Connecting the Environment and the EU – Brussels, May 2016

On Monday 234rd May Tony Long, ALT Trustee and Senior Expert at Global Governance Institute, participated in a Policy Forum about the environment and climate change in relation to the EU referendum and Brexit. The Policy Forum provided an opportunity to debate a new expert review of the academic evidence on these topics (available at and what might change in the UK and at EU level in the event of a British vote to Remain in or Leave the European Union on 23 June.See

Tony Long (end, right) at the IES Policy Forum

Tony Long (end, right) at the IES Policy Forum

The event was hosted by the Institute for European Studies in Brussels and Tony spoke about the importance of collaboration and shared interests for the environment across Europe. Please see below for content of Tony Long’s speech: –

The EU Referendum and the UK Environment

Remarks by Tony Long, Global Governance Institute, Free University of Brussels  (formerly WWF European Policy Office director)

23 May 2016

  1. It is not as easy today for environmentalists like me to make the “Remain” case as it would have been five or ten years ago.  There is a shadow hanging over environment policy now that wasn’t there before.  This much was clear in the summer of 2014 when President Juncker set out his priorities for the new European Commission, as well as the individual Commissioner mandates. Conspicuously, the environment was not among them.  In the confirmation hearings that same autumn, European Parliamentarians launched something of a fight back and managed to salvage a small victory with a commitment to sustainable development being included in Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans’ portfolio. But it was slim pickings.
  1. The environmental fall from favour had been brewing for some time. Aside from some warm words at the Rio 2012 Earth Summit, I think we can safely say that President Barroso was no keen fan.  Efforts around climate change he understood; they counted as mainstream policy objectives. Resource efficiency made it into the EU 2020 strategy with the status of a flagship initiative. But everything else environmental was blurred at best. Janez Potocnik didn’t have the easiest time as Environment Commissioner in the second Barroso Commission and the fact that he achieved as much as he did was down to his tenacity and his undoubted commitment to the issues.
  1. But this cooling on environmental policy, this chill, at EU level goes back still further. It can be seen in the resurgence of the international competitiveness debates and the call for a loosening of so-called regulatory burdens that gathered pace after the economic full-stop brought on by the financial crisis in 2008. European experiences were not unique – the chill was happening elsewhere too. They became a full-scale blizzard in the United States. In Europe, however, there may have been some particular and unique mechanisms at work. I don’t think one should rule out the chilling effect that has been brought on by the very threat – and then reality – of the looming UK referendum itself.   The gradual seeping away of enthusiasm and commitment becomes self-fulfilling after a while.
  1. If this chilling effect is real, then I believe that finding converts to the EU cause for “green” reasons is not going to be easy and may not be won at all if relying on appeals to the “head” alone. By which I mean rational arguments and well documented evidence – the so-called evidence-based case – that shows just how far a strong and vibrant EU environment policy is in the best interests of UK citizens. All the reasons we can read about for continued EU membership in the excellent report that we are discussing today under the auspices of the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, and in the similar report prepared by IEEP for three UK nature conservation organisations (Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWF), are a hard sell at a time when the EU itself is having second thoughts about the place of environment in its overall scheme of things.
  1. So let’s remind ourselves what that optimism felt like and sounded like in the years preceding the cooling. I went back to the last time the UK held the Presidency of the European Council, the second half of 2005. Though not that long ago, the website setting out the UK priorities for its Presidency ( reads as though it comes from a different planet. This is the environmental policy agenda extract.

“During its Presidency of the EU, the UK will be seeking to:

