Remembering Andrew – Marking 25 years…..

Andrew Lees 1949-1994

At some point I had to stand up and be
counted. Who speaks for the butterflies?”

AT this time of year, the custom is to put the past behind and make resolution for the future. The turning of the year, a turning of a page, charged with new hopes and aspiration for the days ahead.

Sometimes, at this time of year it also helps to reflect and remember, what has been achieved, what learnt, and what can be measured out in memories and important moments from the time passed.

For the Trust, the ending of this year marks 25 years since Andrew Lees made his last, fateful mission into southern Madagascar to film its unique biodiversity and capture the voice of local people. He aimed to produce a campaign film to help protect the southeastern littoral forests from destruction by a proposed Rio Tinto mining project, set to change the lives of local people and their environment forever.

Andrew Lees, botanist, environmental activist and campaigner

1995 Film about Andrew’s mission to Madagascar

Andrew never walked out of the forest of Petriky. His spirit, and his love of nature met a final resting place in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. A traditional stone marks the place where he fell and the local Antanosy people have designated the area around it sacred, recognizing Andrew’s spirit to reside there, along with their ancestors.

Andrew Lees Memorial stone in Petriky

In the year that followed, Andrew’s family, close friends and colleagues at Friend of the Earth where Andrew worked as Campaigns Director set up the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK.) The Trust first helped generate funds towards the launch and development of an environmental training centre, the Centre Ecologique Libanona (CEL). The schoolroom was dedicated to Andrew’s memory at the opening day in December 1995. A commemoration, and a small seed of hope planted in the sandy soil of Libanona.

Andrew Lees dedication plaque on the schoolroom at Centre Ecologique Libanona

The choice of supporting this centre reflected what Andrew’s family and partner believed he would want – something to help develop the skills of local people so they could advance the work of protecting their environment and shaping the future of their region. That small seed grew and bore fruit, helping hundreds of local Malagasy students to gain the higher education they needed over two decades. It also served as a learning centre for students visiting Madagascar from overseas, and a local training venue, creating an enriching exchange of cultures and ideas.

A training day at CEL

Libanona was to become the base not just of a CEL, which reached Malagasy University status over the course of its 20-year history, but also home to the Trust’s office and field programme in 1999. No one imagined we would still be serving the people of Madagascar twenty years later.

Between 1999-2009, the Malagasy team were trained and became experienced in the Trust’s approach, management techniques and working practices, which successfully delivered its programme for food security, natural resource management, communications, and non formal education using radio to communities in some of the most remote and challenged areas across the southern arc of the island.

ALT “Project Radio” 1999-2009 – and the wind-up radio with village listening group

Life has a way of turning circles, or perhaps more accurately spirals. Ten years into our work in Madagascar, in 2009, the Trust handed over to its local field team in a responsible exit. It supported the birthing of a Malagasy NGO directed and peopled by the local animateurs, technicians and managers from the Trust’s ten-year field programme. The team brought the skills and specializations they had learnt with Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) into their new organization, Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT MG).

The team of Andry Lalana Toahana (ALT MG) December 2019

Between 2009-2019 the Trust has supported the growth and development of the Malagasy NGO Andry Lalana Tohana, developing joint projects in equal partnership (2009-2013) and providing assistance in response to requests from the ALT MG management team to support their field programme and initiatives. These range from famine relief, food security and health education to communications for empowerment, including interactive media for human rights promotion and participatory video.

In 2019, we celebrate a decade of Andry Lalana Tohana’ s field programme. In particular its opening of a new local education centre, The CERCLE. The Centre for Education, Reintegration, Communication and Exclusive Leadership, is dedicated to helping the most underprivileged children and young of the Anosy region of southern Madagascar. It helps infants to gain basic literacy and numeracy skills, enabling them to enter the state school system; it also provides life skills training for young people and literacy classes for mothers.  142 children went through the first term at the CERCLE and reentered local schools in September – the teachers report that the children are achieving excellent results!

Antanosy children at the CERCLE in Ft Dauphin, Anosy Region, Southern Madagascar

This initiative reflects a cycle of dedication towards local empowerment and learning that underscores and echoes The Trust’s commitments when it began its story some 25 years ago: a commitment towards local ownership and leadership. A story of tragic loss turned into acts of hope.

The legacy of a man who inspired so many people – and whose name is immortalized in dedications in the UK, in Wales, London, Norfolk, as well as in Madagascar at Libanona, Petriky, and Ft Dauphin  – lives on in these acts of hope, like the CERCLE.

On December 14th, the team of Andry Lalana Tohana (ALTMG) held a ceremony and event to mark the 25 year anniversary of Andrew’s mission to Madagascar and his passing in Petriky. They created their own plaque to commemorate him and the 25 years.

ALT MG’s 25 year anniversary plaque for Andrew Lees

This coming year, in 2020, we give thanks for that inspiration and the legacy. Those who knew Andrew personally, worked with him, grew with him, and many who just met him for a moment, remember how he touched their lives.  Today, people who never met Andrew are still touched by his spirit, by the special character and passion he brought into the world. In Madagascar and in the UK, in connections that span across the planet, he is not forgotten.

Sorghum Festival in Androy: a celebration in the Trust’s food security programme for the reintroduction of Sorghum for drought affected communities

We extend our gratitude to all those who have worked with and supported, the Trust and its actions over the last twenty five years. We remember Marek Mayer, one of the Trust’s co-Founders, and Mme Olga Marovavy Solondrenibe of ALT MG, and we thank all who have contributed to honouring Andrew’s memory, and his legacy.

