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Radio Mampita: giving a voice to the voiceless

Created in 1997 with a five-year (one-time renewable) grant and equipment from the Swiss Cooperation, RM is a membership-based community radio owned and operated by 1,200 Malagasy farmers organized into 240 rural associations in the province of Fianaranstoa. RM broadcasted its first show on June 8th, 1998 on FM 94 and 102 MHZ and currently broadcasts seven days a week from 5 PM to 10 PM.

Radio Mampita (RM) plays a key role in strengthening horizontal communication across communal borders and ethnic and social groups. Over the past five years, RM has prevented conflicts among groups by serving as a communication tool to track cattle thieves across the province and bring them to justice; conducted discussion forums around the critical issue of land ownership; educated farmers about bushfire; and promoted new farming techniques and farmer-to-farmer exchange programs. This year, RM is tackling the challenge of broadcasting to in/out-of-school youth.

Equally important has been RM's role in promoting local culture (art, theater and traditional music) and connecting families and friends via its Private Announcements program, which allows individuals to send messages to friends and family in rural areas with no phone connection.

RM has been a strategic partner to most of the development agencies operating in the province, including Pact, which is providing grants and fees for services. Pact is collaborating with RM on the issues of bushfire (through the Miray program), good governance and elections monitoring (through the ILO program), and youth (through the new Madagascar Media and Message (M3) project). MP has also received media training under the M3 program. MP is currently developing a series radio shows discussing various issues intended to promote "responsible citizenship" to in-and-out-of-school youth in the province of Fianarantsoa with funding from Pact.

RM has become a brand name in the province of Fianar. According to RM manager Ms. Voahirana Yves Lucienne, most of the people living in the city of Fianar have used RM to send at least one message to someone in the countryside because of the poor communication infrastructure. This poor communication infrastructure also constitutes a challenge for RM's field reporters, who in most cases have to walk several kilometers to deliver their tapes to the nearest village with taxi connections to the city. Still, Ms. Voahirana is very optimistic about the future. RM's strategic collaboration with civil society organizations and other international NGOs operating in the province is contributing to RM's financial base. In addition she has plans to tap into urban areas to expand RM's membership base and has her eyes on employing the new information technologies available to community radios today. Recent acquisition of an email account has made it easier to communicate and collaborate with sister community radios in other provinces and reduced significantly their monthly phone bill. Ms. Voahirana is still hoping for the day when RM will open its own web page, the door to the outside world.

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