  • Keep action to tackle climate change high on the international agenda, and work with our EU partners to show progress on existing climate change targets.
  • Invest major efforts in securing the first stage of agreement between the Member States on a new Regulation concerning the testing and approval of chemicals, known as REACH.
  • Progress discussions on a review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.
  • Make progress on providing support for the development and use of environmental technologies.
  • Ensure that discussions take place on some of the Thematic Strategies (in the 6th EAP), frameworks that will set the direction of environment policy in seven key areas until 2012 (air; waste; marine; soil; pesticides; natural resources; urban environment).
  • Demonstrate practical examples of environmental integration in other policy areas during our Presidency (incidentally, a priority of the previous UK Presidency in 1998).
  • Work to increase EU commitment to action on Sustainable Production and Consumption
  • Lead the EU at important international negotiations, including meetings on sustainable development and biodiversity
  • Continue work already in progress under the Luxembourg Presidency.”
  1. That was Her Majesty Government’s agenda for the environment. It could just as well have been WWF’s, at least in part. And we actually brought a lot of it about – not all but a significant amount. The language is telling – “invest major efforts”; “lead the EU”; “work to increase EU commitments” etc.
  1. My point in recounting this is my belief that what was before could be again. It is a long stretch I know. These are different times you say. They are. But are they really so different? Is any one of those issues so much less important now than it was then? In fact for most of them, as we well know, their relevance and urgency have not gone away – they have only increased in the intervening 11 years. And are any of them really that much less important to UK citizens or to the UK civil servants who drafted them or to the Government itself? If they were seen as relevant for action at EU level by the UK Government in 2005, and where HMG was willing to take on “EU leadership” responsibilities for their achievement, has so much changed in the objective conditions that these issues are now seen as being more relevant for action at national level now? It is a different political party in power now, I grant you, but even so many of those issues transcend political party boundaries, or should do.
  1. Which brings me to my concluding remarks. Perhaps it is an appeal to the “heart” as much as to the “head” that will be needed to turn this debate around, at least on the environmental side, in this the last 30 days. What could that appeal look like?
  2. First, international cooperation on climate change is going to become more important as the science and observed facts are telling us almost daily that the problems are become more urgent. The EU doesn’t have a perfect record in this regard it is true. But it is not at all that bad either – far from it. When the history of the Paris Agreement last December comes to be written, it may be that the EU’s role, alongside others, in piecing together a High Ambition Coalition of developed and developing countries alike will be one of the high points of climate diplomacy in recent years. I don’t know how the future looks for a UK voice in international climate change negotiations outside the EU, but I think the Expert Review[1] paper summary is close to the mark when it says the UK influence will “probably decline”. Just when it is most needed.
  1. A similar appeal can be made around the Sustainable Development Goals. Readers of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “Transforming our World” – from last September might recall one of those rare occasions in United Nations ‘bureaucratic-speak’ where the words suddenly stop you short in your tracks. This sentence did just that for me. “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty; just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet.”
  1. I know that the UK outside the EU will be able to contribute important pledges to meeting some of the 17 goals. But I also know that there will be regional level contributions that can uniquely help Europe deliver big global commitments. EU development policy is one. Sustainable production and consumption is another. Progressive maritime policy and oceans governance is a third.  Sustainable trade policy could well be a fourth.  Biodiversity is another. The list goes on. In what could be the most pressing global agenda of our time, I fear that once again the Expert Review paper summary might be correct when it says that if the UK leaves the EU, its influence will “probably decline”.
  1. Third, the rebuilding of Central and Eastern Europe is still work in progress. This is where successive British governments have generally concluded that the net UK financial contribution to the EU budget is best spent.  Nation building through creating common regulatory frameworks across Europe is a huge achievement in the 50-plus years of the EU. What Margaret Thatcher called the “widening not deepening” of Europe. That agenda has not gone away and it is one that the EU is uniquely able to shape. For traditional trade, investment and political influence reasons – and now in a very pressing way for peace and security reasons – the EU provides the mechanisms to be influential on Europe’s eastern and southern borders. Including being influential in building an environmental policy reflex where there may not have been one before. Once again, I fear that if the UK leaves the EU its influence over the newly joined Member States, as well as potential accession countries, will “probably decline”.
  1. International cooperation, international solidarity, international common purpose starting with international action in Europe among the 28 EU member states to meet the most pressing environmental and developmental and security challenges on the planet. That is the rallying cry I yearn for in the last thirty days of the UK referendum debate and which has been so notably – and for me, painfully – absent in the campaigns to date.

Thank you.

[1] The EU Referendum and the UK Environment : An Expert Review 2016

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ALT donated Library makes its way from CEL Anosy to CURA Ambovombe

Andrew Lees Trust was delighted to see the delivery of over 400 books to the University in Ambovombe (CURA) in the region of Androy 0n the 9th March 2016.20160309_125602

Nearly twenty years ago ALT sent these books to help form a library at the Centre Ecologique Libanona (CEL) in Ft Dauphin, the Anosy Region, in order to support Malagasy students with their studies – especially with their environmental research and understanding. ALT has subsequently provided environmental students at CEL with bursaries under the Andrew Lees and Marek Mayer bursary awards.

