El sur también existe: The South also exists



Posted on 20 November 2012  | 
In Malagasy culture Taboos are very common and very important. There are many things which they do not talk about and we are forbidden to ask or to photograph. Graves for instance are very sacred and we are to respect them. This is a very understandable taboo given that ancestral respect that is paid more or less worldwide to Death. However there are many other taboos very well known in Malagasy culture, such as not crossing a river with a red shirt on, or not marrying someone of your own family. Malagasy tribes are very sensitive about their taboos and of course very secretive.

I found out that there are many taboos in western culture as well. Richness, DEVELOPMENT, and history are deeply enrooted taboos. For instance, it is still difficult to address the uncomfortable reality that a third of the world grew rich and prosper exploiting the two remaining thirds of the planet. Colonization, exploitation, slavery, economic exploitation, appropriation of natural resources by foreign entities… all kind of taboos for westerns cultures. Now however; richer cultures are concerned about worlds poverty and are active in it´s alleviation. Conversation grows uncomfortable when discussing how many richer countries arrived to their current state of livelihood.

“El Sur también existe” is a phrase from Pablo Neruda, a very well-known Chilean Poet. It means “the South also exists”. It usually accompanies a Torres Garcia painting that draws attention to the Latin American Continent as it is depicted upside down. I wouldn’t dare to speak on the artists behalf but I do think that the statement refers, at least to some extent, to the fact that the North prospered to the detriment of the “rest of the world”. The Souths riches were harvested for other nations to profit. Neruda´s and Garcia´s artwork forcibly and purposefully encourages the discussion of such taboos regarding the exploitation of the South.

It is a general and misguided idea that because the North was deeply responsible for much of the South´s current poor state, they are the only ones that have to come up with the solutions. One of the things that I like most about WWF, is that they break this preconception by working alongside, training and employing local workforces. One of the most interesting philosophies that WWF applies is related to their commitment to collaborate and involve the regional, environmental and governmental agencies, building together the projects that aim to preserve the biodiversity and natural resources of our World.

Projects in the South have to be thought and prepared by the South itself. A South-South collaboration is key. A lot can be learned on social and environment conservation and management in Africa. There is a rising potential that could allow in the future a translocation of the successful stories to the other countries that may not yet have found sustainable solutions for their development and environmental issues and challenges. This will allow us, somewhere in our future to be able to grow capable of relying on our own capacity and willingness to evolve. WWF instigates this evolution.

The first challenge is the acknowledgement from all parties involved of a simple fact: we are all equally part of the solution. I specifically respect WWF for being open minded enough as to allow and facilitate me, an Argentinian student, the opportunity to go through this program in Africa, and have the opportunity to work arm in arm with my fellow youth international volunteer team mates to build sustainable conservation strategies. For an NGO any budget decision is quite delicate, every penny counts. WWFs investment in us, or me, says a lot about their commitment to train a new generation with all the possible skills to instigate the making of a free independent, healthy, developed South of the World.

The North does not have all the answers; but it does have the capacity and responsibility to provide to the South the necessary jump start towards emancipation. From personal experience I can say that throwing money at a country does not simply work. You need guidance from international organizations who can pass their training and experience so that future generations in the South maybe independent and able to grow without North´s aid.

Projects that work the best are therefore those that bring in together international teams and national populations to create fresh local solutions to each challenge addressed.

WWF Volunteer Camila Cosse Braslavsky, Madagascar 2012

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