Antsotso Accompaniment

Antanosy villagers with a traditional pirogue (dug out canoe)

In the south of Madagascar more than 82% of the population are poor, subsistence farmers reliant on access to land, forest and natural resources to survive. In the local context, communities are frequently isolated, disenfranchised and suffer multiple challenges to voice their needs, protect their resources and realise their aspirations.

This is especially the case when state-corporate-INGO alliances determine policy and advance agendas without consulting  local people in decisions that affect their lives.

One community facing this challenge is Antsotso in the Anosy region…

Antsotso – A community on the edge

Antsotso community gather for a meeting

Antsotso community has lost significant food production capacity due to externally driven conservation of its forest and land. Conservation to protect the forest at Begamindidy-Ivohibe, some 50km north of the mine site where Antsotso is situated, is part of the Rio Tinto QMM mine’s Biodiversity Offsetting programme. The ‘offset’ essentially seeks to compensate the loss of 6000 hectares of indigenous coastal forest, which is being dredged by QMM for ilmenite, by protecting and conserving other forest areas which it considers to be of similar or ‘equal value’ elsewhere.

The conservation programme is enshrined under national, state laws and implemented in this case by a local affiliate of Birdlife International, Asity, in partnership with the Rio Tinto QMM[1] mining operation in Anosy.

Rio Tinto’s QMM mine dredging coastal forests of Anosy

The offset means that land and forest that has been used by the Antsotso community for generations to grow their food, and to cut trees to build their pirogues (wooden dugout fishing boats), is no longer available to them. In losing the land and forest the community have also lost their food security and livelihoods. Where before they grew manioc close to the forest, they are now forced to grow food in sandy soil by the coast. The community reports that where before they could produce enough food in one season to last them two years, now it will only last two months. If they cut trees to make dugout canoes for their fishing, they risk fines and having the boats destroyed.

When the offset programme was set up, there was no Free Prior Informed Consent with Antsotso as required under Articles 26 of the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and ILO 169. The community was given promises by Asity for tree planting projects and income generating activities that have failed to materialise in any viable form, and the resilience of villagers to survive on their traditional, ancestral lands has consequently been undermined.

Community Challenges

Activists raise awareness at the Rio Tinto AGM in 2017

The community’s challenges have been brought to light through various international actions  since 2015 including published research and reports, film, press articles, events and shareholder actions to raise questions to Rio Tinto at their AGM.

On the ground in Madagascar the community face tough challenges to be heard and have their rights respected and protected.

Rural populations in southern Madagascar are seriously disadvantaged through lack of knowledge about their human rights under the UN Charter, to which Madagascar is a signatory; especially rights to information and freedom of speech. Isolation, grinding poverty, and low educational and literacy levels can hamper citizens’ ability to engage with decision makers. [See also Voices of Change and Village Voices.]

Most particularly, citizens are hindered by the power asymmetry that favours the state-corporate relationship above the needs of local people. Where the mining company has significant resources, and a plethora of technical advisers and lawyers to help them advance their interests, the community has little resource and no one to help them in the complex interface that ensues.

Last year, local people communicated to ALT UK that interactions with external actors visiting Antsotso were difficult and disabling for the community. For example, the mining company, QMM, was providing just a few days notice ahead of their arrival for important meetings at village level. This afforded the community no time to meet, discuss, develop consensus and prepare decisions amongst themselves, thereby undermining a cohesive approach to engagement and negotiations.

In discussion about these challenges, and in response to local requests for assistance, ALT UK undertook to support an accompaniment programme for Antsotso.

Accompaniment for the Community of Antsotso

Supporting local actors for change and strengthening the ability of local CSO’s to respond to their constituents needs and agendas is in line with ALT UK’s current ‘GroundSwell’ strategy[2]. Additionally, ALT UK brings practical working experience and understanding of natural resource management, food security and communications in the south of Madagascar.

In order to respond to the community’s need for assistance, ALT UK entered into discussions with Trano Aro Zo (TAZ). TAZ is a locally based Malagasy association mandated under the UN to provide human rights training in the south and provide citizens advice services to citizens, including in the Anosy region.