Immortal Love.

Hanitra Raharimanana (left), Director and Co-Founder of ALT MG, leads a celebratory dancing at the 25th anniversary event in Ft Dauphin
Co Founder of ALT MG Sosthene Robson (right) with team holding Andrew’s 25th Anniversary plaque
friends, family and team of ALT MG gathered in Ft Dauphin on December 14th for the commemorative event for Andrew Lees, marking 25 years
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Children with their school packs for the CERCLE class

In response to a request from local Malagasy NGO Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT MG) the Trust secured funds from the Aldama Foundation to help launch this important local initiative : The CERCLE, Centre for Education, Reintegration, Communication and Exclusive Leadership, for children and young people in the Anosy region of southern Madagascar.


In Madagascar, almost half of the population is under 18. Approximately 33% of those under are of school age within the Malagasy state education system, starting at the age of six. According to a study done by the World Bank, the level of education in Madagascar remains one of the lowest in the world; the average schooling rate for children aged 6 to 10 fell from 80% to 75% between 2005 and 2010. This rate is still decreasing in the southern part of Madagascar. The dropout rate before T5 (CM2) is 50%, especially in rural areas.

The city of Fort Dauphin has not escaped this situation despite the development of the city for the past 10 years. The high cost of living leaves the majority of vulnerable households to abandon the education of their children.

Lack of money for school supplies and fees is the main cause of school exclusion and leads to aggravating phenomena such as child labor. Young people attracted by easy money engage in prostitution. Young girls without occupation readily accept to marry early and experience early pregnancy, which can have long term impacts on the health and prosperity of the family.

A child sings at the launch of the CERCLE in Anosy region

In recognition of the importance of education as a key factor in development outcomes ALT MG launched the CERCLE : Center for Education, Reintegration, Communication and Exclusive Leadership, which aims to help children and young people who have not had the opportunity to access formal education or other training for various reasons, including:

  • High levels of poverty preventing the family from sending their children to school
  • Security issues (sexual harassment, violence, intimidation)
  • Girls deprived of education by tradition, boys’ education is considered more important
  • Girls become mothers (early pregnancy)

Depending on the case of children / young people, the CERCLE offers critical support for their schooling and social reintegration. The children have a fundamental right to appropriate education for their situation and such as can help them develop essential skills, critical thinking and self-confidence, creating a healthy foundation for them to succeed in their lives. The CERCLE is also open to young people so that they can discuss, ask for advice, and access practical training useful for their development and knowledge of new technology such as computers and the Internet.

The existence of the CERCLE will help these children / youth to flourish and access the education they need.


The CERCLE was launched by Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT MG) on 10th April 2019 after two months of preparations including building refurbishment, meetings with local authorities, identification of families and children for enrolment, location of additional local classroom space outside the CERCLE building, equipment purchases, and the training of teachers in literacy and life skills training.

Registration with families and children

The CERCLE Classes began on the 15th April 2019 for 142 identified children who were not attending school and who come from vulnerable families in four of the Fokontany (villages) in Tolagnaro commune.

The children were organized into separate classes according to their ability. Each student received the necessary school supplies including notebooks, pens, slates, rulers, and chalk. Blackboards were provided for each classroom.

142 students received four months of schooling in basic literacy, numeracy and life skills to prepare them to re-enter the formal state school system with the necessary capabilities.

Towards the end of August, students went through revision and final tests and the results act as the guideline as to whether the child is then able to return to primary elementary school level 1 (T1) of level 2 (T2) classes in the public school system.  During the holidays, the CERCLE students will join the public school for the CREN (National Education Review Course) before their level test for reintegration into classrooms in public primary schools closest to their homes.

142 CERCLE students will join classes in September in local primary schools. The Regional Director of Education had asked primary school principals to prioritise the return of students from the CERCLE classroom because he is convinced of the effectiveness of the methodology used by ALT MG at the CERCLE.


Meeting with parents at Tanambao


A series of courtesy visits was conducted with the local authorities and potential partners to announce the existence of the project and ask them for their support and collaboration. The local Prefect for the District remarked on the importance of the project in the urban commune and also expressed that he would like to see the expansion of the project in the most remote areas of Anosy region. The Mayor of the city of Tolagnaro, capital of Anosy, thanked the team for recognising that the city needs this project. He believes that this kind of project is a great help to reduce the juvenile delinquency that is gaining momentum in the city of Tolagnaro.

The eleven Fokontany chiefs (village leaders) of the urban commune were visited, although only four Fokontany were targeted for the first phase of the project.

Outreach- meeting with villagers in Isokaky

At the level of the Ministry of Education, the Regional Director of Education was very motivated to support this project because the activities are aligned with the national programme of education for the reintegration of children into school. He facilitated the ALT MG team to approach the School District Service (CISCO), ZAP Heads and School Directors.

During the courtesy visit to the Regional Directorate of Youth and Sport (DRJS), the Director of the DRJS was interested in the Life skills part of the CERCLE programme because the Ministry will be developing this activity in the region. They were poised to bring a Life Skills trainer to deliver a training course in Amboasary. The ALT MG team seized the opportunity and asked if they could attend this training. The Director gave his agreement and the team attended training from February 7 to 17, 2019.

The Regional Technical Assistant in the Child Protection Section of UNICEF came to the ALT MG office to learn more about the project.


