On the basis of ~10 years of field work, CPALI and its Malagasy Partner, SEPALI, have recently broadened their mission in response to the needs of the community they serve. The core mission stays the same: use entrepreneurship to create an economically self sufficient enterprise that maintains and enhances Madagascar's fragile, unique biological heritage. The increased breadth stems from the recognition that the original product, non-woven textiles made from the cocoons of wild silk moths, offers co-products that are immediately valuable to the farmers and their families. So, CPALI/SEPALI are building expertise in the served communities to benefit from the protein available in the excess pupae and the mushrooms that grow on the agricultural waste. The goal is the sort of integration that was key to the success of family farms that preceded industrial farming. At least as important has been the transition from a US leadership to Madagascar leadership with US consultation and marketing. Thus, CPALI is the rare nonprofit that is trying to put itself out of business by devolving responsibility onto a successor organization that is well positioned, geographically and culturally to succeed. Both organizations operate frugally, transparently and cooperatively.
Since its founding, 13 years ago, CPALI has strived to put itself out of business by devolving its mission onto those who are best positioned to connect the conservation of fragile ecologies with the development of vulnerable communities. Therefore, Cay Craig and her small team in the US helped launch and fund SEPALI, a remarkable, Malagasy NGO led by Mamy Ratsimbazafy. Over the past five years, SEPALI has built an enterprise of village-based farmers and artisans who, this year, will produce about 500 square meters of a unique, wild silk textile, using only the facilities in forests, villages and outskirts of Maroantsetra, Madagascar. Now, the US team is vigorously marketing the textile and devising a stream of products to connect sustainable development with art and fashion. Along the way, CPALI and SEPALI invented a series of novel practices (e.g., stepping stone conservation, a cocoon “bank”, and most recently—in collaboration with the Rogue Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society and the activist-chanteuse Razia Said—an art project for children who live near the Makira Protected Area).
It is clear to those us closest to CPALI that while, much remains to be done, both in Madagascar and in other areas, CPALI’s adaptive, tactful approach is effective. Please join us in supporting CPALI.
The magnitude of the deforestation and poverty in Madagascar is almost incomprehensible, but CPALI is addressing both of these issues, and even empowering women, all at the same time. They are doing everything you would wish a nonprofit would do: working with the local communities and letting them lead, making the program able to be self-sustaining by bringing in income, engaging the women of the community, adding programs as needs are identified, and even making a beautiful product to sell. We have been supporting CPALI for six years and plan to continue!
This is a very carefully considered project with an innovative spirit. They have achieved significant environmental and socioeconomic gains through strategic collaborations, local management, and dedication to a core philosophy. I would recommend looking to this organization as an exemplar in conservation. It has been a real pleasure to volunteer for the CPALI/SEPALI team for the past four years and to support the meaningful work they do.
Review from Guidestar
This is a wonderfully run organization driven by a lot of passion and loving heart! Really thoughtful program, and viable business approach. Love it
Review from Guidestar
Watching CPALI in the past 3 1/2 years, I have been so impressed with its development. The idea is simple: If local people get value from the forest, they won't cut it down, thus saving the myriad of rare species that live there. But it's not so simple to show the local people how valuable the forest is. CPALI's promotion of silk-worm farming and production of such amazing silk is growing fast. It is both alleviating poverty and conserving wildlife.
I was so impressed with an article I read in the Boston Globe that I sought out Cay and Bob to get more information about their work and also introduced them to a friend with years of experience in what major foundations would require before making major grants. In the last year or so, I've watched with pleasure as they've made huge strides toward taking off. Madagascar is an ecology on the edge; making protection of the forest economically rewarding for the people who live there is the secret to success. Fortunately, Cay's expertise in silk worms (a PhD in the field) helped her choose the right species to protect the forest and develop an ecologically sound industry.
My name is Nirina and I joined the SEPALI farmers group here in Ambinanitelo last year. It was really exciting for me to learn to sew the cocoons that are made by the silkworms, really exciting. The cocoon training allowed me to learn sewing techniques that I can apply to many different types of handicraft." - Nirina, CPALI farmer since 2011. Quote from video Interview, 2012.
"Before, the host tree had no use to us here. Then (SEPALI) came and showed us how to use our resources here in Madagascar and it brings me great happiness. I am in this group, not to plant trees, but to remind my group of the reason we need projects like this. It makes me happy to see Madagascar move forward and to see people from abroad taking an interest in our development. Things that had no use to us here before now have meaning. The work of SEPALI has blossomed in this community." - Trozona, Village Elder and honorary CPALI member since 2009. Video interview, 2012
"My name is Mr. Jaonary Jean. I live in Ambodivoangy. In 2009, I planted the trees you see here. There are about 260 trees here. In addition to using my land to rear silkworms, I also pasture my cows here and down below is my rice field. But of all my activities, rearing silkworms is my favorite because the silk worms can be very productive on these trees." -Jaonary Jean, CPALI farmer since 2009 in video interview, 2012.
Conservation through Poverty Alleviation Inc. (CPALI) is founded upon two basic principles: one, any conservation project in third world rural areas must address the poverty problems of the people living there, and two, the effort must be bottom up, not top down. In a remote area of Madagascar, where the traditional farming has been slash and burn, CPALI is working to get the farmers to take advantage of the country’s rich natural resources as a source of supplementary income. They have introduced raising silk worms and weaving silk textiles; in addition, they are exploring new sources of nutrition. The local farmers and women meet to organize and make decisions about where and how to concentrate their efforts. CPALI and a small staff have been providing supplies, training and support. The farming communities are adjacent to protected forest land. It has not been easy, entrepreneurship is not a part of their traditional culture, and progress has been slow, but there is a building momentum toward sustainability at this pilot site.
As a Board Member, I have been lucky to have the opportunity to work with Cay Craig and try to help make her vision a reality.
In 2011, I took the long boat trip to up river into the remote wilderness area of Madagascar to meet the CPALI farmers. I saw first hand the creative process of this project: The indigenous trees that had been planted to rear the moths and the ironing and assembling of moth cocoons into the end product. I saw a program with committed local leaders and strong community support. The Farmers had fully invested in the CPALI goals of protecting their rainforest environment and producing some beautiful and unique fabrics. They seemed genuinely proud of their success. I don’t know if CPALI will become a self-sufficient business venture, but it is an audacious, imaginative and dynamic. It is helping to safeguard the world’s most important and threatened ecosystem and it deserves significant and continued support. At the end of the day, if CPALI flourishes, everyone wins.