Cultivating livelihoods:

The Zanatany system in Diana’s Ambilobe District

A community effort to embrace sustainable 
agriculture in Madagascar

Diana’s Ambilobe District is known for its rich biodiversity, unique ecosystems and stunning natural landscapes. Like many regions in Madagascar, rice is a staple food crop here and local farmers practice rice cultivation in both lowland and upland areas, using various techniques. With rice being a crucial part of the local diet and economy, farmers in Ambilobe work diligently to maximise yields and improve agricultural practices. As a result, a wave of agricultural transformation is taking root.

The Union of GEC ‘WTilma Bis of Ambakirano’, consisting of 24 GEC groups with 720 members, is at the forefront of this movement. Partnering with OSDRM, the Union is dedicated to disseminating innovative agricultural techniques and fostering community engagement. Among their initiatives is teaching the Zanatany rice permaculture system – an eco-friendly, faster and sustainable approach to rice cultivation. In September 2021, the union organised a comprehensive training programme aimed at equipping members with the knowledge and skills needed to embrace the Zanatany techniques.

The training was designed to achieve specific objectives, each crucial for the successful adoption of the Zanatany system. It provided theoretical training to the members, ensuring they understood the principles and benefits of the innovative system. It also translated theory into practice, enabling members to operationalise their training in rice fields. Key to the training was mobilising and encouraging the members to embrace and practice the Zanatany technique, igniting enthusiasm within the community.

Once on board, the members of the union adopted the techniques and the first meeting in September 2017 was a pivotal moment, where theoretical and practical training on direct seeding took place. By October, the community had met again to take part in the “sarclage”, the weeding, and witnessing the rice plants’ growth.

The results of the communities’ efforts were extraordinary. With cultivating one hectare of a lowland rice field using the Zanatany technique, the rice plants flourished with vibrant, dark green hues – a clear distinction from neighbouring fields. The rice plants appeared healthier and yielded an impressive 5.2 tonnes per hectare. These outcomes bolstered the union’s determination to promote the Zanatany system. The impact reverberated across communities and encouraged each group within the union to commit to cultivating their own plantations using the Zanatany system by 2022.


The Union of GEC Tilma Bis of Ambakirano is leading the charge in transforming Diana’s Ambilobe District into a hub of sustainable and self-sufficient agriculture. With the adoption and growth of the Zanatany system, this community are inspiring farmers to embrace eco-friendly techniques and champion resilience, and prosperity so rural farming can thrive.
ZRPS on rainfed highland plot, hedged with Tephrosia vogelii green manure.
Use of the hand-weeder material provided.

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