                                                                            Pic right:  Students at CURA with the CEL books

The CEL evolved from a small project launched by the Founders Mark Fenn (WWF) and Raoul Moulder (University of Melbourne) in 1995, with assistance from School for International Training (SIT) , Andrew Lees Trust (ALT) , University of Melbourne and others, into a Malagasy led and run higher education centre offering BAC+ university accredited programmes. Its’ students have received international bursaries, academic and/or technical support from internationals with long standing relations with the region and with the CEL.


Pic left: the CURA institute in Ambovombe at delivery of the books

Sadly this year the CEL is closing its doors after nearly twenty years of delivering training and higher education to Malagasy students in the south of the island.

In the last few years the mining company Rio Tinto, under the auspices of its QMM Social and environmental programme in Anosy, supported the launch of a new higher education centre in Ft Dauphin (ISTA). It seems there was no consultation about the role or future of the CEL in this planning, or why another centre was needed or opened when one was already present in Anosy; for example why CEL, the existing local higher education facility, was not offered capacity building or expansion supports if an increased local need had been identified. Unfortunately because the new ISTA centre has access to infrastructure and bursaries from Rio Tinto, CEL has been unable to compete.

Hence the local, indigenous led CEL has been lost to the region after twenty years of service to the community. Its excellent track record in student graduation has also served as an important model of local ownership and local leadership in Anosy.20160309_122744

ALT is deeply concerned by unequal power relations and practices of external, internationally driven development in the region, especially any disadvantageous actions that result in   discrimination against or dissolution of indigenous organisations and initiatives, like the CEL.

Pic right: CURA students and teachers at the official hand over of the CEL books

With the closure of the CEL, ALT was happy to join the Association of Friends of the CEL launched by Barry Ferguson last year. It was subsequently agreed with Barry and with ALT Mg , our local partner, that the books donated by ALT over the years to the CEL Library should be transferred to the new CURA University facility in Ambovombe Androy -a Malagasy institute, run by Malagasy, serving local Malagasy populations. As such it fits the ALT criteria of local ownership.

ALT is indebted to Barry Ferguson for shipping the books to Ambovombe, organizing and liaising with CURA, ALT MG, ALT UK and CEL to make this transfer of assets possible.

20160309_125657We hope Malagasy students at CURA  in Ambovombe will now benefit from the library resource,  as students in CEL have done for the last two decades, and we wish them every success with their studies and with the future of the region.

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‘Why Women Will Save The Planet’ – ALT joins FoE advocacy on gender equality

THE BOOKOn November 24th Friends of the Earth UK (FoE) realised one of its Big Ideas projects with the publication of ‘Why Women Will Save The Planet’ (Zed books).

The book contains contributions from academics, researchers and practitioners and argues that women are important agents of sustainable development.

Andrew Lees Trust (ALT) has contributed a chapter in this book – reflecting on the role that ALT media projects have played in empowering women in southern Madagascar.

Craig Bennett (FoE) and Yvonne Orengo ( ALT) at the launch

Craig Bennett (FoE) and Yvonne Orengo ( ALT) at the launch

The chapter was written by the ALT UK Director, Yvonne Orengo, in consultation with her Malagasy colleagues Mme Hanitra Raharimanana (Director of Andry Lalana Tohana – ALT Mg) and Mme Charlotte (Radio Producer ALT Mg), who shared their personal perspectives and experience of applying communications as a tool for educational empowerment to give voice to local communities, and promote citizen engagement and democratic discourse.

Craig Bennett Director of FoE Uk addresses supporters at the book launch

Craig Bennett Director of FoE Uk addresses supporters at the book launch

Craig Bennett, Director of FoE UK addressed the gathered audience, welcomed the publication and commented that it is extraordinary we should need such a book in 2015!

He announced that FoE was committed to realise full equality in the organisation by 2017.

During the evening many of the book authors joined with representatives from NGOs, media and FoE campaigners to celebrate the launch of the book and to share experiences and ideas in discussion groups.

authors of Why women will save the planet gathered at FoE on 24th November 2015

authors of Why women will save the planet gathered at FoE on 24th November 2015

It was a very inspiring evening and it is hoped the book will be widely shared and read ; most importantly, that it will place women in the forefront of sustainable development and contribute to gender equality both in policy and practice.

