Thierry Mafisy Miharivonjy Razafindranaivo, 26, is one of three cooks in a local fast food restaurant in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital.
The fast food joint is a relatively new phenomenon in the city, where the main foods are traditional rice dishes and restaurant fare tends to specialize in French cuisine. The staff, in brightly coloured shirts and baseball caps, serve customers, while Razafindranaivo flips burgers in a small, stiflingly hot kitchen.
Razafindranaivo, his wife and their six-month-old daughter live with his parents and extended family. They do not share expenses with the extended family, and they are fortunate to live rent-free. His wife is involved in a basket-weaving business; the couple takes home about US$92 a month, the average income of a Malagasy family in the capital city.
Name: Thierry Mafisy Miharivonjy Razafindranaivo
Does your spouse/partner live with you? Yes, I have a wife and six-month-old daughter.
What is your primary job? Cook at fast food restaurant
What is your monthly salary? 120,000 ariary [US$55]
What is your household’s total income - including your partner’s salary and any additional sources? 200,000 ariary [$92]
How many people are living in your household - what is their relationship to you? Three. Myself, my wife and daughter.
How many are dependent on you/your partner’s income - what is their relationship to you? Just us.
How much do you spend each month on food? 120,000 ariary ($55)
What is your main staple - how much does it cost each month? Rice, vegetables and meat [‘laoka’]. We eat 25kg a month of rice, and it costs us 32,000 ariary [$17].
How much do you spend on rent? Nothing. I live in my parents’ house.
How much on transport? 1,000 ariary [$0.45] a day, or about $13 a month.
How much do you spend on educating your children each month? Nothing yet.
After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left? Nothing.
Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? No.
Have you been forced to borrow money or food in the last three months to cover basic household needs? Yes, I’ve borrowed 10,000 ariary [$4.50] from my sister to buy food.
“I live in the same house as my parents, but we don’t have a household together, so I don’t need to give them money for food. Me, my wife and our six-month-old daughter survive on my salary. My wife also earns some money from basket making. My mother knows how to make traditional crafts, so my wife works with her. This way, we have some extra income.
“When I was younger, I wanted to become a civil servant, like my father, but you had to pass an exam to be accepted to train at a ministry and, unlike my father, in my time you have to bribe people to be able to get in.
“Since I couldn’t get into the ministry, I tried to find a job in the private sector, but this was difficult, especially these last three years, with the crisis [in 2009 twice-elected president Marc Ravalomanana was deposed by Andry Rajoelina with the backing of the army; poverty has since been on the rise]. So in the end, I was glad to find this job in the restaurant. My wife if still trying to find a steady job, but until now it’s been hard.
“I think that my parents had an easier life. Things weren’t so expensive when they were younger. Now, we spend all our money on food. There is never enough money to get through the month. Sometimes I can’t sleep, worrying about these things.”
“The birth of my daughter was the happiest event this year. I hope that she will be able to obtain enough education and connections to become a civil servant.”
“What is my biggest headache? That we can’t find suitable jobs, and the price of food keeps rising. We just hope we’ll be able to find jobs that pay more. Maybe we’ll try to sell more baskets, but often I can’t sleep because of money problems.
“I hope I’ll be better off next year. I’ll try my best to improve our situation.”