Stephan Waeber

About me

Hi there, my name is Stephan Waeber from Freiburg, Switzerland. I studied Biology with a focus on ecology and evolution. During my studies I heard a lot about how the world is changing and how this is influencing nature.
Many species are getting extinct, transferred in new ecosystems, habitats are lost, populations are getting to small to survive and many more problems are also results of human actions. Everyone of us is part of the human society and partly responsible. Once I finished my studies I was looking for a way to get some working experience and at the same time doing something to support the people who are trying to save what is left of what nature and wildlife once was.

I also wanted to have an insight into an NGO that works for nature preservation and see if such an working environment would please me.
Stephan Waeber of Switzerland, WWF volunteer in Madagascar in 2013 / ©: WWF / Stephan Waeber
Stephan in Madagascar
© WWF / Stephan Waeber

How can we change minds? Ask the children.

During my stay in Madagascar I learned about conservation, that it is pretty hard work, especially in developing countries. So much is dependent on the mentality of the people directly concerned by the issues in the specific areas. It often is kind of a dilemma.
People use natural resources and overexploit them, destroying their own base for surviving and at the same time there are not many other possibilities for them. In parallel, cultural and religious traditions are involved and make changing minds of people particularly difficult.

The WWF project in the area of Ranobe in southern Madagascar seemed to me to be a good attempt of how to implant conservation in local communities. Simultaneously working on a political level to make the area officially a protected area and organising in the communities local political tools, so people can protect the forest on their own. A forest police, a law court which applies also traditional rules and different councils are introduced so a self-management of the conservation area can take place.

Also the WWF introduces new agro-ecological ways of farming, so people give up the very destructive slash and burn practice. Only few farmers implement the agro-ecological techniques and even though they do have a lot of success with it, it is very hard to convince people.

This is were the frustration kicks in. Motivation, money, a good system, new ideas and hard conservation work seems sometimes to shatter at the obstacle of minds, routines, political problems, corruption and poverty. So the most rewarding thing was to work with the children, who seemed to understand how important it is to protect the environment, also for their proper future. The young people showed a lot of interest and hopefully they will keep their opinion and change their way of living and start working towards the conservation of nature.
Stephan Waeber of Switzerland playing soccer with local community during his WWF volunteer ... / ©: WWF / Stephan Waeber
Playing soccer
© WWF / Stephan Waeber
Stephan Waeber of Switzerland in a taxi brousse during his WWF volunteer assignment in Madagascar / ©: WWF / Stephan Waeber
In a taxi brousse
© WWF / Stephan Waeber

Advice

Undoubtedly, the 3 months in Madagascar have been an amazing experience. Living with local people, seeing and feeling the struggle of their everyday life was impressive. The problems you knew suddenly are so small and unimportant. As a human experience this is unique.
Anyhow, on the working experience side of things, this project can leave you disappointed. At least in the project I was working on, we didn't feel we were working directly on the project. We were introduced to how WWF is working and what the activities of the project are, but our actual work was to create awareness tools.

And now?

I'm now at the University of Fribourg again to do a Teachers Diploma (February 2014)

La faune et la flore sont innocentes

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