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

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


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Reinforcing Bonds with Friends of the Earth

March 6th 2015

An event was hosted by Friends of the Earth to mark the anniversary of the death of Andrew Lees in Madagascar twenty years ago.

Over 50 friends, family, journalists and former colleagues of Andrew met to celebrate his work as a campaigner and his legacy in the Andrew Lees Trust work in Madagascar.

Andrew Lees

Andrew Lees

The evening was hosted by the recently appointed Director of FoE Craig Bennett with speeches from Tony Juniper, Tony Long, Mary Taylor and Christine Orengo.

The ALT Director presented the Trust’s work to FoE employees at lunchtime, and at the evening gathering.

foe alt event

Christine Orengo talks about Andrew Lees

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Solidarity with our Local Partner : Libanona Ecology Centre

This February 2015 has seen another special event at Libanona – the

Launch of the Assoc of friends of CEL

Launch of the Assoc of friends of CEL

launch of the Association of Friends of Libanona Ecology Centre (Centre Ecologique Libanona, CEL).

The CEL was the very first project supported by Andrew Lees Trust. Funds, books and equipment were sent by ALT to help develop the Centre in its early years. The CEL was dedicated to Andrew’s memory on the first anniversary of his death in December 1995.

The Centre has trained and supported the development of Malagasy environmental students for almost twenty years and, as a Malagasy NGO and academic institution, became the only accredited university programme in the region.

new committee of the AAECEL

new committee of the AAECEL

Sadly the CEL now faces impossible competition from the more recent ISTA initiative supported by the mining company QMM (Rio Tinto), and will have to close.

The Association of Friends of the CEL is a way for those who have been involved– founders, Trustees, Managers, students, teachers and friends to hold their deep affection for the Centre at Libanona and focus on ways to 1) support solidarity and communication between students, alumni and friends; 2) continue supporting students in the Anosy and Androy regions of Southern Madagascar in university level studies; and 3) support environmental/conservation activities.

Founder Mark Fenn greets the guests at Lebanon

Founder Mark Fenn shares memories with the guests at Libanona

The ceremony was held on the 14th February and was attended by members of the ALT Mg team, Mme Josee and Msr Martin  and one of its  Directors, Sosthene Robson, who has also taught many of the CEL students. He presented a Kabary (speech) sent from ALT UK to share with our colleagues at Libanona.

ALT also supported the event by contributing the costs of refreshments for students and participants.

From Barry Ferguson, who has been elected Co-Chair of the Asociation of Friends of CEL:

friends and students vote at the gathering

friends and students vote at the gathering

‘ The classroom courses(at CEL)  have been progressing quite a bit faster than usual, with the aim that students will be able to start their fieldwork for final year dissertations in April and May.   The intention is that as many students as possible will graduate before the end of 2015, most likely there will be some spillover into early 2016.  Once those current final year students who have a realistic chance of completion have graduated the intention of the CEL Direction/Board is for the degree accreditation to be transferred to the QMM supported ISTA (Institut Superieur de Technologie de l’Anosy).   While an emotional period, at least this move is a credit to the efforts of the many teachers and staff of CEL, especially Oly and Newton – who deserve considerable thanks for their ongoing efforts during challenging times’.  

ALT Bursaries for CEL students 

Cel students 2015

Cel students 2015

The Trust has been sending student bursaries to the Libanona Ecology Centre for many years in the names of Andrew Lees and Marek Mayer.  This year the two students supported by ALT are:

RALAIVELOJAONA Hary Tahiry, RALINONY Fenomanana Salomé

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Celebrating Andrew’s Life and Legacy

Remembering why Andrew went to Madagascarthe plaque this year

This year we continue to mark the anniversary of Andrew’s untimely death in Petriky forest in Madagascar and to reflect on Andrew’s environmental campaigning work and his empowering approach to community activism.

On the anniversary date (Dec 31st 2014) The ecologist published an article about Andrew online, remembering Andrew’s talents and reflecting on his reason for going to Madagascar in 1994 – his concerns about the Rio Tinto mine – and reviewing whether his concerns were justified twenty years on. See :


Andrew's stone in Petriky Forest

Andrew’s stone in Petriky Forest

Traditional Malagasy Memorial

ALT Mg Team remember Andrew at a ceremonial event in Anosy 2015

ALT Mg Team remember Andrew at a ceremonial event in Anosy 2015

January 2015 , A family donation was sent to Madagascar to enable a traditional ceremony to mark the anniversary of Andrew’s death.

