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The project and partners

Panos London has been working with Madagascar-based NGO the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT) since October 2007 to provide the Antandroy and Antanosy communities of southern Madagascar with skills and a platform for sharing their experiences and knowledge as well as voicing their concerns and priorities for the future. Panos London has provided training and support in oral testimony and participatory video, and has worked with ALT to make the resulting life stories and films reach local, national and international audiences.

The life stories

In November 2007 eight men and women from four Antanosy communities together with four ALT staff developed their oral testimony interviewing skills during a six-day workshop. Training topics included questioning skills, using recording equipment and interview relationships. Role-plays, drawings and other experiential methodologies were used to ensure that low literacy levels were no barrier to full participation.

Participants gave the project the name Projet HEPA – an acronym from a Malagasy phrase meaning “Proclaim what is in your heart.”

According to ALT, the benefits of oral testimony in southern Madagascar are wide-ranging. Yvonne Orengo, ALT’s Director comments: “Oral testimony ensures that local language and meanings are used and readily understood, that women are included in the process, that interviewers are known by their communities affording greater trust in the exchange, people get to speak for themselves and not through interpreters or facilitators, and foreigners are not present to influence outcomes.”

Fifty interviews were recorded in Anosy, 41 of which have been translated into English. Everyone who took part received a copy of their interview. All participants have kept their recording equipment in order to record more interviews in the future.

For more details on oral testimony visit

Reaching local, national and international audiences

The audio recordings of the interviews were used to create a series of 13 radio programmes broadcast throughout Anosy in 2008 – a response to a need identified by ALT for the voices and experiences of ordinary people to be a much larger part of local radio content. The programmes covered cultural traditions, livelihoods, farming practices, forests and local development.

Twelve of the translated testimonies were selected and edited for the Panos London website, with a further selection of extracts from all 41 testimonies presented thematically (hyperlink to introduction to themes).

ALT has produced a Malagasy and French collection based on the life stories for local and national dissemination within Madagascar. A PDF version will be available on the ALT website:

Panos London and ALT hope to find additional funds to produce an English version of the publication and provide on-line access to the 41 full, unedited transcripts.

Related activities

The Anosy Cultural Association was launched in 2009 by Projet HEPA participants to celebrate and preserve the culture and identity of the Antanosy people. In a period of rapid change and development, the Association aims to continue collecting and sharing oral testimonies in order to record and celebrate Antanosy culture. See:

In April 2008 Panos London, ALT and Living Lens worked with men and women from the neighbouring Androy region of southern Madagascar to produce a series of films about environmental change and their lives. During a ten-day participatory video workshop, eight men and women produced six short films. Four of these films were edited into three-minute versions for the Panos website:

Accompanying these films are four in-depth life stories from the same community. To find out more about our work in Androy and to read the life stories or watch the films visit:

Partners and funders

The Andrew Lees Trust

The Andrew Lees Trust (ALT) ( coordinated all project activities in Madagascar with support from Panos London.

ALT develops and implements social and environmental education projects in Madagascar that aim to empower local communities to improve their self-sufficiency and reduce the effects of extreme poverty.

ALT is also committed to building the capacity of Malagasy professionals to undertake the challenges of designing and implementing appropriate development strategies and projects at local and regional levels.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

The project is funded by IFAD. IFAD was created 30 years ago to tackle rural poverty. Since 1978, IFAD has invested more than US$10 billion in low-interest loans and grants that have helped over 300 million very poor rural women and men increase their incomes and provide for their families. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations agency. It is a global partnership of OECD, OPEC and other developing countries. Today, IFAD supports more than 200 programmes and projects in 81 developing countries and one territory.

IFAD is working with the government of Madagascar to eradicate rural poverty through a number of large integrated rural development projects.  For further information see IFAD in Madagascar and


The project and partners is a key theme of the Pushed to the edge oral testimony project.


Constand: middlemen control everything

Olina: money talks

Fanja: forest is forbidden

Sorahy: education is crucial

Kazy: rains aren’t coming

Zanaboatsy: needing the forest

Sambo: life goes on

Jean-Claude: we are not livestock

Rosette: story of change

Bruno: hotter and hotter

Say Louise: when hardships started

Sirily: working for foreigners

Key themes

Background to the region

The project and partners

Rivers and the sea


Land and compensation

Farming and food security

Environmental change


Economic conditions


Cultural and social change

Communications and power relations

Local development

The future