Memorandum of Understanding ALT UK/TAZ

TAZ trainings on human rights and their ‘citizens advice’ services are free except where they have to travel outside of Tolagnaro (Ft Dauphin, Capital of Anosy).

Direct funding support via ALT UK has enabled TAZ to visit and deliver training and advice face to face in the community e.g. to cover petrol /travel costs, for the 13-15 hour round trip – to Antsotso; also any fees and training materials. It also covered the cost of other training or translation services as required.

In order to ensure local ownership of the process, ALT UK established an MOU with human rights association Trano Aro ZO (TAZ). Under the MOU, TAZ provided assistance to the community according to their requests, including training in human rights, advice on rights and laws, and accompaniment at important meetings to observe, and record proceedings as a legal witness. This has afforded a level of transparency and protection, as well as education for the community.

TAZ services explained to Antsotso

The MOU established the Antsotso community as TAZ’s client, with accompanying recognition of client confidentiality. It also ensured an advance of funds to be used for visits as necessary by TAZ. In this process, the community has determined their needs and decided the involvement of TAZ by issuing invites to meetings and requests for assistance.

Arrangements were also made to include collaboration with a local, independent consultant to provide communications training and translation services as necessary.

Keeping engagement equitable and transparent

With the agreement of the community and the knowledge of the UN and Office of High Commission for Human Rights in Madagascar, TAZ first attended the community at a meeting in July 2017:

Meeting with Rio Tinto’s Ethics and Integrity Investigator

Rio Tinto sent an officer from London to investigate questions of cash payments made to Antsotso community representatives ahead of their attendance at a meeting in QMM offices in May 2017. TAZ provided legal witness  alongside a local translator/consultant known and trusted by the community.  Rio Tinto summarised its findings in November 2017. This summary incorporated recommendations from ALT UK, which had been reviewed and validated by the community, including that the community be entitled to have legal witness, advisers, translators etc, present for their meetings with QMM, without prejudice. See ALT’s report on the Investigation process here

In August TAZ went back to Antsotso with the local consultant to gather feedback from the process and explain to the community the full range of their services for Malagasy citizens. The Antsotso community decided they wanted  TAZ’s assistance going forward.

Strengthening capacity in communications: Meetings with outsiders

communications sessions: exploring community ideas and concerns

The community already has considerable experience in facilitating meetings through traditional and customary practices; but the practice of QMM and others agencies to call meetings with almost no warning and very little forward information does not lend itself to traditional forms of community decision-making processes.

An orientation session in August therefore sought to discuss how best to reinforce and strengthen existing capabilities, while also offering insights and tools for managing interface with external agencies, in particular with foreign visitors e.g. from the mining company, international NGOs etc.

 The session was designed using a Communications for Development (C4D) approach to strengthen skills and increase confidence, for example, to demand an agenda, ample warning and information about who was coming to see the community and why. The session included understanding rights e.g. to information, and to cancel or rearrange meetings to ensure time for internal preparation and consensus building.

28 people, 24 men and 4 women, participated in the training. The training was designed for the participants to share their learning with their respective village groups and families.

The local communications consultant led the session, with assistance from TAZ. The content was developed in collaboration with ALT UK’s Director, a C4D practitioner, with inputs from local experts. The session also included a participatory workshop to help villagers identify their challenges and solutions.

The community reported to the local consultant that they

greatly appreciated the training and they could apply what they had learnt; even if we only talk about the fact that they can refuse, roll back or organize a meeting. They thanked us for that. Because before, they did not know these rights…. Otherwise, they will be happy to learn more about the rights that TAZ can teach them through training sessions”.

Understanding the UN Charter of Human Rights 

TAZ Director Mme Sahondra explains the UN Charter of Human Rights

To respond to the community’s request and complement the orientation on communications, training was delivered to help the community understand their rights. TAZ designed and delivered the training in September 2017. All aspects of the UN Human Rights Charter were explained. Also the responsibilities of foreign companies to respect human rights, rights to recourse where appropriate, and laws regarding the forest. 

