C3 Internship Review – Alison Simmance – Madagascar 2011
In 2011, I decided to seek international work experience relating to marine resource management in a developing country. Building on my Msc in Marine Science, Policy and Law and experience with working for the UK’s government marine sector, I wanted to gain first hand experience of the challenges facing resource management in a biodiverse, poverty stricken region through bottom up management approaches. In particular, I sought to develop an understanding of the socio-economic factors influencing resource management and development as well as an inspiring experience of working with some of the poorest rural communities on Earth. A global biodiversity hotspot and economically considered a Least Developed Country, Madagascar was the answer! and I chose to gain this experience through supporting the work and ethos of C3.
During my time at C3, I was trained in the highly recognised Socio-economic Monitoring Surveys for Coastal Managers of the Western Indian Ocean (SOCMON WIO); the universal Reef Check, Seagrass Watch and Mangrove Monitoring methodologies; turtle monitoring techniques as well as dugong and turtle key informant socio-economic analysis. In addition, I was trained in terrestrial primate ecological monitoring, focusing on the critically endangered blue eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavifrons). Using these skills, I participated in conducting a month long marine ecological and socio-economic assessment of the recently established Sahamalaza Radama Islands National Marine Park. Here, I was fortunate to work with the fantastic staff from the AEECL and the MNP and to live with remote communities throughout the region. With the vast majority of people living on less than a US$1 a day in rural areas (World Bank), my raw experience of living with these beautiful remote communities with no access to basic amenities highlighted to me the grave reality and concern of rural development and poverty across Madagascar (and indeed the rest of East Africa!).
Working in the final quarter of the year and at a time of transition for C3, I was involved in numerous field trips and also contributed to the writing and analysis of Sahamalaza Radama Islands report. Working in coastal regions throughout northern Madagascar, I leaned about the local fady’s and the role they play in resource management. I also independently built my knowledge of tropical marine biology as well as an understanding of agricultural production that drive the national economy (coffee, vanilla, sugar). Finally, I experienced the complexities of running a small NGO.
My experience of working in the diverse and economically challenging setting of Madagascar has strengthened my ambition and inspiration to work in the field of poverty alleviation and sustainable resource management.