Agricultural Training Gives School Dropout a Second Chance

A single mother and high-school dropout leads her community toward prosperity and education.

When her father died, Miharisoa Elisabeth, known as Hary, was in the second year of high school. The teenager excelled in her classes and was on track to graduate with her peers.

But when the head of the household and primary breadwinner passed away, he left three generations in a shared home without a reliable source of income. There was the farm, of course, a small plot of land on which a few meager crops grew, but it was not enough to sustain both the family and Hary’s education.

The girl was forced to drop out.
“We relied on our father when he was still here. When he passed away, we were really struggling financially,” said Hary, who is now 24-years-old. “I aimed to get my high school diploma, but because of the problem in the family, I had to stop. I was really sad because of that.”

When she dropped out, Hary assumed her dreams of education were over. Instead, she scraped her meager living from the hard soil every day. When she was 21, a man got her pregnant and then left her. Her widowed mother needed her. Her younger siblings needed her. And now, her baby girl needed her.

For Hary, life became what it always would be: an existence of hard work and hard-won survival. When ASOTRY Field Agents came to take a census in Andovoka Sahave, the precocious young woman volunteered to help. After the census, the agents began to set up the various associations in health, agriculture, and livelihood.

Hary joined all of them.
“When they arrived and I heard their awareness messages, I started to think I might find good things by working with them,” Hary said. “I became a Lead Farmer, a Lead Mother, and a Community Health Volunteer.”

Though she is only 24 and female, Hary is not surprised by her leadership roles, nor does she feel ill-equipped. The young woman has always enjoyed leadership—in her church scouts group as a kid, and in school as a teenager—and she was already positioned to be the leadership link between ASOTRY agents and her community.
“In the beginning, it was the people who appointed me,” she said of her leadership roles. “I like it because I am in close relationship with the technicians, so they teach me first and then I pass those skills on. It helps me build a closer relationship with the community and impart new knowledge and skills.”

Perhaps most importantly, Hary is a model of success to her entire community. After implementing the improved agriculture techniques learned from the ASOTRY project, the single mother noticed a dramatic change in her harvest, and subsequently, her income. Hary knew just what to do with her profit.

Last September, the 24-year-old fulfilled a dream that had nearly died when she was forced to drop out of school years before. She graduated high school. Not only did she complete her studies while raising her daughter, caring for her mother and siblings, and tending to her crops, she completed her studies with honors.
“My father would be happy to see that I finished my studies,” she said. “I hope that all the farmers who get training from projects like this really apply the techniques. I am a testament to the fact that they are really successful.”

And her success is still growing. Next year, Hary plans to attend the agriculture university in Fianarantsoa, the big city two hours away.
“When I see people who succeed in life, I want to be like them,” Hary said.
“That’s why I like studying. Before we were really struggling. Now, I plan to go on to higher education so I can train other farmers about agriculture.”

Hary graduated from high school with honors.