At the start of the session 134 people reported they had no understanding of their human rights; by the end of the session 135 people reported they had learnt about human rights and the related topics (Note: the Mayor had initially he said he knew about rights, but after the training expressed he had learnt new information). The community sent a letter of thanks to express their gratitude for the training . A total of 135 villagers participated, 92 men and 43 women.

In the following months, through to January 2018, TAZ assisted in a further five meetings, including with the National Environment Office (ONE), QMM and Rio Tinto officers, Asity (Birdlife International’s local affiliate) and representatives from the regional authorities and national ministries.

See table of activity: Timeline of the Antsotso Accompaniment 2017

TAZ recorded proceedings, produced written reports, and provided an independent third party presence to observe how meetings were conducted. The community received these recordings and documents as testimony for their records.

Antsotso is visited by the Office Nationale pour L’Environnement (ONE)

A range of issues emerged during these meetings including the broken promises of Asity and their destruction of fishermen’s pirogues; the lack of a formerly demarcated ‘user zone’ in the forest; and the frustration that no formal compensation package would be offered by QMM to replace the lost value of the forest to the community.

Steps Forward

Over a number of months TAZ and the local consultant supported the community to organise and record their ideas around the challenges and solutions for mitigating their losses.

In November, through participatory engagement, community members tabled a list of demands ranging from agriculture support, technical assistance, and boats (to replace pirogues) through to infrastructure and livelihoods opportunities. Although there were different views about the immediate priorities, the range of demands were captured across different groups from across the community and therefore could present a number of ways for the mining company and other funders to help improve Antsotso’s situation. The community reflected on their need to resolve internal differences and it was agreed a resolution process would be set up at community level.

Villagers work together to identify issues and solutions

According to correspondence from the Mayor, a resolution process was conducted with community members on 21st January 2018. The following week, the community met again with QMM and Antsotso’s Mayor handed their list of demands to QMM representatives. (see english translation of Antsotso demands here)

It is understood that QMM have initially offered to set up bee keeping and pepper growing livelihoods projects. However, these will not be sufficient to replace the community’s food security. Other initiatives will need to be offered to the community during this year if food shortages are to be mitigated in the longer term.

The dialogue between QMM, the community and ONE is ongoing and there remain outstanding issues about demarcation of a ‘user zone’ and signage within the conservation area yet to be resolved.

Wider Advocacy Impacts of the Accompaniment

With the community’s permission, copies of the recordings and reports of meetings have been given by TAZ to ALT UK who has shared them with a Malagasy diaspora organisation that promotes the defense of Malagasy lands and is assisting the community with questions arising from the Biodiversity Offsetting arrangements in Antsotso.

It is hoped that TAZ’s recordings will offer insights, assist analysis and inform considerations with regard to the community’s land tenure and rights going forward.

women are under-represented in local meetings and decision making processes

Reflection and capturing lessons

This is the first time this kind of local accompaniment has been attempted with local mining affected communities in Anosy. There have been many challenges in the complex scenario. It has not been a discrete nor a complete process. Multiple actors are involved in Antsotso’s story, not all of whom are in direct communication with each other. Many interactions have occurred that may have influenced events but the details of these are not available for analysis, and some questions arising and lines of inquiry have not yet been concluded. The process of reflection and capturing lessons is therefore ongoing.

It is hoped that learning from this experience can inform future efforts to offer solidarity and support for communities who face similar challenges.

For further information please contact:

[1] QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) is a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, an Anglo- Australian multi national mining corporation. QMM is extracting ilmenite from the southeast coastline of Madagascar in order to produce titanium dioxide, an industrial whitener used in a vast number of products from paint to toothpaste. The project is a Public Private Partnership, jointly owned by QMM 80% and the Malagasy Government 20%.