For the first phase of CERCLE activity the main target Fokontany (villages) in the Tolagnaro urban community were: AMPARIHY, ESOKAKA, TANAMBAO, AMPOTATRA.  According to the information given by the municipality and the school district, these four Fokontany have a high rate of vulnerable parents with children who do not go to school.

Children registered for class by their families

After the presentation of the project in the Fokontany, the team asked the Fokontany Chief to support the ALT MG team in identifying those children who had not had the opportunity to go to school and those who could not continue to go to class because their parents do not have the means. Each Fokontany Chief had a village meeting to explain the programme to their community and invited parents to then register their child.

Community workers with the ALT MG team went door-to-door to ensure information reached vulnerable parents with children who do not attend class and who were not able to be present at the Fokontany meeting. The team obtained a list of children aged 6 to 17 eligible for literacy training that will encourage and enable them to return to formal state school class in the next school year.

Given the geographical challenges of the position of the ALT MG office, which is some distance from some of the four Fokontany of Amparihy, Esokaka and Tanambao, the ALT MG team requested collaboration from the Fokontany Chiefs that they find a room/space for the CERCLE children in their respective villages. Each Fokontany were able to use the CERCLE classroom or offered a dedicated space for the literacy classes in their commune.


The official launch of the project was carried out on April 10, 2019 at the CERCLE classroom space.

Director of ALT MG presents the CERCLE during the launch ceremony

The Representative of the Prefect of the Region, the Deputy Mayor, the representatives of the Ministry of Education (Chief ZAP), the Presidents of the four Fokontany, the Regional Technical Assistant in the Child Protection Section of UNICEF all attended, as did the parents and students.

The national TV reporter reported on the CERCLE Launch and the show aired on TVM.

The official opening of the CERCLE followed a series of speeches by the local authorities and by Mme Hanitra Raharimanana, Director of Andry Lalana Toahana (ALT MG). The opening was well attended and warmly welcomed by parents and authorities who recognize the need to reach and support the most vulnerable families and children in the region.

To increase awareness of the CERCLE, ALT MG also participated in the “day of schools” in Ft Dauphin, Anosy.

ALT MG team create awareness of the CERCLE at the “Day of Schools” in Tolagnaro


Two trainers from ALT MG already had literacy teaching capacity. To increase their capacity in teaching literacy to young children, ALT MG appealed to the FFMM Grand Trainer (Fifampiofanana Fanabeazana Fikolokoloana Ho Malagasy Mahomby) based in Fianarantsoa, a specialist recognized in the effective Methodology for literacy training throughout Madagascar.

In addition to the specialised training, all the necessary tools including reading books, calculation books, brochures and mimeographs were provided to the trainers.  The training for trainers took place over two weeks from May 31 to June 15, 2019.

Training of CERCLE Trainers in Amboasary

As well as literacy training, young people will also have support and training in Life Skills so that they can have the capabilities necessary for advancing their personal life, education and work prospects.  This includes building important psychological foundations such as confidence and self esteem.

The two trainers of ALT MG attended a life skills training of trainers organized by the Regional Directorate of Youth and Sport (DRJS) of Anosy from 7 to 17 February 2019. This has helped to provide them with the necessary coaching elements that they can use to support youth for strengthening their psychosocial skills


To ensure that each child will receive the support needed during their learning process, a maximum of 25 students per class was established.

Children in literacy class at the CERCLE classroom

After identifying the children in the four Fokontany, a small test was conducted to facilitate the grouping of students according to their ability.  The test results enabled two classes to be set up: one class for those who never attended school  (T0) and children who have already gone to primary elementary school 1  (T1) ; and a second for those who had already gone to primary elementary school 2 (T2).

Two classes per Fokontany were organized and two ALT MG trainers were allocated to take care of the students as part of this CERCLE project. The class hours are the same in the four Fokontany from Monday to Thursday; Friday is devoted to preparation of next classes by the trainers.  Classes T0-T1 works from 8h to 11h in the morning and classes T2 and more from 14h to 17h in the afternoon.


THE CERCLE is now helping the mothers of children attending the CERCLE and who have asked to learn how to read and write. ALT MG trainers go beyond the call of duty to teach at the weekend because these mothers have to work weekdays in order to meet the needs of their families.


Posted in Education and Life Skills, Supporting Civil Society | Leave a comment


Fisher village in Anosy, southern Madagascar

As part of its research and advocacy around the Rio Tinto/QMM mine in southern Madagascar, in particular its inquiry into the breach of the environmental buffer zone and concomitant questions around water contamination, the Trust has been working closely with Publish What You Pay (PWYP) in the UK and in Madagascar to address questions around the relationship between Qit Minerals Madagascar (QMM) and the national environmental regulator, The National Office for the Environment (ONE).

The ONE is responsible for monitoring the mine and its adherence to laws and regulations that protect the environment and the natural resources upon which local people rely for their survival. Local communities fish and draw their drinking water from the lakes and waterways adjacent to the QMM mine. They also collect reeds for weaving, Viha plants for roofing, and other water products, so the quality of the water, land and forest resources must be free from contamination.

Viha water plant grows in abundance in the waterways in Mandena where the QMM mine is situated

However, the rigour of current environmental monitoring around the QMM mine is currently under question. The breach of the buffer zone by QMM, by as much as 90 metres in places, has broken laws and agreements without any penalties or sanctions. Concerns have been raised by communities and complaints made at local level (by a local deputy) that the relationship between QMM and the ONE is compromised and the mechanisms for environmental monitoring and consultation processes are neither transparent nor equitable.

