppement has already distributed 35 economical cookers to distillers. Yet they are aware of the risks: unavailability of resources, increase in the price of wood, legal mechanisms that could hinder their activity, therefore, they are open to a reforestation programme to reduce the threats to this sector.
Let’s remember that 60% of global exports of essential oils come from Comoros. It’s an annuity sector that yields and that is very important for the farmers who, thanks to this activity, have a non-negligible additional income.
What are the next steps?
For now, we continue on in the exploratory phase; the details of the approach and the setting up of the reforestation campaign are not fixed. It is essential to take all the time necessary so that no step is ignored and especially so that the main stakeholders are united and involved.
Of course, we have ideas for the future but we think that it is essential to set down a foundation and go little by little as the context is complex. Over time, we would like to experiment and to test the two approaches that we have spoken about before deploying a reforestation plan on a larger scale.
A few weeks ago, we launched an appeal to recruit a technical expert on this programme; this is a challenge that we are facing at the start of the project; however, once it is overcome we will be able to get started.
What are the difficulties that you have been able to identify during the visits and surveys?
I think that there will be three big issues. The first will concern the land since there is such a big pressure in Anjouan. You might say that planting trees cannot necessarily be prioritised over agriculture and cash crops. To plant a tree is to make a bet on the future while the present is already sometimes difficult.
The second issue will obviously be convincing the beneficiaries and to empower them. And finally, the third and last issue is to make the different stakeholders of the ylang-ylang sector talk with one another (the distillers as well as the flower and wood producers) and to make them work together on the sector’s integrated approach from the production of wood to the production of oils.
What do you hope for in 2017?
We have a year to work on the plan of action and to start setting up some nurseries; we would like to be ready to plant in December 2017; it would be a great way to start the year.
Would you like us to move forward according to the departure schedule – and without being too late – to be able to begin about the necessary transformations? From our side, we take pride in putting all of our energy into driving this amazing project and this new component for Dahari. We will certainly be able to publish an interim assessment from now until the first quarter of 2017 so as to take stock of the past months and to see if there are any adjustments to be expected.
I would also like to add that what I particularly appreciate about the NGO Dahari is their strong involvement on the ground and their professionalism in doing their work, especially with communities. It is therefore a particularly rewarding partner relationship for all as we learn together from our exchanges. I hope that we will be able to continue to disprove the old saying “Shirika umani” and to strengthen the ties between our different organisations.