[2] ALT UK developed its  ‘Groundswell’ strategy in 2015. The strategy reflects more deeply the approach and work ALT UK has undertaken over many years, based on lessons learnt locally, including through its responsible exit from Madagascar . The Trust changed its charitable objects in 2016 to embed the current strategy and enable ALT UK to focus more specifically on capacity building for civil society actors and organisations in the global south;  to share lessons and experiences into other regions of Madagascar and beyond, promoting local leadership and ownership of development, and south-to-south exchange and accompaniment.

ALT GroundSwell  is supported by The Aldama Foundation.

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From immediate relief to longer term food security in Androy

Last September Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT Mg) reported their activities of the  famine relief programme in Androy over a six month period from February to August.


Despite delays through administrative, logistical and cultural challenges, ALT Mg’s team were able to successfully register 1476 beneficiaries as eligible for cash transfers. They also set up 132 Committees for Social Protection (CPS) and trained 69 Mother Leaders.

1238 people received cash transfers for their families with a value of 158,880,000 Ariary and a total of 7428 family members benefitting in total ( 1238 x 6 the average family size).

Those who were eligible but had not yet received payments due to administrative problems have since been helped to receive payments. Additionally new income generating activities have been set up to provide for longer term food security.

Thanks to the support from the UK, ALT Mg has felt more able to achieve all the activities of the relief programme:

“The funds that come from you help us a lot. Many agents of the FSS* program cannot cope – the budget is not viable as there are no running costs included; but thanks to the additional funds coming from UK we have been able to accomplish all the activities of this FSS program” Hanitra Raharimanana, Director, Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT Mg).

Going Forward: Income generating activity and long-term food security

Mother Leaders of Anja Ouest

In August 2017 the team commenced income-generating activities and is now training local CPS groups in a variety of skills to increase their longer-term food security and resilience.

The groups, which are made up of the same beneficiaries registered for cash transfers, receive a ‘Fonds de Redressment” (Recovery Fund) of 180,000 AR (per person) and decide how they want to use the funds to generate income.

The ALT Mg team works with ‘Mother Leaders’ and each respective group to explain the objectives of the “Fonds de Redressment” and how this part of the funding would work; also to ascertain the Groups’ project goal/activities. The ALT Mg team were trained in animal husbandry so they can accompany and support the groups. For example, if beneficiaries decide to raise goats then the funds are used for the purchase. Then the animal is taken to the vet for vaccinations and training is received on how to care for the animals. The evolution of the training will take place over two years and results will be monitored.

The first tranche of this fund payment (90,000Ar) for beneficiaries was paid in September 2017. By  the end of the reporting year (to FID) over 1400 beneficiaries had received their ‘Fonds de Redressement’ . Most had chosen to rear goats or sheep and 1433 reported success (just 18 reported difficulty, such as lost animals). This income generating activity will help provide food stocks as well as income in the future.

ALT UK has raised additional funds for the famine relief effort, and continues to support ALT Mg as part of its strategy to strengthen local civil society with help from Aldama Foundation.


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With assistance from the ALDAMA Foundation, the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) has been working to develop its new strategy, which focuses support to communities and southern NGOs directly with funding and capacity building.

The Antanadroy traditionally rely on prickly pear fruits for nutrition during the annual three months hunger gap

In light of serious food insecurity for populations in Southern Madagascar following a severe drought in 2016, The Trust has committed to using Aldama Foundation funds to support its local Malagasy NGO partner, Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT MG),  in delivering vital emergency relief for famine affected communities in the Androy region.

The funds will assist ALT Mg to deliver cash transfers to drought-hit communities where families are facing severe food shortages.

Cash transfers enable families to purchase food and other essentials. This support is in keeping with ALT’s current mission and will specifically fulfil the following objectives:

  • support a vital famine relief effort for drought affected families in Androy.
  • support ALT MG’s capacity for delivering humanitarian aid in drought areas.
  • maintain ALT MG’s standing as a key local NGO specialising in food security in the south of Madagascar
  • increase capacity of ALT MG to master cash transfer processes*.