August 2019 – Following months of engagement with Rio Tinto, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) UK and the Trust (as a member of PWYP) worked closely with PWYP Madagascar to prepare a letter and briefing to send to Malagasy ministers raising urgent concerns about extractive industry governance in Madagascar. It took the QMM mine in Anosy as a case study in the briefing by way of exposing how the current mining code in Madagascar affords gaps in accountability and transparency that risk undermining local governance and environmental protection, as well as citizens’ rights. The letter was sent in August 2019 by PWYP Madagascar and calls for a review of the Mining Code with civil society in order to address these gaps and promote greater transparency.

In addition to Malagasy civil society co-signatories, many PWYP member organisations and others from around the world co-signed the letter as supporting organisations. The letter and briefing have been shared widely with key agencies and stakeholders, including with the external advisory committees for QMM, the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), the International Council for Mining and Minerals(ICMM), The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and disseminated broadly through local, national, international and online networks.

On receipt of the letter at the end of August 2019, the Minister for the Environment informed PWYP in Madagascar that there would be an investigation.

Read the letter and briefing in English and French

Letter English version

Letter French version/Version Francais

Briefing English version

Briefing French version / Version Francais

Read the Mongabay Article – published November 20th 2019


Posted in Advocacy | Leave a comment

ALT UK’S inquiry into the violation of an environmental buffer zone by Rio Tinto’s QMM mine in southern Madagascar

Traduction de cet BLOGpost en Francais disponible ICI

QMM mine in Mandena (2018)

Rio Tinto/QMM’s breach of an environmental buffer

Since 2016, the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) has been researching the breach of the environmental buffer zone by Rio Tinto’s QMM mine operations at the Mandena site in the Anosy region, southern Madagascar.

The Trust has been concerned about the breach because local people have the right to a safe and healthy environment and, being highly dependent on direct access to natural resources for their food security and survival, the breach has potentially impacted water quality and the estuary system of lakes and rivers on which local people depend for fishing, drinking water and other important services. Citizens also have a right to information in relation to any release of pollutants to the environment due to QMM’s operational activities.

The Trust first raised the issue of the buffer breach and concomitant risks at the 2017 Rio Tinto AGM and has engaged with the company’s HQ in London over the last two years on questions arising.

The Trust commissioned two independent studies in relation to the breach of the buffer zone: one from the hydrogeology expert Dr Steven Emerman of Malach Consulting, to evaluate the extent of the QMM breach; the second from Dr Stella Swanson from Swanson Environmental Strategies, to review the radioactivity levels of the mine.

Reports and related articles can be found at

Key issues are also explained here:

For almost two years Rio Tinto /QMM denied the breach and claimed that the works in Mandena were “compliant”, despite the findings of their own contracted experts, Ozius, in 2018, who demonstrated the mine’s encroachment beyond approved permissions.  ALT UK continued to pursue answers and demand transparency. As a result, in a report issued by Rio Tinto in March 2019, and publicly at the 2019 AGM, the company finally admitted to the QMM breach of the buffer or sensitive zone by as much as 90 metres in places, and beyond legally approved permissions. Additionally, the company admitted to using QMM mine tailings to build its “berm”, which has extended onto the bed of Lake Besaroy.

The QMM breach at Mandena is of concern for a number of reasons: it violates the public protection of waterways where people fish and gather drinking water; it exceeds the permissions granted to Rio Tinto/QMM by the Government of Madagascar to observe an already reduced buffer zone (from the statutory 80 metres to just 50 metres wide) as negotiated in 2014. The 50m limit was approved by the environment regulator, the Office Nationale pour L’Environnement (ONE) in 2015, after QMM had already breached the 50m limit that they proposed in their Social and Environmental Management Plan (SEMP); the breach violates national environmental law that protects sensitive zones, such as the waterways and lakes adjacent to the QMM mine, which are also protected under public domain legislature; it has exposed the lakes to mine tailings and increased the risk of toxic waste water from the mining basin entering the lakes; in this, it exposes local people who depend on the lakes and waterways for fishing, drinking water and other services, to health risks. See Google Earth Images of the mine breach here

The violation of the buffer zone by QMM received no sanction or penalties from the state regulator, ONE, as would be expected, and despite the obvious breach of national laws and agreements, and impacts on the local peoples’ environment.

Fisherfolk on the waterways next to the QMM mine ( image courtesy of A Kraemer)

QMM Mine tailings and radioactivity

Rio Tinto has admitted that QMM’s mine tailings have been used to build the QMM “berm”. Moreover, the berm construction has encroached onto the bed of Lake Besaroy next to the mine site, bringing mine tailings into contact with the local estuary system.

Mine tailings and waste water from the mining basin contain enriched radionuclide content, because the ilmenite extraction process concentrates the radionuclides that are present in Monazite and Zircon, contained in the mineral sands.

The QMM ‘berm” is a structure intended to prevent tailings and waste-water from the mine basin from entering the adjacent lakes and waterways. As such, it would need to adhere to international dam construction standards, safety requirements and monitoring. However, in Rio Tinto’s recent listing of their mine storage facilities, the QMM mine is rated by Rio Tinto as having  “No embankment: excavated storage facility” (Rio Tinto, 2019). This description ignores the existence of the “berm”, or its function as a dam, and thereby potentially circumvents the prerequisite safety criteria.

The concern that toxic waste has entered the local water system has been deepened by ALT UK’s independent radioactivity review that identified elevated uranium levels in the water around the mine’s waste water discharge points, 50x times higher than World Health Organisation (WHO) safe drinking guidelines in some places.

