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About Me!

Salama!!! My name is Emelie Norhagen and I`m a 22 year old girl from Sweden. I was studying English and had been studying architecture when I heard about WWF`s Youth Volunteer Program in Madagascar, “Conservation of Toliara Reef Complex”.

Since I have always wanted to learn more about conservation and sustainable development there was no doubt that this was something I wanted to do. Nature as well as animals has played an important role in my life. With this program I had the wonderful opportunity to help the environment at the same time as I got to explore the amazing country Madagascar. Another reason why I attended this program was because I wanted to see how Volunteering worked in real life and be a part of that work.


Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island with remarkable landscapes, wildlife and vegetation. The country is an oasis of amazing creatures and plants. The reef of Toliara is the third largest coral reef area in the world; 27km long and 3km wide. It is one of the most extensive systems in the Western Indian Ocean region including barrier and fringing reefs which are inhabited by diverse species. Though these reef systems are extensive, they are under enormous pressure from human and natural factors such as overfishing and sedimentation.


WWF has been working with Marin Conservation of the Toliara Reef System. “Give fish a place to thrive where no fishing allowed, and soon enough you will reap increased stocks in the surrounding area” The project purpose was to create a marine protected areas within the Toliara Reef Complex, whilst responding to the socio-economical needs of the local fishermen.

Our work was to find an alternative income for the villages and educate them in order to make it possible to create the marine protected area. We worked in 6 villages and our activities were overall:
  1. Environmental education in primary school.
  2. Teaching embroidery and Vanery to the women so they could make bags, hats etc to sell to tourists.
  3. Establish eco tourism: Sensitize communities, indentifying the needs and training of the local guides and women on the techniques of receiving visitors.
  4. Theatrical presentation about conservation in the whole region.
  5. Outside the program we decided with the president that we were going to clean the village.
Volunteering is to be a part of the community

© WWF / Emelie Norhagen

Ecotourism promotional video for Salary Nord

My Experience and Advice

Teamwork is the key work and I promise you that each and one of us has something to give and there is a lot do just if you want to. It is you who decide how much you will gain from your experience. I have so much advice to give and another one that is one of the most important is to HAVE FUN. Don’t be shy and scared, Malagasy people are wonderful and the WWF team very helpful!!! But also don’t forget that you have a lot of responsibility.

If you just put a little bit more effort in the work and you will gain so much more for yourself and give so much more to the village and the nature. The language barrier will make it more difficult but try to learn the language and use body language. The villages will have a lot to offer and my advice is to go for as much as possible and try to be a part of the community because that will make you work a lot easier.

You will have quite a lot of free time so my advice is to bring games that everyone can be a part in and in that way you will get to know people from the village, for example a volleyball, jump rope etc.


I learned so many things about myself, WWF, volunteering and the Malagasy culture. First of all I got to see how WWF works out in the field and at the same time be a part of that team. I learned that to be able to help the environment it is important to work with the community and try to understand their actions. If you say that they can’t do something you have to give them something that they can do first. By establishing alternative way of income we helped both the people and the environment at the same time which was one my most important goal. With this program I got to see Madagascar from the inside with its interesting culture and wonderful people in a unique way.
Children learning about the world

© WWF / Emelie Norhagen


If you are MOTIVATED, POSITIVE and EASY GOING! Then volunteering with WWF could be something for you!

Want to know more?

Please feel free to contact me!


After this experience I have so much experience to bring back home to Sweden. I will be able to continue supporting WWF in a different way and hopefully work more with them in the future. I will also be able; with my photos, stories and films show people how important their help is for the work WWF does. In September 2011 I will start studying a new program “industrial design and environment studies” which I believe will teach me more about conservation and how we can help the environment with new techniques.

Creating a marine protected area

The movie is about my experience when I went volunteering in Madagascar with WWF from March-June 2011. In this movie I will guide you through the area of Salary (south-west of Madagascar), the problems and how we worked with the project. The group of volunteers shown in this movie is composed of: Milton Mungang, Stella Diamant, Orsi Somogyi, Fabienne Rafidiharinirina, Stephanie Mermet, Andrivantovona Rambelson and myself. The project's main purpose was to create a marine protected area within the Toliara Reef Complex, whilst responding to the socio-economical needs of the local fishermen. Our work as volunteers was to find an alternative income for the villages and raise awareness in order to make it possible to create the marine protected area.

Some of my photos