    Training of local team to do the registration of families for cash transfers

The cash transfer funds have been accorded by The World Bank in response to the Malagasy Government’s famine alert. The programme is co-ordinated by the Ministry of the Population, Social protection and the Promotion of Women (MPPSPF) and is implemented by Fonds d´Intervention pour le Développement (FID) and the National Office of Nutrition (ONN) as part of the National Community Nutrition Programme (UPNNC).

However the World Bank grant/FID programme will not cover any of the local NGO’s running /core costs while it delivers the relief programme in Androy, and which are essential for the effective implementation of the field work and the functioning of Andry Lalana Tohana during the three year project period.

The Aldama Foundation funds will therefore be used to support ALT MG’s core running costs and enable it to operate while it delivers the cash relief to affected communities. In this, Aldama funds represent co-finance to the relief effort, and capacity building support for the local NGO*.

The Severe Drought in South of Madagascar 

The Androy region suffers annual drought with up to 18 communes profoundly food insecure

This emergency programme responds to an urgent and vital need. The impacts of four years of severe drought was deepened in 2016 by the el Niño effect and the UN reports:

1.4 million people are estimated to be food insecure in 2016/17 in Madagascar’s three southern regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo-Andrefana. Of these, around nearly 850,000 are acutely food insecure, meaning they are not able to meet their food needs and require urgent humanitarian assistance”.

Lack of rainfall in the Androy region has resulted in an 80 percent decline in maize production last year compared with the already reduced levels of 2015. It has also affected production of cassava, another staple food in both Androy and another southern region, Atsimo-Andrefana, where cassava production dropped by approximately half. The regions of Atsimo-Andrefana, Boeny, Melaky, Betsiboka and Ihorombe have experienced a significant decline in rice production of between 25 and 60 percent. As a result of the drought, the government has declared a state of famine in the south.;jsessionid=1236001A9CCB47E011FED179738DD20F

Antandroy village

Prone to annual drought and food shortages, the deep south remains one of the most fragile areas of the island with more than 82% of the population living below the poverty line and facing an annual three month hunger gap. Climate change is aggravating soil erosion and deforestation and contributes to the food security challenges in the deep south and to income at household level, also to water supplies. Faced with extreme drought, the populations of the deep south are hard pressed to stabilise their livelihoods, nutrition and human capital and rebuild their assets

Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT MG) –  an Agency for Cash Transfers

Registering women for cash transfers in Amborinabo

 The ALT MG team has considerable experience working on food security programmes and in the affected communities. Consequently it has positioned itself to act as an approved agent – ‘Agence dEnregistrement et d’Encadrement’ (AGEE) – to deliver a cash transfer programme, to assist over 8000 people, approximately 1400 families in severe crisis between 2017- 2019.

The project meets Sustainable Development Goals and provides:

(a) monetary transfer for human development program; (b) the implementation of a social protection programme (c) activities in disaster response.

Target Areas

14 sites within three communes, including: Bevitiky, Manakompy, Tanambao Tsirandrany, in the district of Bekily in the Androy region.


Mothers who regularly bring their malnourished children to the Nutrition Centre: Total 1403 mothers of families = 1403 x 6 (average household size) = 8, 418 people will benefit.

Activities of ALT MG

ALT will ensure the implementation of the following activities:

Training in Manakompy for the Committee of Social Protection (CPS)

  • Registration of eligible households (identified by National Office of Nutrition);
  • Ensure support of beneficiaries throughout the programme;
  • Ensure the training, support and the framing of the Committees of Social Protection (CPS), and Mother Leaders (ML);
  • Ensure technical follow-up of generating revenue (AGR) of beneficiary households;
  • Perform monetary transfers to beneficiaries in 14 target sites.

ALT UK has drawn up a partnership agreement with ALT MG for the transferal of the Aldama funds. ALT UK will provide ongoing mentoring and technical support as required, as well as translation and assistance with report writing to the UK donor.

*As Cash Transfers become increasingly a mechanism for emergency humanitarian aid, developing the skills and experience in this sector will position ALT Mg to be a local leader in the south for future interventions; this programme therefore represents important capacity building for the ALT MG team.

