Adaptation – Key to successful programming

14:52 on June 6th 2012


Adaptation is key to sucessful programming
It’s been a while since I updated the blog. Although the Vodafone WOD phase has ended (Mar-Apr 2012) , I continue to  work with ALT Mg on the Village Voices for Development (VVD) project, whilst also finalising the tree planting project (Emergency Relief Programme).

The lesson from both of these projects is that adaptation is what is required at all times to make sure we respond to real needs, meet challenges and ensure results.

ALT Mg team record short drama about land issues with village actors

VVD has already been broadcasting for two months and this last week we finally had a full report and analysis from the field about feedback to the programmes.

As well as broadcasting information about rights to information and freedom of speech the project has worked on themes prioritised by the villagers. Initially these have focused on health (which are the free hospital services – problems of corruption), agriculture (cost of insecticides and alternative ways to protect crops) and the way that World Food Programme (WFP) projects work – in particular  ‘Cantine Scholaire’ and how the sites are selected for VCT ( Vivre Contre Travail= food for work projects). these WFP projects can be critical to communities facing long periods of drought and who are dependent on WFP to provide grain/food at these challenging times.

The service providers- the hospital, local agricultural services (DRDR) and WFP – participated and answered villagers’ questions – some in more depth than others. The edited questions and answers were broadcast repeatedly during April- May and the feedback show the villagers were pleased to understand more about the WFP projects. However they were dissatisfied with the answers from the hospital service : ‘you need only to report corruption’,  and the DRDR: ‘ villagers can come to our offices for advice’.  The responses were not practical for the villagers as nobody dares to report a corrupt official and the DRDR offices are too far from many villages and people are too busy to make the journey.

After talking with the villagers the project team will now go back to these two service providers to gather more information and adapt programming to provide the information villagers need. In the case of the hospital, the project will produce a programme that provides detailed information about which hospital services are free and which have to be paid for and how much they cost. This will eradicate possibilities of hospital staff charging for services that should be free as the public will have open access to the information about the services/charges via the radio.  The project aims to see that patients will also have access to published lists of service costs in the hospital and available in the community.

Similarly the project will broadcast programmes sharing the training and information available from the DRDR about how to protect crops whilst also ensuring feedback from these programmes – such as requested face to face visits to the community- is received and heard by those responsible for the services.

In this way the project adapts and responds according to the feedback and needs expressed after each broadcast and ensures that the information and communications gaps are fully addressed. Villagers will be empowered by seeing that the answers will come if they persist, and service providers will understand what is required in order to meet their obligations to their constituents.

11 programmes have already been produced and broadcast, including educating the listeners about their human rights, and this is the first month of implementing the feedback mechanism. This process of broadcast and feedback towards deepening the answers in the next programme aims primarily to ensure that the themes and questions covered in the programmes are dealt with sufficiently to satisfy the villagers’ information needs. The outcome is more transparent governance.

Meanwhile, one of the themes that was identified as a key area of concern for villagers – land tenure/disputes – has challenged the team to find new ways to adapt programme production, in particular the community dialogue and debating processes, in order to help villagers speak out about their needs.

The subject is very complex as there is little formal land tenure in Madagascar (it is a very expensive, lengthy and bureaucratic process) and most people use traditional forms of recognising land rights and boundaries, many of which are protected by ‘dina’. Dina is a pact decided by a village or group of villages to govern the lives of the population ( eg to protect sacred forest areas). A great deal of land is apportioned and or shared through a family legacy system and disputes can be sensitive as they inevitably affect family relationships.

In order to help villagers debate the subject without causing offence to each other, the ALT Mg team developed a theatrical drama which acted out many of the well known problems recognised by village communities. This has afforded a better opportunity to open up the subject towards creating a programme for public broadcast. ( see photo inset above)

Two local FM radio stations: Cactus and Rohondroho are broadcasting the project’s programmes each week under contract to ALT Mg. One of the stations has already given positive feedback  about the project:  they appreciate that the broadcasts are helping villagers to access vital information and that this  increases their listenership and improves their programming.


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