The company has claimed that the elevated uranium levels identified in the water around the mine are all naturally occurring due to high background radiation levels. In reality RT/QMM cannot make this claim since they failed to carry out the necessary monitoring, or deliver relevant scientific data to support their argument. Indeed, ALT UK’s radioactivity expert, Stella Swanson, who has some 40 years standing in the industry and who consulted closely with Rio Tinto’s own expert, found QMM’s monitoring of ingestion pathways for radioactivity around the mine (water, soil, food) to be “unacceptable”.

Questions and demands

In April 2019 ALT UK brought its concerns to the Rio Tinto AGM, and is still in discussion with Rio Tinto HQ about what has happened and what needs to be done.  This includes asking that the company follow WHO guidelines to provide alternative safe drinking water sources for communities living around the mine site; a full translation into French of the main 68 page Swanson radioactivity review for local stakeholders, QMM staff and government and national agencies involved in monitoring the QMM mine; also a full, independently led and appropriately designed local communications programme to understand and address local concerns about the mine’s radioactivity levels – such as can educate and inform local communities about radioactivity, address their questions and concerns, and help them manage their lives around the QMM mine to assure their health and safety e.g. reduce incremental exposure.

woman with Eel Andrakaraka (image courtesy of A Kraemer)

In 2017, before commencing its studies, the Trust insisted that the findings of its independent radioactivity review be shared with local communities in appropriate and accessible ways. The Trust has this year offered a six-page communications advisory paper to Rio Tinto, which advocates an independently led communications programme and identifies experts who can assist QMM with this challenge. As yet the company has not responded to this communication paper.

Rio Tinto’s CEO did respond to two questions/demands at the Rio Tinto 2019 AGM: to agree the translation and address the communications issue. However, the company declined to take up the Trust’s and Swanson’s recommendation to address a high priority item: the provision of alternative safe drinking water sources for locally affected communities.

A recording of the entire Rio Tinto 2019 AGM is available here ; ALT UK questions appear at times : 49.25 and again at :  1.45.26

The Trust believes the safe drinking water issue should be placed within the context of understanding that 1) it is a WHO guideline given the health risks to local people, 2) QMM has failed to distinguish between pre-existing natural background levels in the water and the impacts of their mining operation, and 3) the violation of the buffer zone by QMM received no sanction or penalties from the state regulator, ONE, as would be expected, and despite the obvious breach of national laws and agreements, and impacts on the local peoples’ environment.

Local governance and transparency

Additionally, ALT UK is finding it extremely hard to access the 2018 ONE report that reported the QMM buffer zone work as “compliant”; and then, subsequently, a further ONE document that apparently evaluates the breach impact as “negligible”. ALT UK has repeatedly asked Rio Tinto to provide the relevant ONE reports but without success; the ONE also failed to respond to a request for relevant report/s.

This failure to share reports, especially when Rio Tinto/QMM is paying ONE for the evaluations of the QMM mine, reinforces local concerns about the relationship between QMM and ONE. At local level there have already been complaints that the relationship between QMM and ONE is “compromised”- including a public complaint made by a local deputy to the Minister of Environment during a visit to Ft. Dauphin in 2018.

More about the governance issues in the joint briefing and the letter sent to government ministers from Publish What You Pay here

Following a letter of enquiry sent in 2019 by ALT UK in collaboration with Publish What You Pay, Rio Tinto has shared details of payments made to ONE during the relevant SEMP approval and evaluation reporting time frames. On average the company appears to be providing support to ONE in the region of USD$30-40,000 per year, with a tendency toward on-going financial contributions, such as may risk dependency and create conflicts of interest; especially if works undertaken by ONE are not then readily available for scrutiny.

The amounts also suggest that no external, independent expertise was engaged by ONE to assess the buffer zone breach in 2018, or the impacts of constructing a berm using mine tailings that extended into the lake – e.g. on water quality; this suggests that the validation of the QMM works as “compliant” has not been concluded following a thorough technical examination such as would be necessary. For example, Rio Tinto paid almost USD$60,000 to Ozius just to study the buffer zone encroachment. No such increase in funds appear to have been made available to ONE in order to engage its own experts for the evaluation process; nor has it been suggested that ONE have referenced the Ozius report, which in any case clearly demonstrates the breach of the buffer and encroachment onto the lake. Indeed it remains unclear how ONE reached its conclusions on the status of the breach or the impacts of the encroachment as “negligible”.


Rio Tinto/QMM openly states that the company is making payments to ONE, as allowed under the MECIE decree; however, the company’s failure to make the ONE reports available when asked represents a serious lack of transparency and risks undermining robust, objective and credible governance at local level.  Most especially so when Rio Tinto/QMM are citing the ONE regulator and its reports publicly to claim “compliance” with their government approved Social Environmental Management Plan (SEMP) or convince shareholders of the “negligible” impact of QMM’s buffer breach on the local environment.

Weaving Mats in the villages around Mandena (image courtesy of A Kraemer)

Community engagement and accountability

Throughout the process, ALT UK has learnt that many community members knew little or nothing about changes to the QMM mine plan e.g. a reduced, 50 metre buffer (SEMP 2014-2018); or of further changes to the operational plan made in January 2019, such as normally require open community consultation. ALT UK is concerned that full consultation processes may not be happening, or may be confined and simplified to direct engagement with Mayors and Chef du Fokontany for rapid decisions and approvals.

