I have just finished my 3-month placement with the organisation Sustainable Environment, Education and Development (SEED) Madagascar in the south east towns of Fort Dauphin and Sainte Luce, in Madagascar. I’ve learned a great deal from my time in Madagascar, through travelling, working in a forest, and being surrounded by like-minded people. One lesson I learned quite early on, is that you need to be resourceful. Whether you’ve been forgotten at an airport, your project is running out of funding, or if you’re in need of a 3-meter stick, and only have a 2-meter stick. Being resourceful is such an integral part of making your way through the world and in particular the developing world. Another lesson I’ve learned is that by surrounding yourself with like-minded people, you are able to foster creativity and challenge each other productively while knowing you’re striving for similar goals. I discovered the value that is created when collaboration and networking are put to their fullest potentials.
During my stay, I was working on the conservation project collecting data on lemurs, amphibians, reptiles, dragonflies, flying foxes, and lobsters. The data we collected will be used to publish papers to help the conservation policies locally and around the world. I was also lucky enough to help out with some other SEED projects such as the rain water collection project, the honey bee production project, the water hygiene and sanitation project to name a few.
As well, I was given opportunities to learn about running an organization and the challenges that come with it. Learning about all the different influences that occur when creating projects and the unforeseen consequences of actions that are taken. I have learned that there are so many stakeholders involved in each area of focus, but understanding all of the repercussions that affect each of the stakeholders is next to impossible. Which is why it’s so important to understand that there are always going to be unintended effects of each project, and what’s most important is not to try to mitigate them, because that will never completely happen, but to learn how to deal with them going forward, and to learn to be flexible and adaptable to the unexpected. To learn from mistakes made in the past and try to improve for next time.
Beyond my formal role in Madagascar, I learned personally that life is tough in foreign countries. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Madagascar and travelling to Canada or vice versa, culturally, environmentally, socially, mentally and physically. One faces a lot of challenges in living somewhere new for any extended period, and in my experience, my physical health is what was the weakest link. I was bed ridden for roughly 3 weeks, lost around 10 kgs in body mass and had never felt so drained of energy in my life. It was a tough ride, but I’ve been able to recover with the love and support of so many wonderful people, and trucked through until the end of my placement.
Although my time has lots of ups and downs, lefts and rights, I have such an appreciation for people working in the development field, learned a tremendous amount about myself, the way organizations work, how conservation efforts and simple solutions can have a great impact, and about Madagascar in general. I gained unforgettable friends and made life long relationships. This experience has been unbelievable and I am truly better for having gone through it.
Hayden is a student in the 5th Cohort of the Master’s of Development Practice Program. His research interests are in conservation and ecology, sustainable education, conscious consumption, recycling, sustainable cities, and green energy Initiatives.