March – June 2013 Update

Elections Foucs Group with ALT Mg in Antsirabe

Mada Mission March 2013

In March the ALT UK Director was independently contracted to visit Madagascar to provide Technical Advice for the adaptation of the citizen engagement component of the EU funded national elections communications campaign,  delivered by ALT Mg in partnership with Search for Common Ground (SFCG). This aspect of the campaign is an adaptation of ALT’s Village Voices for Development (VVD) radio for good governance model and affords live debate through phone in programmes and interactive question and answer dialogue between citizens and local representatives of the National Independent Committee for the Elections in Madagascar (CENIT) and other relevant parties.

The mission  afforded an opportunity to see the project in action on the ground, specifically focus groups, partner meetings and a phone in programme with CENIT regional representatives and local Authorities in a local FM radio station in Antsirabe.

Reps for the CENIT and District answer questions from citizens about the elections, phoned in to the local radio station in Antsirabe

The project was proving very popular with local people, especially the phone in programmes. This media work is very new to many officials and in particular  the challenge of spontaneously responding to questions from any member of the public live on radio. Nevertheless, the local journalists did an excellent job of facilitating the process and the radio phone in programme in Antsirabe took 15 questions from the local community. Both listeners and regional elections representatives in the regions where the phone ins have been taking place welcomed the initiative and found it very helpful for communicating about the electoral process.

Since June  the project has been redesigned again due to the changing landscape of the electoral process. ALT Mg has been recording ‘vox pops’ – short comments and ideas – from local populations about what they hope to see from the elections and their visions and hopes about what the elections might bring for the future of Madagascar. These have also been the subject of phone in programmes.  The launch of these new programmes took place in Tana with SFCG on the 22nd July 2013 and a short film about the work has been aired on national television (MTV) – see at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2-76MJ4bvc

The Director was working in her freelance capacity for the March mission but benefitted from time with the ALT Management team to address internal challenges and strategic questions for the future of ALT Mg. This included working closely with Mme Hanitra Raharimanana, Director of ALT Mg, to develop a presentation for a meeting with donors and decision makers in Antananarivo about Project VVD and its findings. The presentation was well attended by approximately 20 people including representatives from the EU, World Bank, and UN agencies.

After her return , the UK Director worked extensively in her voluntary capacity to  finalise the VVD evaluation (see also below)   http://www.andrewleestrust.org/PDFs/Project%20VVD%20Evaluation%202013.pdf

 VVD Evaluation Following the March visit in country, the ALT UK Director worked over a number of weeks to complete the VVD evaluation report. Support was identified and provided by an MA student from Bath University, Andrew Johnstone, and ongoing technical oversight was provided by Nicola Harford, Monitoring and Evaluation specialist with Media Support Partnership (one of the strategic partners in VVD) who co-authored the final report published in June 2013.  The evaluation report was disseminated to funders, decision makers in Tana and via international networks such as Comminit ( The Communications Initiative) as well as with local stakeholders. Funding is being sought to translate the document into French.

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Village Voices – from Androy to the National 2013 Election

Moving forward since last year, much has happened with ALT’s Village Voices for Development radio project…

The VVD Project undertook an evaluation of its impacts on local communities between August and September 2012 with excellent results ( the study will be up on the ALT website soon) and Adsum Foundation funded an extension to the project from October in order to maintain vital production and broadcast while the ALT Mg team awaited news from the EC on funding to adapt VVD for the national elections communications campaign.

The ALT Mg team filmed testimony from a member of the community who had experienced a life changing event thanks to the VVD broadcasts – see http://www.andrewleestrust.org/voices.htm

During October to December, as well as tackling land rights, public security and justice topics,  the ALT MG team began producing and broadcasting programmes about the 2013 elections for audiences in the Androy region, working with the radio listening groups and partner radio stations who have participated in VVD since last February

The elections is a new subject for the project’s team as well as for the listeners. Focus groups with villagers revealed that beneficiaries had insufficient information or understanding to fully participate in the  process (eg voter registration, census etc ). 

Accordingly two programmes were produced in October in order to provide information and prepare listeners so they could participate in debates and discussions, and enable them to pose questions – including for a future phone in debate.

One programme explained the CENIT (Commission Electorale Nationale Independent pour la Transition) a description of  its agencies and activities, and the electoral process already underway (eg voter enrollment: -a definition, the persons responsible, and the procedures) . A second programme focused on the national Census of voters.

