In October 2006, RadioActive went out to the village of Antsaravibe in Madagascar to get Radio Meva Ankarana, the only station in the area, on the air.
Antsaravibe is a rural village 130km south of Diego Suarez in the Ankarana region of northern Madagascar.
The station is a vehicle for sustainable grassroots development by and for the local population, a unifying force in the community and an inclusive space for community collaboration. After over a year of planning, preparation and design, the radio installation has taken place. The station is now broadcasting daily to the Antsaravibe population, numbering around 15,000.
At present, social development efforts are a daily struggle, against bad roads, no phones, a village made up of small “fokontany” (divisions of the village) dispersed over long distances, rural subsistence-agriculture living, inadequate schools, insufficient health services, and an under-funded and dysfunctional local government. After introducing the idea through community focus groups, an association of enthusiastic community members was created to develop a project to make the radio idea a reality.
The community association is called AINGA, which means “beginning” in Malagasy.
AINGA decided to apply for the US Embassy’s DHRF II, the Democracy and Human Rights Fund, which provides financial support for Malagasy projects designed to improve local human rights conditions in a sustainable way. AINGA spent several months working out the project vision, goals, and plans for sustainable management and community involvement in producing radio programming. AINGA submitted its proposal in December 2005 and awaited the Embassy response due in May 2006, optimistically continuing with planning in the meantime.
The project was approved for $15,000; the signing ceremony was held in the capital city of Antananarivo on September 21st 2006, attended by the AINGA association president and a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Antsaravibe, Christi Turner, who had been working in Antsaravibe since 2005, and had been involved with the organisation of the radio project since its inception. It was Christi who found and helped put AINGA in touch with RadioActive.
We are pleased to be able to announce that this is radio station is powered entired by solar power. Not just the transmitter site, but the whole station is run on solar. The PV (photovoltaic) solar panel system used involves 5 x 120 Watt Panels with 4 x 150 Amp-hour “maintenance-free” batteries.
The village of Antsaravibe has no electricity. It also lacks running water, septic or drainage systems, or any other such modern infrastructure. The Radio Meva Ankarana station is the first fully solar facility in the community, a major step in an ongoing effort to introduce solar energy into the region before unsustainable, fossil-fuel powered electricity makes it there. So far, the Antsaravibe clinic has a solar-powered vaccine fridge and halogen lamp (for night deliveries), as does a new community clinic in the nearby Mahatsarafokontany. A local ecotourist bungalow also uses solar power for its lighting system; other small endeavors involving solar power in Antsaravibe are in the works.
RadioActive supports the use of sustainable energy sources wherever possible in our radio projects. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions regarding the use of sustainable technology in community radio projects, please get in touch.
In November 2006 we brought out two BBC radio reporters Eve Jackson and Tamasin Ford to give training at the station. They trained the station team in radio production, presenting, and field recording. They also spent time working in the local secondary school teaching students to produce radio drama.
The dramas they produced addressed different important issues affecting the local community, such as unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. They also spent some time visiting other villages in the area to introduce the radio project and encourage involvement in the station from other villages.
Thanks to thank Eve and Tamasin for coming out to Antsaravibe to share their expertise with the team at Radio Meva Ankarana. We look forward to working with them again on future projects.
You can find Eve’s report on her experience in Madagascar on the BBC Birmingham website if you click here.
If you are interested in volunteering on at Radio Meva Ankarana, please visit our volunteer page.
Radio Meva Ankarana means “Beautiful Ankarana Radio”. The name was chosen from a variety of submissions in a community vote held during the training and installation process. Ankarana means “at the harana”, and harana is the local word for “limestone massif”. These amazing, enormous rock formations are what make the region world-famous, and literally surround the Antsaravibe area. They harbor a unique environment filled with flora, fauna, and geological wonders found nowhere else on the planet.
US Embassy, Madagascar
Christi Turner: [email protected]