Sisal Production in Madagascar
Sisal is a plant that yields a very desirable fibre that has been excesiively harvested from the 1960s for its use in rope, twine, paper, carpets and several other uses. Like all markets, sisal production must be considered in terms of its social, economic and environmental impacts. Sisal production started in Brazil, and production there has only increased, accounting for 47.0% of world production. Plantations have spread, however, to Tanzania (15.3%), China (14.1%), Kenya (11.5%), and Madagascar (3.8%). To extract the fiber used in production, the leaves are crushed and pulped, the fibre the being extracted and washed. Further beating and pulping is undertaken to ensure the sisal fibre is a light and workable material. This involved process means that there is much manpower required for the growing and treatment of the sisal plant. This involved process means there is plenty of job oppurtunites for those in Madagascar, even being able to utilise the unskilled labourers to farm the plantations, primarily in the South and South-east areas of Madagascar.
Currently, agriculture in Madagascar gives employment to 75% of the population, and as poverty in
Madagascar is very high, this helps increase the standard of living of many by providing jobs.
Workers on sisal plantations are currently not earning enough to live on and provide for their families. Integrated Regional Information Networks Africa (IRIN Africa) state that on the sisal plantations, and average worker will earn $10 per month, causing a large proportion of the population to fall into poverty and malnutrition. While initially being detrimental to the environment, sisal production is much better than many other forms of agriculture. It currently uses no chemical fertilisers, and while pesticides are currently used, they can easily be eliminated by increasing the amount of employers to manually weed the plantations.
Expression of a likely viewpoint from a Madagascan village elder:
Today many of my fellow villagers will go without a meal, many of the children being to weak to move, and many dieing due to the lack of money to buy food, and an increase in the sisal market will help fix this. Living in an area that drought is often visited upon does not help, hindering the production of sisal, and thus limiting the available jobs. Whilst forests were initially cleared to make way for plantations, our village is currently more concerned with feeding our families, and so the environmental impact of sisal plantations does not play a factor in our attitude toward the plantations. Currently the economic and social considerations are the only ones that this village is concerned with. While many villagers work at the sisal plantation, they do not earn enough to support their families, many having very large families. It is often the case where a mother must leave her children at 2 months old so she may go back and provide for the rest of the family. As workers at the sisal plantations are not paid very much, it makes it incredibly difficult to feed the family, often only surviving on one bowl of corn each per day, meat only being bought once a month. Further to not being able to pay for food, education is also neglected as it cannot be afforded. This lack of finances to pay for education and food creates a society that is riddle with malnutrition and an illiterate populace, slowly causing the society to die. If sisal production was to increase, this would provide more jobs the people of my village. This would mean that we can slowly fight against malnutrition and poverty, slowly introducing schools, and further down the track skilled professionals. Creating more jobs would not be enough, however. The government should also institute and awards scheme to ensure that the workers are being paid fairly, allowing them to provide adequately for their families.
Expression of a