Madagascar is just one of those places that take my breath away. It's simply addictive. There are plenty of reasons why: the striking beauty of its forests and their biodiversity, its great people with their gleaming smiles and their contagious laughs, its modest and yet glorious food, but also the shocking poverty and environmental degradation that make me want to roar and do more.
A lot of people were wondering why I'd set off voluntarily for 3 months on such a journey. First of all, I guess it takes a real passion for the environment. What people tend to forget is that it also takes a passion for... people! Indeed, the YVP entails working with a bunch of people – WWF and other NGO staff or volunteers, communities, forest guides, COBA members... you name it – towards a specific goal: improving the relationship between people and their environment.
To achieve this, we carried out a set of activities: awareness campaigns (which apparently are much more effective with the presence of vazahas), zoning (delimiting areas for each of the 4 specific uses: protection zone, restoration zone, utilization zone, and occupation zone), forest inventories (to evaluate whether a given utilization zone has enough resources available for its surrounding population) and finally, a social study (to understand how farmers have adapted after the prohibition of tavy, otherwise known as slash and burn).
That may sound like a mouthful of gibberish to you (it did to me at first), but at a larger level, it was really about working with people. I've had so many rockin' good times and learnt so much from everyone. It was as if we were one big family.
It's an experience I would definitely recommend, but not one that is meant for everyone. The YVP entails working in a country that not only is different in terms of culture and ways of life, but also a country which may prove challenging at times because it is a developing nation. On top of that, the WWF missions carried out in the forest require a great deal of both physical and mental strengths, plus a world-class first aid kit.
What you need to have...
Patience, open-mindedness and a positive attitude!