Feedback  suggested that listeners were interested in the topic; the programmes were well received and well understood and more programming was required.

Phone in with the CENIT rep in Ambovombe

A radio phone-in was then produced on December 14 at Radio CACTUS Ambovombe.  An invitation was sent to the Regional Manager of CENIT Ambovombe, Mr. John Emanuel RASOLONDRAIBE; who agreed to participate and answer questions from listeners. The   phone-in lasted 1 hour and questions focused principally on :

  • The exact date of the election; will the election really take place?
  • An explanation request for the conduct of the Census in the District of Ambovombe Androy, specifically regarding the deficiencies found in the method of carrying out the steps of the census. Indeed, there were cases such as non-completion of door to door surveys, use of a predefined list of the population during the census and visits to the population, many households were not visited by the census agents. All these were exposed during the radio phone-in.
  • The request for clarification and precision on the making of national Identity cards.
  • The boundaries of the validity of the electoral card, in other words, is it still valid if the person moves to another location.
  • Questions on the minimum age to vote (eg if a person has not yet had 18 years old during the census period but only reaches this age some time before the date of the election, can that person participate to the election? What should she do?)
  • The definition of CENIT and its role
  • The work already done by the CENIT and further activities

Value of the VVD Extension Phase – Lessons Learnt

ALT is enormously grateful to Adsum Foundation for supporting three additional months to the pilot phase.

A number of lessons have been learnt during this extension and, importantly, the listeners have been able to revisit themes that interest them and which required more work, exchange and programme production : – land tenure and inheritance issues, and public security. They were also able to begin to get a grasp of entirely new themes and information that is essential to their participation in forthcoming 2013 elections and in their judicial system locally.

The team also identified some key lessons for election programming:

1) To enable listeners to be comfortable with discussing the elections topic, the Project needs to start the radio phone-in with an introduction or a presentation which can serve as a guide for discussion.

2) The local radio station team also need special training on this specific topic (i.e the Election, the CENIT etc ) in order to better assist the phone in and to provide coverage of the elections 

3) Radio phone-ins on issues concerning Elections must be continuous and evolve according to the context to assure continuity of interest for listeners and to help them better assimilate information and key messages. Also to enable them to better express their questions and concerns.

A further two programmes were produced about the CENIT and elections which reiterated

interviewing listeners

and further reminded listeners of key information shared during the radio phone-in of December.

EC Funded National Elections Communciation Campaign

The team learnt in December 2012 that the VVD project had been selected to become part of the EC funded national elections communication campaign. Although funding and time constraints do not permit the full methodology to be rolled out across all the regions of Madagascar, targeted activities will ensure there is civic engagement about the elections in the media (radio) across 11 linguistic zones and programming will be shared as widely as possible.

 Additionally, the work that ALT Mg executed on election themes during the VVD extension phase between October -December enabled them to learn many lessons and to prepare for and anticipate challenges in the forthcoming communications work with the EC project. In January 2013, when they were called to commence planning they were quick to work with their new international partner in Tana, Search for Common Ground, and also with the EC and the CENIT national office. ALT Mg were able to rapidly provide questionnaires for the baseline survey, delineate the linguistic zones of the project, identify key radio stations and elaborate the criteria for selecting and working with these media partners.

As of now, ALT Mg has trained and mobilised its field team for the election communications campaign (including with ex ALT Project Radio staff in Fianarantsoa), and they are carrying out an initial survey. Given there is such a short lead in time to the elections this gives ALT an advantage, enabling them to better assist and support the local populations through the process in the coming months.

 
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VVD features in the Soul Beat

February 2013 ALT’s Village Voices project was featured in the SOUL BEAT which electronically networks thousands of develoment professionals worldwide : –

 see http://www.comminit.com/africa/soul_beat_214.html

an Antandroy villager is able to call in to the radio phone in programme using a mobile phone given by ALT’s Project ‘ Village Voices for development’
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MBE Investiture and Celebrations Oct 2012

In October 2012 the Trust celebrated the investiture of its Director, Yvonne Orengo,

MBE investiture of ALT’s Director Yvonne Orengo

with the MBE award for her services to Andrew Lees Trust, Southern Madagascar.The investiture took place at Windsor Castle and the award was presented by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

A celebration with Trustees, colleagues, partners and associates  of the Trust was held at the University Womens Club in the evening and the recognition of achievements shared with the ALT UK team, the Trustees and all those who have contributed to and supported the development of  the Trust over the past eighteen years.