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RESPONSIBLE EXIT – ALT participates in INTRAC study

Last year, as a result of face to face discussions and exchange  with INTRAC, Andrew Lees Trust and its local partner Andry Lalana Tohana were invited to participate in sharing the experience of the exit process that has been core to the Trust’s strategy in Madagascar.

The INTRAC study, reported in its recent newsletter in the chapter “Rethinking Partnership, exit and sustainability”  has been published by BOND, the international development network in their PPA series of reports, and is entitled ” What’s it like to be on the receiving end of exit”

Download the report here 

The study focused on perspectives of exit and transition from partners in the global south. It provides insights how in country stakeholders experience the process, and makes recommendations. ALT Mg’s perspective is important, coming from a significantly smaller local organisation than the two other well known agencies.

Hanitra and a member of the  ALT MG team arriving in Akilisoa Somangy 2 in 2017, with vehicles transferred to their ownership by ALT UK during the exit strategy (completed in 2010)

Hanitra Raharimanana is Director of Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT MG), The Trust’s local partner in Madagascar, and she provided her personal reflections on the transition process that was the focus of The Trust’s sustainability strategy leading to its exit from Madagascar, and the full hand over of assets, know how and resources to ALT’s Malagasy field team in 2010.

The exploration and understanding of responsible exit strategies, sustainability of local NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs), and divesting power to the south is an important theme in current development discourse and ALT UK/ALT MG are delighted to be part of this research, especially its Southern perspective.

ALT MG in Vatoarivo launching their emergency relief project 2017


The Trust is currently supporting Andry Lalana Tohana as it delivers an emergency (cash transfer) programme in the Androy region, following the 2016 serious drought and famine .

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The Trust has attended many Rio Tinto AGMs over the years in order to raise issues about the Madagascar mine operated by  Rio Tinto’s subsidiary: Qit Minerals Madagascar (QMM),  and advocate on behalf of mine affected communities.

This year, The Trust joined forces with six other organisations committed to holding the company to account over QMM’s Biodiversity Offsetting programme in Madagascar, including: Andrew Lees Trust, Collectif Tany, Friends of the Earth, London Mining Network, Re:Common, War on Want and World Rainforest Movement.

( see also blog post for 19th April below)

Biodiversity Offsetting

The AGM in April 2017 action was planned around the visit to the UK of a representative from the village of Antsotso in the Anosy region, Southern Madagascar, in order that he could put his case to Rio Tinto and its shareholders at the AGM and explain the way he and his fellow villagers have lost their food security and livelihoods as a result of the ban on forest access created by QMM’s Biodiversity Offsetting programme.

Just weeks before the AGM, the local community representative, Msr Athanase, learnt that his visa application to the UK had been rejected, thus thwarting any chance he might have of bringing his problems to the attention of Rio Tinto shareholders from his very direct and personal experience. His application was rejected by the UK Government on the basis that he lacked the expertise and skills to talk about human rights and the environment.

The Guardian newspaper and The Times both covered the story of the UK Govt’s refusal of Msr Athanase’s visa.

However this did not deter efforts to bring the community’s issues to the attention of the company and a statement was read at the AGM by Mamy Rakotondrainibe of Collectif Tany ( see summary at  London Mining Network AGM Report).

Buffer Zone and Radioactivity Concerns

In parallel, the Director of Andrew  Lees Trust also asked questions of the Board surrounding the issue of encroachment of legally protected buffer zones around the current mine operation site and the related concerns of radioactivity pathways and how they are being managed. ( see summary below, and article at The Ecologist)

Summary; Extract of Rio Tinto AGM Questions to Board

Yvonne Orengo, from the Andrew Lees Trust, said that she wanted to talk about transparency. She welcomed that the company has become a leader in tax transparency and thinks shareholders will also want the company to be even more transparent about how the company conducts its business in countries where it operates, especially where there is weak governance, as in Madagascar, so that communities – like those mentioned earlier eg in relation to the Biodiversity offsetting – are not deleteriously affected by the company’s or its staff behaviours.

