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Volunteering in Befasy
Hello my name is Jonas, I’m a 28 year old Biologist from Germany. After having finished my studies I decided to volunteer in Madagascar. I always was fascinated by the unique nature and landscapes of Madagascar. It’s a beautiful island with extraordinary places like coral reefs and rainforests and animals like lemurs and chameleons. The WWF EXPLORE Program allowed me to learn about the reality of environmental protection. It was an amazing experience and I’m very glad that I got the opportunity to see what challenges this involves.
The natural resources in Madagascar are under a very high pressure. The human influences on the ecosystems are the reason of extinction of endemic species and loss of natural habitats. The biodiversity of the big red island is incredible rich. Is it possible to stop the unsustainable use of ressources and the reinforcement of environmental protection under such difficult conditions? After being two and a half month in Befasy I learned a lot about this.
The big challenge being a volunteer in Befasy was the communication in the village and in the team. Coming from different countries, field of study and cultural backgrounds it’s important to find the right way to talk.
After a three day malagasy language course we were able to talk with the people in a simple but effective way. During the two month in Befasy we learned to adapt into another culture, into a life so different to our europeen way of thinking. We had to deal with special working conditions and a very different daily life, this was also an aspect why the program was so intense. Our first step was to set up a program of different topics we wanted to speak about in the awareness raising sessions. We learned to organize our work and shared all our ideas. Sometimes it wasn’t easy to find a compromise but we always decided as a team.
The WWF Program gave me the possibility to undestand how environmental conservation works in a country like Madagascar. The coral reefs near Toliara and Befasy have such a rich diversity but the the human pressure on them is very high. It was our task to start a conversation about the topic of sustainable fisheries and a sensibel behaviour of the coral reef. We found a lot of openness and interest for our activities and had a lot of good discussions about the conditions and problems in the region. I learned that it is not always easy for them to change old habits. But the people have realized that the conditions of the sea have become worse and they want to do something. The Project to build up a reserve and a sustainability plan is a good way to involve villages like Befasy in environmental protection. In our school lessons we taught the children about the biology of the coral reef, turtles, octopus and more; the children really enjoyed it. I also learned that patience is very important, when things don’t happen as they should or if the communication was on a slow level.
Sustainable Management of Marine Resources, Toliara Coral Reef System
What would I say to other volunteers?
Prepare yourself well for an extraordinary experience! Be open for a different culture, an intensive time and work at a special place.
It’s very important to adapt yourself to the common rules and behaviour of the country and region you’ll go to. In Befasy we learned about their fady rules and kept them. The communication is the most important part, so start learning some basic vocabulary, greetings, etc. There won’t be much privacy during the stay and you will be in close relationship with your team and the people. It will help a lot if you are good teamworker and are able to make compromises. Think about that it is possible that there isn’t any telephone network or electricity, a radio can be fun. Any activity you can do with the kids such as making music, sport or games is a funny and important way to get in touch.
"It will help a lot if you are a good teamworker and are able to make compromises!"