Rice cultivation in Madagascar
Irrigated rice cultivation
Rice plays a fundamental role in the lives of the majority of the Malagasy population.
It represents the essential part of their diet (on average 120 kg per person per year). But their cultural and symbolic capital is as important as their economic capital. Almost impossible to imagine a meal (including breakfast) without travel, the side dishes are often minimalist, while the quantities of rice are gigantic.
The rice-growing landscapes are very diverse: bands of rice paddies lining the valley bottoms, narrow terraces on the slopes, rectangular plots crisscrossing the plains, paddies with flood recession on the banks of lakes and rivers, and open slash-and-burn fields in the forest.
In the highlands, lowland rice cultivation combines checkerboard plots in adjacent valleys with large valley plots. Farmers perform miracles to control water that they fear is scarce or abundant.
Transplanting reduces water-related risks and weed competition.
The Wet rice cultivation (flooded or irrigated) makes up most of the agricultural landscape in the highlands.
Manual plowing (plowing with a spade)
The soil of the rice field is prepared with the help of the Angady, a kind of spade with a long and narrow iron and a heavy wooden handle, turned. Entire mountains and endless landscapes have been stabbed with the spade on the highlands for generations.
The rice fields are a secular heritage of the ancestors who had fed the generations for centuries, they count with the Zebu stock most important place in the native culture.
Plowing, harrowing and grading
The trampling of rice fields by zebus tends to disappear. The plow and harrow pulled by two zebus are used for plowing and crumbling until a liquid mud is formed.
The water supply is provided in the valleys by springs - water that, due to gravity, comes from land to plot circulates - and in the valleys by rivers, which are usually dammed. A peripheral canal protects the rice fields from the runoff water that runs down the hills in the rainy season.
Diguettes and dams
The drainage and irrigation network provides regular flooding of the plots.
The dikes seal off the rice fields, hold back water and serve as paths. The steeper the slope, the smaller the plots and the dike network.
The rice harvest
Harvested is made with a sickle, very time-consuming method but which has been used for centuries.
The sheaves are placed in a row on the ground and then transported to the threshing floor.
The threshing is done on mats by threshing the sheaves on a large stone or rock so that the rice grains can be separated from the straw together with the husk and then picked up.
The women then sort the rice, which is stored in silos or granaries.
Peregrine rice cultivation, also called "Tavy".
Rice is grown on the eastern slope of the island, a mountainous region covered with forests, with a hot and humid climate. The term "tavy" refers both to the land in the middle of the forest and to the method of cultivation: shifting cultivation, slash-and-burn after clearing. This system requires an axe and a long-handled knife, but no tillage.
Once vegetation is cut and dried, firebreaks are created in front of and behind the plot and set fire to the plot. The fire lasts part of the day. Sowing takes place after the burning, just before the rain is expected.
Sowing and plot maintenance
The rice grains are buried in pits dug with a digging stick. Until the first ears appear, the plot is regularly weeded by hand.
Growth in this method lasts from four to six months.
The cut ears are dried by hand on the burnt logs, which lie on the ground or on a large mat.
The plot will remain fallow for several years after that.