For example, she is aware from her experience of the Madagascar mine over many years that those who complain about what is happening, or particularly what is not happening around the mine in Madagascar, are harassed or intimidated. Yvonne had spent many hours with Rio Tinto executives in London discussing these matters over a period of many years.

She said she had two questions to raise and asked firstly why QMM had breached a legal buffer zone, in place under national law, to protect waterways that feed into the town and areas used by locals for drinking water and fishing, to create a man made, artificial extension of land into the buffer zone. These activities had been kept below the radar by the company but the evidence is there on Google Earth.

She then asked why there was no transparency over the radioactivity pathways of the mine. The company was rightly concerned about the health and safety of its employees, and that was welcome, but how conscious was the company of the threat to the health and safety of people in surrounding communities from mine tailings, especially given the slow progress on rehabilitation? The radioactivity question was pushed under the carpet twenty-two years ago. Yvonne was in the town at that time when local regional representatives were explaining how the company had assured people there were no concerns. However, the quantities of ilmenite being dredged, meant that the levels of radioactive NORM (e.g. Uranium and Thorium) from Zircon and Monazite by products are now very high and this should therefore be a concern. She asks the company to be more transparent on this subject and felt sure the shareholders would want that too, and not want to be earning dividends from the company if the price was placing local people’s health at risk.

J-S Jacques replied that the company had a broad range of monitoring devices. Water is constantly monitored and no pollution had been noticed. QMM also monitors radioactivity. He suggested that the best way forward was for him to meet with Yvonne and Mamy in May. He undertook to go on site so that he could see it with his own eyes.

Yvonne asked for an assurance that whatever is discussed in private meetings would be put into the public domain on what the company was doing about monitoring, including of findings on radioactivity. She said that the company’s biodiversity committee had resigned last year but that was still not in the public domain and shareholders probably did not know that this had happened. So she asked for an assurance that this kind of information would be made much more public in future. It is hard to hold QMM to account when information is not forthcoming, and the lack of transparency represents a reputational risk to Rio Tinto.

Jan du Plessis said that Rio Tinto believes in transparency. Unless the company is sensitive to the communities in which it operates, it will not be able to operate. He said that there had been many examples over the years when people had raised issues with the company at AGMs and they had taken these matters up. Meetings like the AGM serve a purpose because they provide a forum for people to make these kind of points, and the company takes them seriously.

You can listen to the full AGM here 

Follow Up: Meeting in May 

The CEO of Rio Tinto, Jean Sebastien Jacques asserted in front of shareholders that he wished to address all these questions in person and has requested a meeting with Collectif Tany, Andrew Lees Trust and London Mining Network in May.

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April 8th 2017 ,   New Frontiers New Tricks : a day of discover, debate and dialogue about Biodiversity Offsetting

Hosted at Friends of the Earth and co-organised by The Andrew Lees Trust , Friends of the Earth, War on Want, London Mining Network, Re:Common, Collectif Tany and World Rainforest Movement the event set out to explore the realities of Biodiversity Offsetting projects and their  impacts on local communities.

The day was well attended and discussion was lively. A range of case studies were debated, including from UK and Mongolia.

A special  focus was given to the Antsotso community in Madagascar whose livelihoods and food security has been deleteriously affected by Rio Tinto’s QMM project which has imposed a ban on forest access and use of forest resources by the community.

Preventing the community from interacting with the forest in the their traditional ways has forced them to grow manioc on sandy beaches where the crop yields `are poor , leaving them unable to sustain their food supplies as before.

This community was already living on the edge, barely surviving, but able to manage with forest resources at their disposal. Now they will be criminalised for entering their own forest and face fines if they cut a tree to build a pirogue ( traditional wooden canoe used for fishing), hence their livelihoods too are affected.

