“Oh Koto malama anie eo e…” (Be careful, Koto, the road is slippery)! It is a rainy day in Mandrivany village in South Eastern Madagascar as the two children gamboling along the road ahead Caroline Rojotahina mimic characters, Bao and Koto from the radio series she helps produce. It makes her smile with pride.
“Bao and Koto’s story is set in a Malagasy village very much like Mandrivany, a village that experiences heavy rains, ups and downs across seasons, and all kinds of encounters with native lemur species” explains Caroline. Caroline is an education team member at Centre ValBio in Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar.
She is also project collaborator with the SOS - Save Our Species funded project “This Lemur Life” which focuses on encouraging conservation-minded attitudes and actions in the villages surrounding Ranomafana National Park through a series of fictional radio stories centered on the shared needs and experiences of local villages and regional lemur species. The aim of the series, produced with significant input from community members, is to encourage playful exploration of the natural world and one’s place within it while fostering sustainable environmental practices, elaborates Caroline.
Following a year-long production phase, the radio series began airing in schools across ten target villages in April 2017. To best reach local communities, episodes were recorded in both Malagasy and the local Antanala, Betsileo and Merina dialects and include first-hard accounts from lemur forest guides and local community members at the end of each episode.
Meanwhile the project developed a training workshop and teaching guide to support local teachers in getting the most out of the toolkit with interactive and multidisciplinary activities focused on participatory engagement and exploration of scientific and conservation issues. Lessons were stored on digital memory cards and distributed along with solar powered radios to schools and communities around Ranomafana, some as far as a six hours’ walk from the main road.
As if the project design and production process was not complex enough, hurricanes, staff illnesses, and crashing software all delayed recording session after recording session. The dedication of Centre ValBio teaching staff writing scripts, Santratra Razanakolona editing episodes and Lovasoa Razafindravony managing the overall production process paid off eventually, however. As Daniella Rabino, founder of the project and creative lead, notes, “finishing the radio episodes was a true team effort, from young actors spending weekends in the studio, to guides from Centre ValBio contributing real stories”.
Currently the radio episodes and lessons are being paired with Centre ValBio’s ‘My Rainforest, My World’ education initiative, a project featuring lessons from clean water to sanitation and class-led science projects.
As the students complete the series and supporting education pack later in 2017, the next step will be to evaluate how the project impacted learning and attitudes in these villages. Meanwhile, This Lemur Life hopes to make the radio series and educational pack available to support similar conservation initiatives in other parts of Madagascar as soon as possible.
This is just one of 11 SOS funded lemur conservation projects supported by IUCN’s SOS Lemurs initiative so far. More projects will be launched later in 2017. With your valuable support we can reach more people with good news that demonstrates on-the-ground conservation works and delivers results for species, habitats and communities. Please share this story with your networks via social media and word of mouth.