Following complaints made to Rio Tinto HQ in 2017, the Trust was informed that internal training and procedural processes at QMM have been reviewed in order to improve QMM’s local social engagement mechanisms with communities; a new “Norme des Procedures” has been developed and apparently came out of that work. ALT UK has been promised sight of this document – but so far has not received a copy.

Poor or limited consultation processes with communities and lack of transparency over availability of data and information has been a concern of the Trust over many years.  Throughout this inquiry, ALT UK has had to be extraordinarily persistent throughout the dialogue with Rio Tinto in order to advance its enquiries and it took significant pressure from ALT UK for the company to finally admit the buffer zone violation. Rio Tinto has still not addressed many of ALT UK’s technical questions and documentation requests. Importantly, ALTUK has had to work full-time on these issues for over two years.

Research and advocacy work of this kind is demanding, time consuming and requires considerable technical assistance from independent scientists. No such resources are readily available to local communities in Anosy. In this, the two-year process highlights the difficulties for local citizens to hold the company to account, especially when they are faced with the daily challenges of surviving on less than $2 per day.

Indeed villagers appear to have had no capacity to prevent the loss of the inland Lake Ambavarano to the new perimeters of QMM’s 2019 butterfly mining (next phase of dredging), which QMM claims local people “rarely use” but which locals do employ for at least four months of the year in the “Asiotry” period, as well as accessing forest products around the lake all year; nor to stop QMM’s destruction of forest in the buffer area of the conservation zone in Mandena to create a new access route; both of which demonstrate a disregard for local people’s access to vital natural resources, and the power asymmetry that favours the company’s interests.

ALT UK’s research around QMM buffer breach/radioactivity levels has not involved any locally based NGOs /CSOs.  The work has been highly technical in nature with the focus on establishing scientific facts. Additionally, ALT UK was required to work under a confidentiality agreement from Rio Tinto in order to access QMM’s radioactivity monitoring data and associated reports, which has further impeded partnerships or local collaboration in the process. ALT UK has ensured some direct contact with community members in Anosy, thanks to the ALT UK Director’s long-standing personal relations in the region. This has helped maintain checks on local realities and concerns, but has only been possible intermittently, and on an ad hoc basis.

In this regard there is still a great deal of work to do in order to understand what is happening around the QMM mine in Mandena, how consultation and communications with communities is happening with QMM, whether citizens’ rights to a safe and healthy environment and their rights to information are being fully respected, how good governance can be achieved around the mining operation, and in what way any environmental or social abuses will be appropriately and justly addressed and remedied.

Vegetable gardens

Impacts, discussion and dissemination

The ALT UK research and advocacy work on the QMM breach has already had a number of impacts, with the company making a series of admissions and commitments. However, follow up on the outcomes of these commitments is required, as well as improved independent monitoring and evaluation of the QMM mine.

The Trust has engaged with a number of international agencies throughout this research and advocacy work, and collaborated closely with some NGOs, including Publish What You Pay, the London Mining Network and Friends of the Earth. It has also communicated with groups, researchers and individuals who have concerns or interests in the Rio Tinto QMM operations, including members of QMM’s International Independent Advisory Panel (IIAP) and Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Committee (BNRMC), to alert them of the buffer breach and concomitant risks.

The issues and the studies /findings have been shared widely through online networks such as POLLEN and the Madagascar Environmental Justice Network, and via direct correspondence from ALT UK, including with activists, researchers, members of the Malagasy diaspora, academics, shareholders/investors, conservation organisations such as the IUCN and WWF Madagascar, other relevant bodies such as Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative, Transparency International, and with the World Bank – under whose project funding timeline the QMM violation occurred (World Bank PIC programme).

Ethical investors are particularly focused on the extractives industry’s management of mine tailings following the Brumadinho tragedy earlier this year. The Church of England Pensions Fund, for example, has launched an initiative to promote improved safety and regulation of mine tailings storage facilities. The breach of the buffer zone in Madagascar raises specific questions about QMM’s management of its mine tailings, and associated risks; these have been explained in detail in Emerman’s second report, and been the subject of extensive enquiry by ALT UK to the company.

The QMM buffer zone breach raises questions about Rio Tinto/QMM’s respect for local people’s human rights to a safe and healthy environment and their rights to information. It also raises questions about the manner in which public private partnership projects of this kind are monitored, evaluated and held to account when they fail to respect the environmental standards expected of them – including in terms of their own corporate commitments, the national regulatory frameworks and laws, and by the international funders and organisations who have partnered with them.

Reports and Contact

For further information please contact:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Women’s Day 2019

The women of Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT Mg) at the International Women’s Day celebrations in Ft Dauphin on 8th March 2019

see Andry Lalana Tohana

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New tricks: biodiversity offsetting and mining

Our new report with Friends of the Earth :

Governments and businesses are presenting biodiversity offsetting as a nature conservation solution. However, in a new report Friends of the Earth and the Andrew Lees Trust UK  show that it’s just a green makeover for more damage by mining and development schemes, especially in some of the world’s most fragile nature hotspots.


From Madagascar to middle England this report by Friends of the Earth and the Andrew Lees TrustUK exposes how harmful mining, development projects and infrastructure schemes are deploying ‘biodiversity offsetting’ as a new form of conservation action in an effort to maintain business as usual activities.

Developers, industries and their lobbyists are using offsetting to mask the damaging effects of their largely unreformed activities and to further persuade governments, academic bodies, parts of the conservation sector and communities on the ground that their activities can be trusted to be clean, green, fair and sustainable.

