Talking Needs

13:52 on March 16th 2012

Talking needs

This week the ALT VVD field team reported back from ten focus groups with Village listening groups. It seems a key issue for many communities right now is the problem of healthcare. There appears to be some discrepancy in the system. Some services which villagers believe should be free are being charged for – this will of course exclude many of the most needy from essential healthcare. Also, they complain of poor communication and treatment, and the cost of medicine. The team are planning a visit to the chief doctor at the main hospital in Ambovombe to play the questions to him and record his answers.

8 members of 7 of the listening groups have had their questions recorded– in particular those that most reflect the themes that have arisen in all the groups. As well as healthcare, these include questions about education infrastructure, access to public water supplies, security issues locally, legal controls of land access and ownership, and women’s need for collaboration with the World Food Programme projects.

5 of the listening groups had solar/wind up radios replaced and/or repaired to ensure there are no obstacles to them  listening to the VVD radio broadcasts regularly.

Meanwhile I have been developing the Monitoring and Evaluation plan, a new questionnaire for decision makers, and liaising with colleagues in Tana to try and track down a UN human rights trainer. This is proving much harder than you would imagine! -and at a time when you think the country would be flooded with human rights trainers attempting to strengthen civil society.

Ordinary people, and especially the poorest, are most vulnerable to the impacts of the current political crisis on their rights. Rights  to land in particular are under stress as Madagascar, like much of Africa, is a target for land grabs. The majority of rural people who depend on the land to feed their families and for livelihoods do not have formal tenure as the process is far too expensive and extremely slow. They rely on traditional means of securing their land ( eg planting trees, farming it) but they have few ways or means to protect it from being taken from them from. It is widely believed that the selling off of vast acres of land to Daewoo was one of the triggers to the coup d’etat in 2009.

Being mineral rich the island is under increasing pressures from mining and oil extraction. Unfortunetaly, the country has yet again failed to be accepted for membership by the EITI (Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative). Meanwhile, local mining laws are scantily applied and government resources and their capacity to manage the demands of monitoring, compensation and arbitration processes fall below the necessary requirements.

As part of my work with ALT I have undertaken  advocacy work around this subject – mostly to promote increased voice of the local population in all these processes and to push for transparency around compensation processes where local people face loss of lands and livelihoods. This week I met with the multi national mining company Rio Tinto  to discuss ways in which their ilmenite operation in S Madagascar could improve on its community relations – especially around land appropriation and compensation processes. I am advocating from the villagers’ perspectives and following up on findings that emerged in ALT’s oral testimony project in 2007-2009.

You can contribute to all ALT’s work by donating via CAF

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