- get involved in a WWF conservation project
- learn about conservation in a developing country
- learn about other cultures and enrich yourself with these cultures
- involve people at home by telling your stories and showing your pictures and videos
- explore, have fun and enjoy!
The high level of biodiversity makes Madagascar a unique country. But unfortunately this high level of biodiversity is often found in forests that are disappearing at a high rate. The problem Madagascar faces is rooted in the extreme poverty of the population. Poverty pushes people towards using their surrounding natural resources faster than it can recover, which often seems to be the only way of survival.
This unsustainable use often leads to the local extinction of certain species and the loss of natural resources for the community. Disappearance of one link in an ecosystem, will have devastating cascading effects on the rest of the ecosystem, as different links within an ecosystem are highly dependent on each other. This can eventually turn densely vegetated and moist forest into empty, dry areas. Animal and plant species providing food and medicine for the local population are disappearing at a high rate as a consequence.
It is shocking to see the dry grassy fields, knowing what they must have looked like before the destruction of the forest.
It might take some effort and time, but it is not impossible to stop unsustainable forest use. The WWF Youth Volunteer Programme gave me the opportunity to see how much people love and care for their nature, and how connected they are to nature. Even though changing the daily habits of unsustainable use will not be easy, local communities are very motivated to contribute to the conservation of their nature when alternatives are accessible.
Miarinavaratra, the community where we stayed, taught us so much by including us in their daily life and letting us experience rural Malagasy life. Conservational challenges of developing countries are too often approached from a western perspective. Experiencing life without running water, electricity or mobile phone reception was essential to understand the problems they are facing, and made it possible to approach a conservational problem differently.
Despite the daily struggle and having to cope without the conveniences that are so normal to us, such as drinkable running water and electricity, there is so much laughter, enjoyment and appreciation. We can learn so much from them!
Conservation of a unique ecosystem situated in a developing country sounded like an immense and worthwhile challenge to me. And by applying for the Youth Volunteer Programme of this global conservation organization, I did not only apply for the opportunity to work in the field of conservation, I also applied for an experience of a lifetime, and a huge contribution to my personal development.
It might take some effort and time, but it is not impossible to stop unsustainable forest use. Local communities are very motivated to contribute to the conservation of their nature when alternatives are accessible.