Maminiaina Rasamoelina: "There is no routine in my job"

 / ©: WWF
Maminiaina Rasamoelina planting trees in Madagascar.
Interview with the project leader.
Maminiaina Rasamoelina, who is leading the project, has a PhD in forestry.

He was born in 1976 in Antsirabé, a quite large town located 160 kilometres away from Antananarivo.

There was not too much nature to see in Antsirabé and Maminiaina spent his early years in a urban environment. But he was fascinated by the wildlife documentaries shown on TV.  

“Movies on big cats, elephants, bears, eagles and sharks were gluing me to the screen,” he remembers.

What subjects did you like most at school?

I was much into natural science because I was learning many practical things that I could then test in the real life! The logical side of physics and chemistry suited me well, too. Math was too abstract, although I was quite good in that subject. Then, at the university, I became very interested in social psychology, which is all about human behavior, understanding why people are acting in a certain way in given situations. I was also captivated by the antagonism between two theories: the “survivalist” one (according to which natural resources have a limit; overexploitation then will no longer allow their natural pace for regeneration) and the “promethean” one (suggesting that the human race can get infinite development, and that technology will always solve any problem that may occur should a given resource disappear).

As a teenager, what did you want to do later?

I wanted to be a pilot or a pediatrician. I became neither!

But a forester…

Yes, I was studying forestry at the university and wanted to continue my career in the conservation sector, in Madagascar. I realized both during my studies and initial experiences in the field that it was unrealistic to ask starving people not to touch the forest. This prompted me to learn more about the social and economic aspects of conservation. Thanks to a scholarship, I could go to the United States for my PhD where I studied forestry extension, the human dimension of forestry. In parallel, as a faculty-research assistant at Oregon State University, I worked on projects linking small forest owners and the world of fundamental forestry research.

How did you end up working with WWF?

I can only work for an organization whose philosophy I share. In terms of forestry three words can summarize WWF’s approach: protection, management and restoration. I do have the same conservation vision. My other motivation was WWF’s world-wide reach and credibility. This means that my work can be adapted or replicated and benefit other communities in other regions or countries.

What do you like most about your job?

The fact that I can acquire new knowledge almost every day, there is no routine in my job.

What do you like least about your job?

Sometimes unexpected things can completely change the planning. So far, this is what I like least.

What are the prerequisite qualities to do your job?

First of all, you need to love nature passionately. Then, you must be open-minded so that you understand the many different types of behaviors you have to deal with on a regular basis. And finally, it is crucial to have a team spirit, listen to other people and express your own convictions and be flexible with your schedules. You certainly must be ready to work extra hours.

What are the assets of this project? And the main challenges to come?

This programme is the fourth REDD (reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) pilot project in Madagascar. If everything goes well, it will add a reliable and verifiable scientific basis for estimating the baseline, which is crucial to determine more precisely the amount of carbon dioxide that the planned activities of the project will be able to either prevent from being released into the atmosphere, or sequester. Compared to the other projects, it should also give a better idea of the total amount of the carbon stock in the area covered by the activities. In addition to the carbon in the above-ground biomass, we will take into account the carbon contained in the soil, litter, the necromass and eventually the underground biomass. Mathematical models will compare the situation with the project to the one without for each site. Later we will have to adjust these projections based on field observations and results. Since measuring the real carbon benefit of a project requires time, this will be our main challenge with a project that only lasts three years.

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