The ALT Mg team visited the traditional stone in Petriky forest which marks where Andrew fell – it is a sacred /taboo area now, as locals believe that Andrew’s spirit resides in the forest. The ALT team carried out the traditional rites and then gathered with friends at Libanona to share in a ‘family’ meal and reflect on Andrew’s visit to Madagascar and the work that has been done in his name.

A local Pasteur who participated at the event said :

Andrew’s death has given us an opportunity to work for the good of the community. 

enjoying BBQ and sea views as the ALT Mg team celebrate Andrew's legacy in Madagascar

enjoying BBQ and sea views as the ALT Mg team celebrate Andrew’s legacy in Madagascar


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20th Anniversary


 This year the Trust celebrates twenty years of charitable work and remembers Andrew Lees’s passing in Madagascar on December 31st 1994 

Andrew Lees (1949-1994)

Andrew Lees Trust – The History

When news of Andrew’s disappearance in a remote forest of southern Madagascar hit the UK national press early in January 1995 the environmental movement was shocked. The community rallied and money was sent in to help the search for Andrew.

Andrew, then Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth UK, went to Madagascar to research a proposed mine by the multi national mining giant, Rio Tinto. He had gone to visit local communities, interview them, record their opinions and film the imperiled forests that would be decimated by the extraction of a mineral, ilmenite, from the fragile coastal landscape on the south eastern tip of the island.

After days of searching, Andrew was discovered to have died of possible heatstroke in the forest of Petriky. His family and friends were devastated. So too were the many people that Andrew had touched during his years as an environmental campaigner, working with local communities, volunteers, activists and journalists.

While Andrew was missing, many of these supporters sent in funds to assist the search. After his death it was these funds that were used to launch the Andrew Lees Memorial Fund, later renamed the Andrew Lees Trust.

For the first year, Friends of the Earth administered the Fund, but the charity was soon registered under its own sovereign identity and led by Andrew’s partner, Christine Orengo (UCL) and his close friends and colleagues, Marek Mayer (ENDS) and Mary Taylor (FOE), with family members also on the Board of Trustees.

The first action of the charity was to help launch an environmental training centre, The Centre Ecologique Libanona (CEL) in the Anosy region where Andrew had died. All agreed that this was an appropriate way to memorialise Andrew’s belief in local empowerment. In December 1995, on the first anniversary of his death, the Centre was opened  on the Libanona Promontory in Ft Dauphin.  The old Schoolroom was rehabilitated – originally constructed by the Lutheran missionaries who used Libanona as a retreat – and was dedicated to Andrew’s memory. Over the following four years the Trust sent funds to support student bursaries, rehabilitate more buildings for teachers and students and cover local salaries; the Trust also sent books and equipment for the CEL library.

Andrew’s partner, Christine, and her sister, Yvonne Orengo, were present for the CEL launch. Yvonne became increasingly involved with the Trust, producing an annual cultural and fundraising event , ‘Madagascar Spirits’, which brought together the Diaspora in London, environmental activists, supporters of Madagascar and many notable Malagasy musicians including Tarika, Justin Vali, D’Gary, and Njava.

Together Christine and Yvonne visited Madagascar each year to see the Centre evolve and liaise with its founders Mark Fenn (WWF) and Raoul Mulder (University of Melbourne) on the needs and development of the project.

It was during one of these visits that wider educational activities were discussed for the region and the possibility of using wind up radios to bring education to isolated villagers who had little or no access to schooling, and who were disadvantaged by low levels of literacy. The idea was welcomed and Mark Fenn brokered some initial discussions with local partners.

ALT On The Ground

With help from Sarah Pennington, a volunteer then studying at Birkbeck College, ALT’s educational radio project was piloted in 1998 in the Androy region, funded by the British Embassy. Yvonne undertook further fundraising for the project, secured a contract from the EU Food Security Division and, in 1999, arrived in Madagascar to implement and develop ALT’s ‘Project Radio’ .

Over the next six years, living in Anosy,  she worked with the local team and ALT’s international staff and consultants  to Direct and develop the Trust’s wider programme of social and environmental projects ranging from food security, environmental protection and natural resource management, energy efficiency, emergency relief communications for development, good governance and HIV AIDS awareness. See the ALT Review for 2010 and blog updates.

