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Vanilla and Zebu 10 Francs Madagascar Authentic Coin Money for Jewelry and Craft Making (2 Ariary) (Omby)

Vanilla and Zebu 10 Francs Madagascar Authentic Coin Money for Jewelry and Craft Making (2 Ariary) (Omby)

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Vanilla & Zebu 10 Francs Madagascar Authentic Coin Charm for Jewelry and Craft Making (2 Ariary) (Omby)

Obverse: Vanilla plant

Translation: Central Bank of Madagascar

Reverse: Value within horns of Madagascar Zebu head flanked by sprigs. (Zebu is also called Omby.)

Lettering: 10 FRANCS
Translation: Ten francs, Two Ariary
(N.B. Ariary is another way of valuing this coin)

Issuer Madagascar
Period Third Republic (1992-2010)
Type Standard circulation coin
Year 1996
Value 10 Francs = 2 Ariary
2 MGA = USD 0.00049
Currency Franc (1963-2004)
Composition Copper plated steel
Weight 3.3 g
Diameter 21 mm
Thickness 1.5 mm
Shape Round
Technique Milled
Orientation Coin alignment ↑↓
Number N# 1848
References KM# 22

Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily obtained from pods of the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). The word vanilla, derived from vainilla, the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning a sheath or a pod), is translated simply as "little pod". Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlīlxochitl by the Aztecs.

Pollination is required to make the plants produce the fruit from which the vanilla spice is obtained. In 1837, Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morren discovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. The method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially. In 1841, Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave who lived on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, discovered that the plant could be hand-pollinated. Hand-pollination allowed global cultivation of the plant.

Three major species of vanilla currently are grown globally, all of which derive from a species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern-day Mexico. They are V. planifolia (syn. V. fragrans), grown on Madagascar, Réunion, and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; V. tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific; and V. pompona, found in the West Indies, Central America, and South America. The majority of the world's vanilla is the V. planifolia species, more commonly known as Bourbon vanilla (after the former name of Réunion, Île Bourbon) or Madagascar vanilla, which is produced in Madagascar and neighboring islands in the southwestern Indian Ocean, and in Indonesia. Madagascar’s and Indonesia’s cultivations produce two-thirds of the world's supply of vanilla.

Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. Nevertheless, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture, and aromatherapy.



The importance of the omby or zebu in Madagascar
It is a symbol of wisdom, with its big horns and humped back, and an integral part of the landscape of Madagascar. In addition, according to legend, there are as many omby - the Madagascan name for the zebu - as there are people on the island! I hope you found this short explanation of the role of this animal in Madagascan daily life interesting and hope you'll be able to check it out for yourself when you're travelling in Madagascar! 

An impressive workforce
As explained in another article, rice is a particularly important grain in Madagascar. Except that without zebus there would be no paddy fields or else there would be a huge amount of work. In fact, zebus are used to tread down the fields before the rice is planted out. When the ground is well and truly waterlogged, the farmers walk up and down the fields with one or two zebus to soften and prepare the soil for planting out the young rice seedlings. This work is much more effective when done by a zebu than by a human being and having tried it myself, I can confirm that!

An ecological means of transport!
The zebu is also used as an ecological means of transport. In a poor country where few people have motorised vehicles and where the price of fuel is unbelievable - about 1 euro per litre - the zebu often replaces the car. Hitched to a little cart and in exchange for a bit of grass, they carry the locals across the winding tracks in the bush, so need for petrol! I have to say that the zebu cart was my favourite means of transport when I went off to explore the bush. You see the landscape at a less frantic pace than in a four-wheel drive vehicle and it will make your trip much more memorable!

A strong cultural importance…
Zebus are also very important in Madagascan culture, where they are a visible sign of wealth. Owning one or - better still- a herd of zebu shows the success and social staus of the owner. In some ethnic groups, a boy only becomes a man when he has stolen his first zebu! Zebus feature in many ceremonies and have an important role in every stage in the life of a Madagascan. From birth to death, they feature in every ritual, even if that means that they are going to take centre stage...

…even after death
For some ethnic groups in southern Madagascar and for the Bara, Antandroy and Mahafaly people in particular, the zebu is actually the object of a cult. When a Mahafaly man dies, his herd of zebus is sacrificed on the day of his burial. The skulls of the animals are then displayed on the deceased's tomb to show his importance and accompany him in the afterlife. The more zebus the better!

During the ceremony, family, friends and the inhabitants of the village are invited to share the meat of the sacrificed zebus at a great celebration. Here, there is no inheritance and children must create their own herd until their death, and so it goes on...

Written by Simon Hoffmann
185 contributions Updated 3 April 2018

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