Behind the promises and the allure of biodiversity offsetting as an apparent solution to nature’s decline, New frontiers, new tricks finds that the makeover of offsetting is just the latest sustainability gloss for unreformed, fundamentally unsustainable industrial activity and poorly conceived development.

Biodiversity offsetting is no substitute for lasting changes in business and industrial practices and for proper investment in proven nature conservation action to reverse the decline of nature and natural ecosystems……

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anglo Malagasy Society – panel discussion on mining in Madagascar

The Andrew Lees Trust’s Director, Yvonne Orengo, will join a panel discussion at the Anglo Malagasy Society (AMS) in London to debate mining in Madagascar- see the AMS information below and link to access tickets:

Buy tickets here

Panel discussion: Can mining contribute to sustainable development in Madagascar? 19:00, Wed 13 March 2019

This panel discussion will explore case studies of mining in Madagascar, including Rio Tinto, Ambatovy and Tulear Sands, and discuss some of the pressing social and environmental challenges that extractives projects present to the island and its citizens. The discussion will also include enquiry around the regulatory, legal and economic frameworks and how these support or undermine the value of the extractive industries’ contribution to the public purse and the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Four panellists with a long history of working in a wide range of contrasting sectors in Madagascar will present and debate key questions; there will also be a Q&A session with AMS members, and participation is encouraged to ensure a range of views are heard.

Moderator: Paul Melly (Chatham House) Panelists: Amber Huff (political ecologist, Institute of Development Studies); Vola Parker (author of ‘Rio Tinto and Madagascar: is it Equitable?’); John Ffooks (John W Ffooks & Co, lawyers specialising in natural resources); and Yvonne Orengo (Director, Andrew Lees Trust).

The ticket price for the evening event includes a free bar and delicious Malagasy buffet dinner. There will be a chance to chat with the panel and mingle with others to chat about Madagascar before and after the lecture.

Time: Doors open at 18:30 for a 19:00 start.

Venue: Access to the Upper Vestry Hall is at the back of St George’s Bloomsbury in Little Russell Street. It is near Tottenham Court Road and Holborn underground stations.

Tickets: Tickets for the event, including buffet meal cost £15 for society members, £20 for non-members and £9 for students. You can book and pay online here. Please book in advance (we need to know numbers for catering); tickets bought ‘on the door’ are subject to a £5 surcharge.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strengthening communications capabilities in the south: Participatory Video (PV)

Women at the Participatory Video (PV) training workshop with InsightShare in Tulear (Mme Hanitra of ALT MG third from right, back row)

In its work to strengthen civil society and to support the sustainability strategy of Andry Lalana Tohana in Madagascar (ALT MG) the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) secured funds from the Aldama Foundation to provide dedicated training in Participatory Video (PV) production for ALT MG, and upgrade their media equipment.

ALT MG brings considerable capability and experience in Communications for Development (C4D) and the use of media in the development context in southern Madagascar. This includes the team’s ten-year experience of the work of the ALT UK (e.g. Project Radio/Project HEPA Oral testimony) as well as subsequent collaborations such as the Village Voices for Development programme.

However, over the last few years, ALT MG recognized and voiced their need to update PV media skills, revise methodologies and develop new techniques.

Participatory Video (PV) Training:

PV training in Tulear

Over a number of years, discussions had been underway and collaboration sought with InsightShare (Oxford), a leading agency in training Participatory Video (PV) in Africa and developing country contexts. In January 2018 ALT UK was informed that InsightShare had been selected by Transparency International (TI) to bring PV training to Madagascar. ALT UK was able to introduce ALT MG’s Director, Mme Hanitra, as a participant to the InsightShare Madagascar training and also promoted a role for her in the training as a co-facilitator of the workshop.

Participatory Video (PV) Training

The first training workshop took place in Tulear over 10 days between 5 au 16 mars 2018 and included practical techniques of video production. 11 women from the Lutheran church mission in Tulear were trained. The women also then prepared their activities leading up to the next training, in June 2018.

Training in Tulear, the PV team use iPad for recording

The second training was focused on editing and finalising the vision of the films the women had produced; also airing them at a meeting with local authorities and the public in Tulear. A meeting in Tana with TI took place in June to report on the two workshops/trainings and discuss future collaboration.

Mme Hanitra established a strong role in the workshop process thanks to her extensive experience of working across the south on communications issues and C4D projects. She was able to help orient the trainer and the training workshop within the southern context; and especially with regard to the target theme of women rights to land inheritance as this was subject previously treated by ALT MG in a number of radio programmes for the Village Voices for Development project.

participants learn interview and filming techniques

  1. Women Produce Films about Women’s Land Inheritance challenges

11 women were trained in PV and developed skills in communications using video. They produced five films about the challenges of land inheritance for women in Southern Madagascar.

The films can be viewed online at:

The films were shown in Tulear at a public meeting and additional opportunities are being sought and discussed to air the films at other public showings in different regions, e.g. by ALT MG in Anosy.

Hanitra (sitting) with Landy (of Transparency International) presenting the video material to the community in Ankoronga

This initiative by Transparency International with training from InsightShare provides opportunities for self-expression and empowerment usually denied women in southern Madagascar, where men dominate decision-making and women are frequently prevented or barred from speaking out in public.

The films have helped the women to expose the ways that traditional practices and inherent prejudices against women leave mothers and children homeless and destitute following the death or divorce from a husband because their constitutional rights to inherit land are ignored.