The Trust evolved from a hands off small grants provider to managing its own 4 million Euro portfolio of projects, running seven offices and managing a team of 60 + who delivered the projects in the field, developed partnerships and built relationships of trust with NGOs, service providers, media outlets, local authorities, and village communities across two ex provinces of Madagascar (Tulear and Fianaratsoa), reaching more than 800,000 beneficiaries across all of its activities.

Vision of Empowerment – Handing Over

In 2009 the Trust realised its long-term sustainability strategy to hand over the work to its local team.  The Trust assisted its Malagasy team to set up a Malagasy NGO called Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT Mg). It then transferred all its assets and know-how to the newly formed ALT Mg and accompanied the Malagasy team over their first year of independence in order to provide continuity, technical support and financial security.

By 2010 ALT MG was established in its own right with its own funded programme, based on the skills and experience gained with ALT UK. See

ALT MG has continued to deliver frontline food security, development communications, emergency relief, energy efficiency and environmental projects and is successfully led by its Director in Ft Dauphin Hanitra Raharimanana.

ALT UK‘s strategy has been focused on supporting and mentoring ALT Mg  – in particular throughout the delivery of a joint emergency relief programme and for the launch and the development of a new and innovative radio project – Village Voices for Development.

ALT Mg has secured new contracts for 2015 and it is the hope of ALT UK that they will continue to lead and deliver innovative and vital projects in southern Madagascar and act as a model for sustainable local development and leadership


Reflecting over the years, the Trust gives thanks for the extraordinarily dedicated and passionate team of skilled workers – both Malagasy and international – who worked for the Trust, many for ten years or more. Also the wonderfully generous volunteers who either assisted the projects on the ground or helped the administration and communications of the Trust from the UK – some of whom are still give their time voluntarily today.

ALT has also benefitted from the skills and expertise of a wide range of professional consultants, trainers and advisers all of whom who have contributed to the growth and success of the work and the skills of the team.

The Trust is grateful too for all the Trustees who have served on the Board and especially for those who have ensured continuity: two founding members who have served   for twenty years: Christine Orengo and Mary Taylor; and two others for over ten years :Tony Long and Vola Parker,  with the recent addition of ALT’s ex Head of Finance, Rosalba Leonelli, also with ALT for over ten years. The Director Yvonne Orengo has been involved with the Trust for twenty years.

The Trust recognises it could not have achieved its work without the funding of the international and national donor community, many of whom ensured repeat funding to the Trust’s programme for ten years; also to those who have given generously on a personal basis annually. Thank you so much for your belief in and support of our work.

Over the years the Trust has also experienced sadness and loss and we take a moment to remember Marek Mayer (1952-2005), Andrew’s close friend and one of ALT’s Founders, Trustees and a generous benefactor of the charity’s work. The ALT tree nursery was dedicated to Marek in 2007.

We extend our gratitude to you all for your generous support of our endeavour in Madagascar, which has helped ensure the success of the Trust and its Malagasy partner, Andry Lalana Tohana.

Please continue to support our work

Note The Trust in the UK is virtual with minimal running costs and only volunteer staff so the majority of our resource goes to Madagascar and to supporting our Malagasy partner Andry Lalalana Tohana  on the ground.


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September 2014

It has been some time since our last news update  – apologies and thank you for your understanding. We hope this latest post will catch up our supporters about what we have been doing to assist the development of our local partner Andry Lalana Tohana and its projects in Madagascar…..

From the UK , The Trust continues to provide Mentoring and Technical Advice to  Andry Lalana Tohana (ALT Mg),  and to its radio for good governance project, Village Voices for Development (VVD) including proposal writing to raise funds and assisting with strategic negotiations with international partners and donors.

visiting listening groups in Bekily

visiting listening groups in Bekily

ALT Mg – Activity in Southern Madagascar. 