Mary Taylor, Chair of the ALT Trustees thanks guests

Tribute was paid to the Malagasy team – now their own NGO ; Andry Lalana Tohana, and to all those who made the Trust a success, including absent friends – the former Trustee Marek Mayer, and of course the Trust’s namesake, Andrew Lees, who has inspired and influenced the work of the Trust since its inception in 1995.

members of the ALT UK team at the celebration
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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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Looking to the Future

10:19 on April 20th 2012

Looking to the Future for the Village Voices for Development Project

pagivolt (visual aids) used to explain rights to villagers

While I have been busy over the last week bringing the Trust’s finances and paperwork up to date, and working on monitoring and future funding questions for Project VVD, the team have been in the field sharing their human rights training with villagers.

Four training sessions were set up to provide the training for the project’s radio listening groups. Only half the listening group members were able to attend in Ambovombe, but in d’Ambonaivo and Ambanisarika almost all the group members attended, and others from outside the group participated. Because most villagers are farming or tending cattle, participation in daytime activities is always a little unpredictable, so the turn out for these trainings was encouraging. The participants were given an explanation about the UN Charter and their human rights. They were also shown a film in which a young woman experienced a series of life challenges where her rights were not respected (she was made to leave school early to go to work, then made to marry to support her family who told her she had no right to her opinions etc ). In fact these sorts of issues are prevalent in Androy where women experience low status and are generally marginalised. This was followed by a debate during which the villagers were able to readily identify with the issues and understand the rights in question. They also debated what they would have done in this situation. Further training took place specifically on rights to information

discussion on rights between village particpants

and freedom of expression.

In parallel, I have been preparing monitoring exercises for the team to follow up on the radio programmes which have already been broadcast over the last two weeks, in order to gauge the reactions and collect comments. We will aim to gather feedback from villagers, the radio stations and local decision makers on a regular basis so that the project can learn lessons as quickly as possible and respond to issues and opportunities arising as the work progresses.

film about human rights shown to VVD village listening groups

I’ve also been talking to a UK partner aboutfunding opportunities and preparing a schedule for the ALT Mg team to use in country to target national donors. This is part of helping ALT Mg prepare longer term fundraising strategies for their  field programme. I have drafted a proposal for scaling up the VVD project and  begun to sound out  international donors/agencies in order to seek opportunities for future funding. Although we don’t yet have the results of the pilot phase its important to  look ahead to see who may be able to support a scaling up of the project if the outcomes prove positive as this can take many months of negotiation and preparation.

Debate about the human rights film – identifying issues

 

Meanwhile in the capital, Tana, the ALT Mg Director, Mme Hanitra, has been meeting with one of the funders (Swiss Embassy) and also with the UN and other national partners. She has also been meeting with Ministers to try and gain their support for the project in order to galvanise stronger participation at local level for future programming

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Trees and Training

19:09 on April 10th 2012

 

Our efforts to secure UN involvement in the proejct are paying off and yesterday a

Msr Axel from UNDP training the ALT MG team

specialist trainer from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) arrived in Ft Dauphin and delivered  a training about human rights to the local team of the Village Voices for Development project .There were a number of informative presentations and useful tools provided which will help training villagers about their rights. The team found the session extremely useful and they discussed ways that they can apply the training in the field at the end of this week. Mme Sahondra, a local trainer working with a civil justice project in Ft Dauphin (Anosy region) called ‘’Trano Aro Zo” also attended and will be helping the team as they go into the communities in Androy.

