Learning from each other - Rural Women micro-entrepreneurs of two Indian Ocean islands come together – Day 8

Our last day in this little spot of paradise concluded with two early morning visits.

The first visit gave a unique chance for us to explore one of the renowned activities of the women of the island – octopus fishing! Mrs. Lima Casimir, in the business for more than 15 years, explained to us how fishing has always been an integral part of her life.

Mrs. Casimir showed us her impressive hand harpoon with which she catches the octopuses, and her techniques of drying, cutting and selling them.

Dried octopus is a popular delicacy both in Rodrigues and in Mauritius. The Malagasy ladies were very interested as octopus fishing is also practiced in Tamatave (east coast of Madagascar). However, octopuses are only sold fresh at the local market in Tamatave. The transformation technique of drying used by women in Rodrigues adds considerable value to the product. Mrs. Casimir tells us that dried octopus is monetarily worth more than 10 times the value of fresh octopus! Yet another bit of very useful information for the Malagasy ladies to take back home and share with their communities.

On the second visit, we met with the executive members of a village till (caisse villageoise) called “Lévé-Diboute”, which translates into “Get up and Stand up”. The till was first established by a UNDP project in 1999 with start-up capital of 5-million rupees (USD 156 250).

Members are recruited by members of the till itself as they are the ones who can distinguish the good from the bad debtors. Here, again, solidarity, understanding and support are essential. Members who are not in a position to effect their payments are encouraged to explain their situation openly, where other members offer their help and advice to find a solution. The obligation of every member to the rest of the group is strongly reinforced by the fact that new loans will only be given if all members have completely repaid the preceding loans.

This system is working well with 100% of reimbursements and has been completely autonomous since 2002 when the UNDP project closed. Ninety-percent of the members are currently women.

We now come to the end of our knowledge exchange visit, rich with new experiences, filled with incredible stories. We hope that this visit will inspire those interested in enhancing rural communication networks and serve as a catalyst for many more to come.

Many thanks to all colleagues in Mauritius, Rodrigues, Madagascar and Italy who have contributed to this visit. Special thanks to Pamela Sooprayen (assistant coordinator) and Martine Clair (financial officer) of the IFAD RDP project for their efforts and collaboration that made this visit a success.

Our message to all of the hard working rural ladies of the world:
“You have an enormous potential to lift yourselves and others out of poverty. Therefore, brush all of your fears and doubts aside and go for it!”