Village Voices for Development (VVD). Since January,  ALT MG has been able to finalise the formal training of local radio journalists in VVD methodology, and in conflict resolution techniques using media (with additional training from SFCG) under its UNESCO grant. (see December 2013 post)

6 local radio journalists (from Amboasary, Ambovombe, Fort Dauphin, and Bekily) and 3 ALT team were trained in the role of journalism in conflicts , using the Common Ground approach; the journalists also learnt ALT’s VVD methodology  to improve citizen engagement in governance via the media , and how to conduct phone in programmes for citizens.  Additionally 20 radio listening groups from across the two regions of Anosy and Androy were identified and 263 villagers received face to face education and  training about human rights –  in particular rights to freedom of expression and access to information. Trano Aro Zo worked in partnership with ALT to deliver the hands on rights education to villagers. These listening groups then discuss and provide thematic content for the radio programmes in the form of questions to local decision makers.

The ALT team have spent the last nine months accompanying the journalists in the field,

journalists in training

journalists in training

helping them to work with the listening groups and learn and improve skills to produce Q & A citizen engagement programming on a monthly basis using VVD methodology and phone ins. Broadcasting through 6 radio stations across two regions – Anosy and Androy, the project is creating 4 regular broadcasts  per month, two in each region, and additional phone-in programmes. This work has been undertaken with support from The Adsum Foundation (UK). The programmes reach over 150,000 listeners.

The work is still in progress and capacity building of local journalists will end in October. The radio stations have already provided some very positive feedback about the work to date:

… seems that having direct dialogue between villagers and decision makers attracts many listeners … “ host of the radio station Kaleta ,Amboasary

“… the socio-cultural barriers about public speaking can be overcome by using this VVD methodology … ” journalist Mandroso radio Bekily

Transparency and Accountability – the Role of Radio 

distributing phones to listening groups to participate in phone in VVD programmes

distributing phones to listening groups to participate in phone in VVD programmes

In Anosy region, the VVD work was further strengthened by VVD programming for the World Bank PGDI Accountability and Transparency programme. A small seed grant has allowed ALT Mg to trial 4 question and answer radio programmes, 4 phone in programmes and 2 additional broadcasts ( on rights and governance) under this funding.

These pogrammes offer communities a vital mechanism via the media for holding their leaders to account and raising issues that affect their lives but which might otherwise remain hidden or beyond their control.

For example, some measures have been put in place by the local authorities in the south to provide increased security for villages  – in particular to address the ongoing threat of Dahalo raids ( cattle rustling). These measures include a type of visa that must be issued for villagers travelling outside their community on business and staying in other regions overnight.

Focus group to discuss transparency issues in Ambaniala

Focus group to discuss transparency issues in Ambaniala

The visa is issued by their local Chef du Fokontany. However, in at least one commune, this procedure was being exploited by the local chief who was insisting that villagers pay him for visas just to go to market a short half hour walk away. VVD programming enabled the villagers to voice their concerns and questions about this practice in public, via the radio .

ALT team assisting at a phone in programme, July

ALT team assisting at a phone in programme, July

The questions were aired together with explanations and corrections by the Head of District and local Police service, clarifying the requirements and parameters of the new visa system publicly. The progamme has created greater transparency about the  security measures, improved awareness of the practical procedures and, in so doing, helps prevent the exploitation of villagers.

ALT  is currently seeking further funding  to scale up VVD and increase activity in the two regions with this vital good governance work.

Food Security. Alongside this vital communications initiative, ALT Mg have been delivering emergency food assistance with the FAO. Providing the most vulnerable with access to seeds – including potatoes and beans, as well as equipment, in order to improve their resilience against climate shocks, poor harvest and food shortages that regularly affect the south. They have focused this work in Bekily and Beloha districts.

technical training of local food producers

technical training of local food producers

Additional funding is being sought to continue work on the reintroduction of drought resistant sorghum, which ALT has already successfully delivered across many communes in the south.

ALT Mg Website. ALT UK agreed with ALT MG that a single, important way to assist their fundraising and improve their presence in the national and international domain would be a dedicated website for ALT MG. The local team were struggling to provide the resources to launch the site so in December the UK ALT  Trustees and Director prioritised this work and agreed to contract ALT’s webmaster, Peter Smart, to  set up the new site. Working with the ALT UK Director, The ALT Mg Director agreed  the design and content which was jointly developed over  a number of weeks earlier this year. The site was launched in April 2014: See

Supporting Higher Education for Malagasy Students at CEL, AnosyIn July, ALT UK agreed to support two Centre Ecologique Libanona (CEL) students and has sent ‘The Andrew Lees’ and ‘Marek Mayer’ Bursaries for the coming academic year.

