The ones we don’t listen to, “Fiarahamonina, the survival of the community”, Manompana, Madagascar (08)

October 30th, 2013

Diess and Sera noticed it: the Fiarahamonina is in danger. This concept defines the life of the community, the links between inhabitants, the rules of life, and the mutual help that enables everyone to survive. A fisherman will share his fish. A worker will be paid in rice. People will harvest the land of a sick man. A young will bring Kitainy (firewood) to the grandmother. But today, the fisherman doesn’t share his fish because the catch are not big enough. The worker wants to be paid with money and no longer with rice. The sick man will not always be helped. As for the young, he loses respect for the elders. Wiseman Jacques Thiahody notes: “Many young people tell us that the elders way is out-dated. They tell us that we were not in school, that the world is developing and that our culture is obsolete. I admit that we do not have much knowledge. The whole world communicates and the foreign way is already visible in the village. But what the ancients practiced really has a positive side, especially at the social and respect level. An example: before, when someone was sick, we would have come to help in any way. You give, you help, you are doing the work that the man can’t do. I think this old way is good. Today, how many families still do these things? Young people have this knowledge that makes them arrogant. They claim to know how to develop the village but we do not really see their actions, except to say that our way has passed. They are not interested in their own culture and we have no evidence that today’s children will know the Malagasy culture. ”

Here it is, without doubt, the biggest challenge for Sera Diess, Zafimaro , Ida and Narasson : develop the village whilst maintaining the Fiarahamonina; in this world that wants to be a global village with the tendency to erase differences, to remain a Malagasy man. Keep their identity and stay true to the proverb that connects each human being living on the big island, from the Merina in his highlands to the Antodroy in his dry deep south, from the Betsimisaraka in the east coast to the Vezo, nomadic fisherman on the west coast  : “Ny fiahavanana no talohan’ny vola”, a human relationship will always be more important than money.

(An introduction to the series “The ones we don’t listen to” is to find HERE)


Sera’s photo : 


Sera took a picture of the life taking place around his house – Manompana, Madagascar, 2013.

Sera’s comment : Fiarahamonina is damaged but we are the one who damage it. This is selfishness. Everybody think they are doing well. We tend to brag of being always right. Fiarahamonina is being damaged, fish are becoming scarce, what I think of the future is that we are going to hate each other because no one is going to tolerate the other one.”

“I’m at sea with a guy. I tell him: “hey look, there are big fish over there”. The guy dives and shoots. He is going to sell his fish and will not even give me 500 fmg. I don’t do that. If someone shows me where the fish are, I will share. I went to fish with Zafimaro and Lesa, my captain. I picked up 4 Dingadingana (sea cucumber) worth 150,000 fmg each piece. As Zafimaro didn’t catch anything, I gave him 50,000 fmg. The day after, he went to dive and caught 3 Dingadingana, same price than mine. He didn’t give me anything.  I didn’t say anything, but the next dive I didn’t give either. This was my answer to what he has done. Unfortunately, it might carry on like this. This is why the Fiarahamonina is disappearing.”


Narasson’s photo:


One of Narasson friend borrowed his camera to take a picture of people exchanging fish. Narasson can bee seen behind, sat in his house – Manompana, Madagscar, 2013.

Narasson’s comment: “I have never exchanged the fish I catch. I need money to buy pot, kitchen utensils. I need a lot of money to buy many things. I don’t exchange, I sell.”


 Diess photo :


Diess asked his wife Sophie to take a picture of him and Narrasson when they are about to go and dive – Manompana, Madagascar, 2013.

Diess comment : “When the harvest is coming, you come to work with me and I give you a bag of rice. Same thing when I come to work in your field. If I spend one day working for you, you will spend one day working for me. This is the Fiarahamonina. Today, it’s more the money than the Fiarahamonina. The eldest are passing away one after each other and the young forget the good way of living and think only about themselves. They don’t think about community life. Why do young people reject this way of living? Before, when you planted rice, manioc, yam, the yields were so abundant that wild pigs ate what was left in the field. Nowadays, men are eating it (1) because the land doesn’t give much anymore. As you don’t have much rice, you don’t ask anyone to come and help with the harvesting. You don’t have enough to share it. This is how the Fiarahamonina is broken. If you don’t catch many fish, you might not share. Another fisherman will act the same. And one day comes when you will catch a lot without sharing it. Little by little, we are losing the community bonds. Everything has changed. Everything becomes scarce. And the mentality today is “why should I worry about all this. Everybody takes, why should I not take as well”?

“All this has been created by Zahanary. But prices rise. Before, a fish big like this (he shows his forearm) cost 500 fmg but today you can’t have it for less than 10,000 fmg. It’s the same for the rice. Before you could buy a Kapoka of rice for 150 fmg and now it is 2000 fmg.”

(1): Diese refers to more and more frequent robberies taking place in the ricefield.


Ida’s photo : 

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Ida took a picture of his wife and two kids – Manompana, Madagascar, 2013.

Ida’s comment : “The first thing I think is to sell my fish because I buy rice with the money. When I go to the sea, my main aim is first to sell.”


Zafimaro’s photo :


Zafimaro took a picture of men who are harvesting manioc – Manompana, Madagascar, 2013.

Zafimaro’s comment: “This is the staple diet that you can exchange, rice, manioc, yam. Sometimes I exchange fish for manioc when I’m too busy to go to the field. But you can’t do it with everybody. If they wanted it, I could have paid with fish the labourers who worked on my land. But most of them want money.”


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