The PV process helps develop new confidence and public speaking skills for women, as well as advocacy opportunities to help change attitudes and practices.

ALT MG has strengthened its skills set in PV and its position as C4D experts in Madagascar. Mme Hanitra established strong links with Transparency International Mg, and with InsightShare, and has positioned ALT MG to be a partner for future work across Madagascar using Participatory Video (PV).

Video Equipment

The InsightShare training employed state of the art Apple iPad and accompanying video edit software. The feedback on using this technology was extremely positive, not least because the edit could be done on the same instrument as the filming thereby reducing time and difficulties in downloading and transferring images. The use of the iPad precipitated a request from ALT MG to have this equipment for future PV project work in the south. With help from InsightShare, an iPad  kit was put together and sent to ALT MG at the time of the second training in Tulear.

Feedback from ALT Mg:

“ ALT MG is an active member of the C4D network in the South. The pillar of C4D is an evidence-based approach, necessary if you really want to change behavior. Participatory video collects and shows the situation, challenges and achievements using the community’s own words and images. The videos produced will be used to stimulate awareness and exchange and most importantly help advocate community rights to the relevant authorities.”  Hanitra Raharimanana, Director of ALT Mg.

Chris Lunch and Hanitra in Tulear

Feedback from InsightShare

“ Having Hanitra on our training was invaluable; it was amazing to have someone local who is so experienced at working at community level. Her presence provided a gateway for Insightshare to make our dialogue and how we introduced topics – like “what is social transformation?” – that much more effective. Hanitra was very good at articulating some of these important ideas using language and metaphors that totally connected with the people. This helped us to go deeper than we might otherwise have been able to do, and to ask some of the questions that are really important for social change…we were working on a sensitive subject with lots of taboos – and being able to discuss these with Hanitra was really useful. So was her help in resolving issues or challenges in the group – as always occurs when people have never worked together before; Hanitra was on the same wavelength as us, which was very affirming.  We hope that this PV work can take root in Madagascar, and that we can work with Hanitra again in the future.” Chris Lunch, Director, InsightShare.

11 Women receive certification for their training in Participatory Video in Tulear







Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Building Capacity for Management and Monitoring

The Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) has supported the development of local Malagasy NGO Andry Lalana Toahana (ALT MG) since its inception in 2009. This has been part of the Trust’s long-term commitment following its Responsible Exit from Madagascar.

Research has shown that leadership and management skills are critical for developing and sustaining local civil society organisations. Developing core competencies is therefore a necessary strategy for the long-term health of the local organisation and for supporting local people’s development agendas.

Training field recorders to collect data for the cash transfer programme

As ALT MG’s programme of activities and community reach has grown, so too has the demand to manage and monitor the work across multiple work teams and geographic distances.

These demands inevitably place pressure on the Malagasy NGO to increase its capacity. However, international and national donors do not always provide sufficient budget to assist local NGOS in this aspect of their work .

ALT UK therefore aims to be responsive to the requests for help in this aspect of ALT MG’s development.

Growing New Skills to support Famine Relief

One example is ALT MG’s work on the famine relief in the deep south. As the activity advanced, so too did the volume of monitoring and reporting.

In particular, collecting and recording data on cash transfer payments and family support activities. The exacting science and reporting around data management and evaluations is time consuming and requires specialist skills.

ALT MG therefore sought financial assistance from ALT UK in order to be able to recruit a specialist in monitoring and evaluation.

Mme Olga meets with artisans in Ankarefo

Funds were sent to support the recruitment and salary (for the first year) of a local Malagasy expert who could assist the Director with monitoring and reporting demands, and with the development of new funding requests, vital for the long-term health of the organisation.

ALT MG identified and contracted Mme Olga Marovavy SOLONDRENIBE, a technical expert in computer management and monitoring and evaluation, with excellent experience across a range of development projects in the south of Madagascar.

Mme Olga joined the ALT MG team in February 2018 to provide this specific skill set, as well as providing additional management and fundraising support for ALT MG.

The financial help that is coming from the UK is very important for strengthening the capacity of ALT Mg.  The projects we are running currently do not afford the possibility for us to develop, as we must, because the donor budgets are so restricted; there are no budget lines to support admin or an assistant’s salary, for example. …There are still so many development activities to do in Madagascar and the team benefits from Olga’s expertise to apply for these opportunities in order to stabilise the future of the organisation and also to ensure the competence necessary to assist the local population”. Hanitra Raharimana, Director ALT Mg

Mme Olga designed a new data base to track cash transfer payments and other FSS activities

Mme Olga’s arrival brought many positive changes. The entire database on the FID/FSS famine relief programme was re-designed and brought fully up to date with all cash transfer payments and related activity. It was reorganised to be more manageable.

Mme Olga also assisted the field team to improve their skills and capacity to manage data collection for field reporting requirements. 

Mme Olga also developed a new funding proposal for Tany Meva (a Malagasy Environmental funding body).  She successfully secured the Tany Meva funding to develop a brick making enterprise for local people, which provides livelihoods as well as reducing deforestation and related environmental impacts (houses are usually built from wood in the south).

Mme Olga meeting with artisanal brick-makers at Nosibe

It was with huge sadness we heard of Mme Olga’s sudden death in late 2018, following a misdiagnosed illness. The ALT MG team were devastated by the loss of this warm and talented professional. ALT MG has dedicated its local artisan brick-making project to her memory.

Posted in Supporting Civil Society, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment