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FOKO: Bloggers put Madagascar in the spotlight

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Last month Madagascar was devastated by Cyclone Ivan and the world press barely noticed it. The Force and destruction of the tropical storm was comparable to Hurricane Katrina, yet Andriankoto of Foko Madagascar tells us that the coverage by the US and French press was “bare minimum”. Malagasy bloggers took to the task of filling the information void:

Mainstream media may have dropped the ball on covering the cyclonic season in the Indian Ocean but alternative citizen media filled the void and try their best to keep the lines of communication open within the country and with the rest of the world.

The combined efforts of bloggers covering the aftermath of the storm resulted in an interactive map of the current status of many regions in Madagascar after Ivan as well as a comprehensive slideshow illustrating the extend of flooding in Antanarivo and its surroundings.

Malagasy bloggers at FOKO blog club, a blog outreach initiative of FOKO, were also phenomenal in response. From the FOKO Blog:

One of our most enthusiastic bloggers, Avylavitra…has showered us with pictures from cyclone Ivan that devastated Madagascar.

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Avylavitra also applied his recent learning of video-blogging by posting some videos on YouTube of the tidal surges Cyclone Ivan caused.

FOKO was busy last month with a lot of activities, including their first video and photo workshop.

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For an example of the outcome, take a look at Avylavitra's Flickr account for coverage of the riots outside Mahamasina Municipal stadium during a football match.

FOKO also planted trees in the region of Andranovelona with the Namana SeraSera Youth Group. Avylavitra, a member of Namana SeraSera posted some pictures of the tree planting which can be found in his Flickr album.

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They also initiated a blog commenting exercise. More seasoned bloggers are encouraging new ones by following up others’ posts with tips and encouraging comments. So we have seen an increased flow of comments in participant blogs and a boost in the morale of budding bloggers..

A selection of three posts from January were translated for the international audience of Foko which can be found here. Please don't miss gazety_adaladala's translated post to learn about the indiscriminate parking of cars in Antananarivo from early morning to late at night.

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Despite the cyclone, FOKO carried on with its expansion plan in Madagascar’s second largest town, Toamasina.

“Our interest in bringing the Foko Blog Club to Toamasina resides in bringing more attention to a very dynamic region where the youth and the communities are highly skilled and have many stories to share with the world. Our Toamasina group will be of course driving attention to environmental echues that are not commonly talked about on the web or even on the ground. With their charming accent is different, their wonderful seafront and kindness, this group will very quickly surprise us!”

The workshop went on well and you can get the feeds of the newly trained Toamasina Bloggers here.

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A selection of five of the February posts of the FOKO bloggers were translated on the Foko Blog Club page. Two of the featured Toamasina bloggers reveal how quickly they have begun expressing themselves via blogs.

Karenichia, from FBC-Tana-Youth group, continues with her excellent posts and is now also writing in English. She shares her concern about the Malagasy society and also wonders “Why is it so important for Malagasy societies and companies to have employees who have spent some years abroad?”

Meanwhile FOKO has resolved to strengthen their ties with the other Rising Voices grantees, learn from their experiences and apply their tips to running workshops successfully. They have put up posts about Nari Jibon, Hyperbarrio andVoces Bolivianas in their Blog.

Hery, a member of the Serasera Namana Group, is planning to bring teens and will teach them blogging himself. Read an interview with Hery on ICT and Youth in Madagascar.

Please check the FOKO project blog on Rising Voices and the FOKO Club Blog (or subscribe to their feeds) regularly for more updates on this exciting project.

6 comments

  • How many blogs are there currently in Madagascar?

  • Hi Solana,

    I was totally off the mark when we discussed last week. I asked a few bloggers for their estimate and they told me there are probably between 1,200 to 1,800 blogs from or about Madagascar. I did not take into account 2 large blog providers that are very popular with young Malagasy people.

  • joan

    We think there are about 2000 to 3000 Malagasy bloggers worldwide but specifically from Madagascar maybe 10% or 15%.
    What is interesting is that most of them are teens. Our friends at Gasyblog told us they were using mostly Skyblog (a very very popular french plate-form). You can see there are more than 90 members from Madagascar :
    http://www.gasyblog.com/category/localisation/madagascar/
    We know this generation has a great potential, most of them are bilingual (english is starting to become a trend) and are really comfortable with the latest ICT technologies. They are also coming from different social classes with a lot of public schools students blogging . But many parents and teachers see this exposition to the internet as a threat to the children (we are highly protecting our young bloggers at FOKO by hiding their identity under nicknames and keeping them busy on redactions or reportages)
    When the country will be fully connected to the internet backbone (supposely by the end of this year) and with hundreds of cybercafes already taking part in the urban lifestyle, the world will see an invasion of bloggers from Madagascar !!!

  • Hi guys, thanks for answering. I guess the number of bloggers writing in Malagasy must be much lower?

    It’s just interesting to hear details about small blogospheres, consdidering the global figure is so gigantic it’s practically impossible to quantify…

    I think you are doing fantastic work.

  • joan

    Thank you very much, GVO has done great great great thnigs for Malagasy blogaspehere. The team working with Lova is giving back the way they know best : by translating frenetically in malagasy the wonderful posts on GVO!

    There is 100% Malagasy WordPress based blogging plateforme where 99% blog exclusively in Malagasy.
    http://blaogy.com/summary.php?op=UserList&page=33
    It is part of the Namana Serasera association network and they have more than 800 members.
    They represent 1/3 of the entire blogosphere and this is why we (at Foko) chose to work with them in enrolling new bloggers from their forum and elsewhere in Madagascar.

    Thank you again and I hope these informations and links would help

  • I just want to commend FOKO for their conservation and reforrestation efforts, they are truly doing great things, and i look forward to covering more of their environmental efforts.

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