Bette Harms

About Me...

“Akory Aby, Bette Harms no anarako. Avy any Hollande. Voluntera WWF aho”

Hello, my name is Bette Harms . I come from Holland. I am a WWF volunteer.

These are my first words of Malagsay, which have allowed me to enter into a whole different and fascinating world, the life of the warm hearted Malagasy people. On this little virtual space I would like to take you along in my Malagsy experience.

At 22 years of age I am happily and consciously enjoying life. I love baking, eating and stirring in pots and pans. I am most likely to be found in the proximity of animals and I am a student at Wageningen Univerity. I have studied forest and nature conservation and currently I am doing a Master in communication science.

Some things I like to look at others like to eat, and some species I consider important others see as a pest. Therefore to me the most important reason to take part in this experience was to challenge my own mind, stuffed with western values and scientific knowledge, with the norms and values of people living in a developing country. So that I will be able to build bridges between nature and culture on the one hand and between Nortnern and Southern perceptions on nature conservation on the other.

What I learned when I was there

I have learned that every creature inhabiting this planet is dependent upon each other, humans are dependent upon nature.

It is their source of life.

The forest is a source of construction wood, it provides food, medicines and most importantly it ensures fresh water for us to drink. Although in my daily life I do not go into the forest to provide for my own living, it does not make me less dependent upon it.

The explore program has confronted me with the beauty and destruction of nature. Madagascar is a continent of contrast. As one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world it is characterized by its richness, on the other hand it is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Often the messages that we receive of Madagascar consists of depressing stories of destruction, erosion and deforestation. But here in Madagascar I have seen that in the places where nature meets people beautiful initiatives arise.

It is encouraging to see that our dependency upon nature does not necessarily result in destruction. Just changing a small thing can greatly enhance the quality of life for human beings and all other creatures here on Madagascar.

Something as simple as changing the way of sowing rice seeds can make people less dependent upon there more destructive ways of gathering foods.

I have explored this country and found a great motivation to work for a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, a truly living planet.

My advice would be...

When I left Ambalamanenjana I had lost some kilos, gained some scars, spend my savings and gave away my clothes. I might have left there with an empty bag, I returned with a full heart.

Madagascar has given me innumerable beautiful memories. The warm Malagsy people, their joy in life, the melodies of their songs, the sound of the rivers ,the beauty of the primary forests, the taste of the fruits, and their initiatives to overcome the destruction of nature. These will inspire me for the rest of my life.

So if you are not afraid to return as a different person; apply!  And in order to enjoy this experience to the fullest:
  • Learn Malagasy, although it may resemble nothing you ever heard it will also allow you to experience things you would never imagine.
  • Do not be afraid to leave your family, a whole new one is awaiting you. The Malagasy people are the warmest caring people I have ever met!
  • Bring a blanket; do not let the whole tropical climate thing fool you!

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