UNDP human rights training with ALT Mg

This will be the first time that a team has gone into Androy to train villagers directly on their human rights and it will bring new challenges to the team and the villagers. The plan is also to record an interview with Msr Axel from the UNDP which will be broadcast widely to listeners across the region so that those villagers  not directly involved in the project will also have a chance to learn about their rights.

http://www.andrewleestrust.org/voices.htm

 

Emergency Relief Programme

Since last week we have also been preparing to send 15,000 trees to Marovato in the deep south , where dunes have been burying villages and agricultural fields. The dunes problem has been growing over the past decade when ALT first began working with a local technical consultant to find ways to stabilise them in order to conserve the environment and protect local communities.

planting dunes in southern Madagascar

The work we are doing now is part of ALT’s Emergency Relief Programme funded by the Balcombe Trust which has supported this project since 2010. Communities are mobilised in large numbers and paid a daily rate under a ‘money for food for work’ programme. The communities are paid to plant the tree seedlings (causerina ) on the dunes together with succulents,  hardy plants such as sisal and lalanda, in a bid to slow or stop the dunes from advancing. Other activities of this progrramme have included digging water catchment basins .http://www.andrewleestrust.org/relief.htm

The local people gain by earning cash to buy food at times of hardship whilst also benefitting from the longer term environmental results of their efforts.

Marek Mayer dedication stone in ALT’s Tshiombe tree nursery

All the trees planted for the project to date have been grown in a local tree nursery launched by ALT in memory of one of its founders and Trustees, Marek Mayer – environmentalist and editor of the Environmental Data Services publication, who died in 2005.  The nursery was handed over to Andry Lalana Tohana, our local partner, in 2010 as part of our sustainability strategy and they are now implementing the emergency relief programme.

planting filao seedlings

15,000 trees were grown and planted on dunes from the tree nursery between 2010 -2011. This year due to severe drought, unseasonal weather and ant invasions, the attrition rate on the seedlings has been high and other nurseries have been called upon to provide trees for the project. (Manatantely and Ranopiso)

This Easter saw unseasonal rainfall in the deep-south and with this blessing we are trying to transport as many trees as possible to plant in the watered sands. However, while the rain is great for the trees it is bad for the roads which have been broken up by flooding  – so the lorry carrying the trees cannot get through. 

Dune planted up by ALT in 2002

These are the challenges of the deep south. Hopefully by the end of this week we can transport the trees and the sands will still be wet and ready for planting.

 
Dunes ALT planted back in 2002 have seeded successfully and we hope for similar results for the Marovato and other dunes we will be planting up this year.

 

 

SHARING WITH THE COMMUNITY

As well as Nogabe’s concert on the 27that the Green note in Camden ( see last blog) another Madagascar music concert from Madagascar All Stars will be happening in June, also in London at: 

 Kings Place, 90 York Way on Saturday 9th june

The music in Madagascar is just as remarkable as its wildlife. A stunning band including Dama from Mahaleo, Regis Gizavo and Justin Vali.

http://www.songlines.co.uk/encounters/lineup.php

 
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Good News

11:50 on March 30th 2012

 News of New  Funding for VVD Project !

Good news this week – I have been able to secure some new, additional funding for the Village Voices for Development (VVD) project. Media Support Partnership (MSP), experts in media for development, have agreed a small grant to support the project. The funds will help ALT MG bring in the necessary expertise for the evaluation of project outcomes, and it will also help meet some shortfalls in the current project budget. We are really delighted that MSP are coming on board. Andrew Lees Trust has  benefitted from training and evaluations from their consultants in the past for ‘Project Radio’ in Madagascar, so they know and understand the context very well. They also worked with ALT and ALT MG to develop the original  proposal for the VVD project based on experiences in Malawi.

UN Collaboration

The other good news this week is that we have managed to secure the collaboration of the United Nations (UN) on the VVD project. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) in Madagascar has seen fit to endorse the project and has agreed also to provide some dedicated training via the UNDP human rights representative. We will produce some radio programmes with the OHCHR and UNDP to broadcast to the project’s listeners. The collaboration of the UN is very welcome and we hope it will help to open new doors and lever additional supports.

At home and in the field

Also this week I finalised the decision makers questionnaire with the local team and they have started the interviews. This is Mr  Enrique Alvarez Sirias (Head of Sub-Office) of WorldWorld Food Programme’s Mr Sirias in S Madagascar

Food Programme in southern Madagascar who is participating in the project and has just done the ‘decision makers’ baseline interview with ALT Mg’s project co-ordinator Mme Alice Rafanomezana. WFP are very keen on the VVD project and will be featured in one of the radio programmes due to be broadcast from next week. They will be answering villagers’ questions about their ‘Canteen Scholaire’ project in the south. Other programmes due to be broadcast next week are about security and how villagers can contact the police when they are threatened with burglars; another features farmers who want to know why some communities are being given free seed and others are not.You can help this project by donating via CAF https://www.cafonline.org/system/charity-profile.aspx?friendlyUrl=andrewleestrust

SHARING WITH THE COMMUNITY

There are some great Malagasy musical events happening in the UK – this first one coming up on April 27that Green Note –

 

 

 

 

 
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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.http://www.andrewleestrust.org/Projects/hepa/ALT%20Project%20HEPA%20and%20the%20QMM%20mine.pdf

You can contribute to all ALT’s work by donating via CAFhttps://www.cafonline.org/system/charity-profile.aspx?friendlyUrl=andrewleestrust

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Communications! Communications! Communications!