ALT Director presents the Trust's communications work to students at Surrey University

ALT Director presents the Trust’s communications work to students at Surrey University

ALT Outward Bound. In February the ALT Director presented the communications work of the Trust to students at University of Surrey (Sustainability week); in July she also created a small Madagascar event for the village community where she lives, during which she raised just over £80 towards the Trust from a raffle and donations.

Sharing Our Work and Lessons. In June 2014, The Trust was delighted to learn that The Communications Initiative had published ALT’s VVD evaluation online, which shares this report with 85,000 networked professional and actors in the sector.

Remembering Andrew – The Lees Room. In July we learnt that Friends of the Earth had moved into new offices in south London and have remembered Andrew’s environmental campaigning legacy by naming one of their new meeting rooms after him. Its called ‘The Lees Room’ and FoE have generously extended an invitation to ALT to hold its meetings in this space.

We note that Wikipedia now has a formal entry for Andrew Lees  at

IT Support. During the year a number of works had to be undertaken to tackle IT issues (virus attack/memory upgrades) and website updates. Thanks are due to our volunteers, Peter Smart (Webmaster), Andrew Petrie and Tom Melly (IT support) for their valuable time in making everything work, and better.

Thanks too go out to our regular supporters, the donors and our wider volunteer network for ongoing inputs and advice to ALT and ALT Mg’s programme in Madagascar.

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December 2013 Update

ALT Mg has been continuing to develop its VVD radio project for good governance with technical and fundraising support from the Andrew Lees Trust… 

ALT Mg's training of radio journalists 2013
ALT Mg’s training of radio journalists 2013


VVD Training for Journalists in the South  In the last few months ALT Mg has been finalizing its plans and preparing to launch a training of radio journalists in the ALT VVD approach led by ALT Mg in the south.

ALT UK has helped ALT MG to secure funds from UNESCO IPDC for a main training and also co-finance from the Adsum Foundation to support further training through experiential learning for the journalists.

The objective of the training  is to imbed the VVD civic engagement approach into local media practice in the south – enabling it to promote human rights and democratic discourse . The project will train and build the capacity of six local journalists from FM radio stations  in Anosy and Androy regions who have partnered with ALT in the  south over many years. 

 This project builds on the success of ALT’s Village Voices for Development (VVD) Feb- Dec 2012 and from further lessons learn through the scaling up process for the EU funded electoral communications campaign, civic engagement component (Dec 2012- August 2013) . See previous blogs and below.

 Formateur SFCG formation IPDCThe first training was launched in November and benefitted from collaboration with Search For Common Ground (SFCG). The SFCG session was led by Lalatiana Farasoa RAKOTONDRANAIVO and focused on skills in reporting and understanding the role of media/radio in conflict prevention; a session on the production of phone in programmes  was guided by the ALT Mg Director Hanitra Raharimanana.

Follow on training in the field will be delivered by ALT MG in 2014 after the current election rounds have been completed. ALT Mg’s specialised VVD team will work with the radio journalists and build their capacity to produce interactive programmes with 12 village radio listening groups and local decision makers using the VVD approach and formats including phone in programmes. The programmes will be broadcast each month and impacts will be monitored to feed into follow up programmes and phone in debates (see also VVD approach at

 This approach recognises that a one off training will not yield sustainable results and that experiential, hands on learning with accompanied mentoring will enable the radio station journalists to gain the necessary experience and skills to maintain the programme format in the longer term.Représentante UNESCO IPDC

It is anticipated that the regular broadcast  of VVD style programmes will create growing acceptance and willingness of civil society, and decision makers to engage in democratic discourse through the media as a matter of daily life, -thereby contributing to democratic political reform.



EU Elections campaign  by September 2013 ALT Mg completed all its work on the EU funded elections communications campaign and in November the final external evaluation report was published by the lead partner SFCG,  highlighting the impacts of the project including the civic engagement component that was undertaken by ALT Mg. See

For further information about the current elections in Madagascar visit :

From ALT UK and ALT MG

very best wishes for a Joyful and Peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Yvonne, all the images used on the Vodaphone Blog will need to be uploaded to this Blog's Media Library. Each image can then have its Caption Text added in the library. On inserting the image to the Post the caption comes with it. Per this example.
Best wishes from Androy



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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

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)

 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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