Traditionally, Malagasy women have used vakoas, trees from primary forests, to craft products such as woven baskets, bags and mats. Handcraft and ecotourism activities have thus been created to reduce the pressure on the trees they use as well as to generate income for households, whilst empowering women. Since 2006, Ny Tanintsika has supported female weavers in the Ambohimahamasina community in Ambalavao district grouped within the Soamiray association. Women belonging to the association, with true entrepeneurship, have mastered all of the stages of production, from the manufacturing of the products to their sale; promoting the farming of alternative reeds to reduce the pressure on vakoas, fibre processing, making wicker products, marketing etc.
Lots of training has been made available for the members, teaching basket-weaving techniques, design, processing and colouring skills, business management skills and other sales techniques. The Soamiray association has two shops in which they can sell their products: one located in Ambalavao and the other, the ‘house of basketry and crafts’, in the town of Ambohimahamasina.
The Soamiray association also participates in the development of ecotourism. There is a handicrafts workshop where visitors are introduced to weaving techniques.
The ‘house of basketry’ has 3 built-in dormitories, with a capacity for 20 visitors. Traditional dishes are cooked by female Soamiray members for the visitors and served in the dining room. A large room, used for meetings, is also available. People from the association are available to help every day, to receive visitors and organise activities.
Since the project began, female members of the association have been able to generate more income and have even been able to take over responsibility for certain family costs, such as school fees, medical expenses, the purchase of agricultural equipment and of land. The association now has more autonomy and can cover the costs of operating and running the house and pay its employees’ salaries. Ny Tanintsika monitors and provides coaching for Soamiray members to ensure the smooth running of the cooperative.