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What has it taught me?

Posted on 09 April 2008

This experience has taught me that conservation is much more than dry politics. I got to use my classroom education and expand it to real-life situations in the forests of Madagascar. The WWF agents and the communities showed us the difficulty of balancing development, growth, change of lifestyle and conservation. I learned first hand how people cope with the challenge of preserving nature, while at the same time having to make a living.
This experience has taught me that conservation is much more than dry politics. I got to use my classroom education and expand it to real-life situations in the forests of Madagascar. The WWF agents and the communities showed us the difficulty of balancing development, growth, change of lifestyle and conservation. I learned first hand how people cope with the challenge of preserving nature, while at the same time having to make a living.

Growing up in the ‘developed world’, it is difficult to get a good grasp of what it means to live so close to nature and it is easy to get detached from the resonances our comfortable lifestyle has worldwide. In the end the communities we worked with taught me more than what I have ever taken out of any lecture. It has especially made me understand the people aspect of conservation. Throughout the trip my fellow explorers and I continued to question our mission. We were confronted with the dilemma of telling them as the vazaha from the ‘North’ to stop their traditional practices for ‘conservation as development’ while witnessing widespread poverty and malnutrition. Also, I am more aware of how they are the ones unfairly affected by global changes, in particular through the choices we in the ‘developed world’ make. Our consumption patterns in the North are unsustainable and what is worse, the consequences hit back hardest on communities like those in Vohimary Nord and Madiorano. Today when we discuss issues of the effects of progress and excessive consumption patterns between the North and the South in class, I feel I can relate a bit better.

Coming back from my time in Madagascar, I have become more conscious of the little things we take for granted, like electricity and running water among others and I am also more aware of what I consume, how much waste I create and the choices I have in order to change my ecological footprint. I hope to carry these habits with me and build upon them in the future.
Shopping at the market in Vondrozo - fried manioc balls were one of our favourites!
© WWF / Jasmin Sander
Generations of women at Madiorano
© WWF / Jasmin Sander