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 : http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2625160/andrew_lees_20_years_after_his_last_mission_to_madagascar.html#1


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 www.andrylalanatohana.org

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 www.andrylalanatohana.org

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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lees_(environmentalist)

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

 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 http://www.andrewleestrust.org/PDFs/Evaluation%20final%20SFCG-ALT%20oct2013.pdf

For further information about the current elections in Madagascar visit :http://www.anglo-malagasysociety.co.uk/newsletter.html

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 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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