14:53 on March 9th 2012

LETS TALK !!!

Baseline survey VVD

This week there have been many international phone calls to Madagascar, emails, skype calls and messages flying back and forth. Communications! Its all about communications!

I’ve been talking to the team about the project design and methodology for Village Voices for Development, speaking with UN agencies and investigating others to see what collaboration and supports we can get for the project ; and writing/publishing the new project website pages.seehttp://www.andrewleestrust.org/voices.htm

The ALT MG team has gone into the field to pre-test the baseline survey with Androy villagers for the Village Voices for Development (VVD) project.

They sent these new photos today( inset, above and below)  

We need to talk to villagers and collect as much information as we can from them: firstly to measure what they already know about their rights to information and freedom of speech and secondly to help identify which subjects are the most important to them right now. This will help us a) measure the impacts of the project – comparing what they knew and how they acted at the start of the project and results after six months of radio programming and mobile phone in debates and b) support the villagers in focusing on which are the key questions and concerns they wish to raise/share with decision makers in the region.

This all sounds quite simple but in fact requires a great deal of consideration and skill. So the team in Madagascar have been receiving technical advice and support from me and another volunteer – an anthropologist familiar with the southern context and culture, Antonie Kraemer, currently based in the capital Antananarivo. We’ve also be consulting with a ‘media for development’ monitoring and evaluation specialist, Nicola Harford, to make sure our research design and methodology will yield quality infromation.

We all know how important it is to get this part of the project right.  this is not an easy place to work and its important to listen to the community and understand the issues

The south is climatically challenged with annual drought. An average of 15 communes suffer severe food shortages each year and once you pass the Manambaro river in the rain shadow of the south east mountain range, there is no easy, dependable fresh water supply for a good two days drive. Water is trucked across the south and villagers have to buy it at approx 10p  per bucket, expensive if you are living hand to mouth.  There is no electricity in the villagers, no sanitation and many communities are extremely isolated (no roads).

The indigenous, unique spiny forest of southern Madagascar,  home to hundreds of species found nowhere else on the planet, is under increasing pressure for firewood. The forest is packed with medicinal herbs and, of course, the spirits of the ancestors who must always be consulted and honoured if new ideas and new projects are to work.

ANTANDROY belief systems, customs and a traditional ways of life can sometimes run counter to a western model of development. For example cattle are sacred and the Antandroy man’s goal in life is to accumulate as many as possible. Not to sell or eat but to sacrifice at death so that he can ensure a better afterlife. It is hard to see the difference between a poor man and a rich man in Androy. Both live in a wooden hut, dress simply and live on the edge. But the rich man has 600 head of cattle (his ‘bank account’) and the poor man might have just a goat or two.

Relationships are polygamous. A wealthy man may have as many as 6 wives and 60 children. There is no inheritance. When he dies all the Antandroy’s cattle are slaughtered. They will pay for an elaborate tomb which will be decorated with the horns of his cattle and a small concrete house will be built on top of the tomb. This will provide a home for his spirit – only now a solid house to live in because the after-life is so much longer than this one.

If development agencies arrive in Androy with their own development agenda, with what they believe are the right solutions, and they fail to listen to local perspectives on what might work or what local people want, the risk of failure increases.

COMMUNICATIONS  is a vital part of the development process: listening to what people know and understand already – after all, the Antandroy have survived this environment for hundreds of years and are not known as ‘the people of the thorns’ for nothing!; hearing what they think, and what they have to say, and understanding how they want to see things change is very important. Only then might we be able to help empower them with the tools they need to help themselves.

People want to be listened to and be given teh tools they need to turn their lives around, for example: seeds, equipment, medicines, training,  education ……and ways to communicate these needs and their own ideas and solutions to the decision makers. Thats what we hope Project VVD will do.

 

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