The mining company is imposing these restrictions in order to claim the forest next to Antsotso as part of their Biodiversity Offsetting programme, a plan they claim will deliver a net positive impact to biodiversity in the region. The offset is meant to compensate for the loss of  a 6000 hectare swathe of indigenous trees, flora and fauna along the southeast coastline of the island.

An Italian NGO, Re:Common has been investigating the impacts of the Biodiversity Offsetting on the community and produced a report with World Rainforest Movement which was distributed and discussed at the event; they have also produced a video. Giulia Franchi and Alessandro Runci from Re: Common presented to the workshop and shared their experiences of the community and the process of their research.

The Trust adopts an ethical stance towards the mine and stands in solidarity with affected communities.


War On Want : The new colonialism

Re: Common and World Rainforest Movement on Rio Tinto’s Biodiversity Offsetting : a ‘double land grab’

Film Link : YOUR/ MINE

Collectif Tany and Re:Common on land grabbing in Madagascar

London Mining Network New Frontiers New Tricks

Friends of the Earth on the Madagascar mine: Development Recast

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At this event, on SATURDAY, 8TH APRIL 2017 activists, researchers, and NGOs and will be sharing testimony from communities across several continents, discussing these new threats to people and nature, and begin learning how to challenge them together.

Working with Friends of the Earth, London Mining Network, War on Want, and Re:Common, The Andrew Lees Trust is helping to draw attention to the plight of local communities who are carrying the cost of environmental destruction by multinational extractives projects, for example in Madagascar – learn more here 

book your place at EVENTBRITE by clicking here 


10.30 Arrivals/tea/cofee

11.00 Introduction to the day

11.10 Launch of New Frontiers, New Tricks report

11.20 Case studies of new ‘frontiers’ of sustainability, biodiversity offsetting and the financialisation of nature

11. 35 Questions

Tea / coffee break

12.00 A frontline testimony from Madagascar

12.30 Premiere of investigative video from Madagascar

12.45 Questions

13.00 Lunch

13.45 The international context: IUCN policy, EU strategy and the trend towards the financialisation of nature


Break-out sessions on the solutions to and arguments against mining’s new frontiers

15.15 Conclusions

15.40 Solidarity event – opportunity to show solidarity / support across the oceans

16.00 End

This event has been organised by: Andrew Lees Trust, Friends of the Earth, London Mining Network, Re:Common and War on Want.

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UKELA has announced details of the 2017 essay prize open to all students.  The prize is named after Andrew Lees who was Campaigns Director for Friends of the Earth and died in 1994 while campaigning  against open-cast mining in Madagascar

The 2017 Andrew Lees Prize Article Competition opened for entries from  14 March.

Please note extended submission date of 26 April 2017.



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C4D Sight and Sound Festival December 2016

Andrew Lees Trust participated in and presented at this Communications For Development event, organised by the C4D Network on 20th December 2016 at Somerset House, London.

ALT shared its experience of using oral testimony to amplify the voices of isolated rural communities from southern Madagascar.

Sharing one of the films made by villagers from Faux Cap, the presentation highlighted the importance of understanding development from the perspective of local people and ensuring their voice in the design of policy, projects and social engagement for development.

ALT’s oral testimony project HEPA and resources can be seen  at

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Brussels Book Launch – May 2016

Also on Monday 23rd May, the  ALT Director, Yvonne Orengo, participated in the launch of the FoE book “Why Women Will Save The Planet” at the offices of Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), co-hosted by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL).

The book was published in November last year as part of a Friends of the Earth project called ‘Big Ideas Change the World’. This project is exploring some of the key issues that can help to transform our society and make faster progress towards the goals of environmental sustainability and well-being for everyone. Is women’s empowerment critical to environment sustainability? This is the question that the book aims to answer to.

women will save planet picSee

women wiil save planet brusselsSharing a platform and the evening with with committed feminists and environmental campaigners, Yvonne talked about the role and importance of media in enfranchising women in local development and environmental management in Madagascar.

You can obtain a copy of the book via this link to the FoE shop :

FoE have also issued a briefing paper on gender equality and environmental sustainability:


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