C3 Internship Review – Harriet Ibbett – Madagascar 2011
I chose to intern with C3 in Madagascar because I wanted to gain more experience working in the conservation sector. Having studied both Conservation and International Development at university the community centred aspect of C3 really appealed to me. I chose the Madagascar program firstly because I couldn’t resist the opportunity to work in country with such rich flora and fauna and the internship looked as though it would provide me with a diverse experience.
I spent the first three weeks of my internship based in the office in Diego. Unfortunately the other interns were on a field trip and so I spent this time with the staff working on the entry and analysis of socio economic data collected using the SocMon Methodology. I was thrown in at the deep end, mid-way through the analysis and expected to work independantly. It was interesting to be able to participate in the analysis of the data and I gained a deep insight into the issues regarding the marine resource use and dependance of communities in North Eastern Madagascar. During this time I also attended lectures at the University of Antisiranna presented by C3 staff and had a go at teaching English. This was an experience I found surprisingly rewarding.
When the other interns returned I helped enter and analyse the data the biological data they collected on their field trip. Mid way through October I managed to finally get out into the field to carry out the monitoring of sea turtle nesting sites. I visited three different locations including the beautiful Nosy Hara Marine Park. I really enjoyed being in the field and learning about the issues surrounding turtle conservation, particularly seeing the degree of poaching that still occurs.
I spent the first few weeks of November preparing for a imminent field trip by reading about various biodiversity survey methodologies. These included seagrass watch, mangrove transect plots, Reefcheck methodologies as well as further reading on SocMon.
The field trip finally went ahead and I spent my last weeks in the field. We went with a small team of just four people to a village called Irodo. Watching the 4×4 drive away knowing that our only method of transport for 2 weeks was foot was a somewhat daunting experience! The trip as a whole was challenging. In 11 days we walked over 105km in 35 degree heat and carried out physically demanding surveys such as Mangrove biodiversity surveys and Seagrass mapping. Whilst in the field we lived alongside the community in a small wooden hut. This was both a once in a lifetime and humbling experience. I can safely safe I had never shared a shower with ducks and zebu before ! Whilst in Irodo we also carried out further socio economic research. This involved compiling an inventory of the various species local fishers caught. I particularly enjoyed interviewing fishermen, seeing their daily catch and learning about how and where they caught different species and how they get their catch to market.
One of the most poignant memories I will take away is of walking along the beach one morning to find a group of fishermen cutting up a Green Sea Turtle they had caught in their net. It is only once I saw this that i felt i truly understood the difficulties in achieving a balance between marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods. I simply didnt realise how much meat and protein there is on a sea turtle, when people live such hard lives it is easy to understand why they don’t release an easy meal.
Overall I’ve had a very interesting experience interning with C3 in Madagascar. I’ve gained a lot of valuable knowledge; albeit not neccessarily in areas I anticipated to gain knowledge. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some amazing people, have seen some beautiful places and experienced true Madagascan culture. I’m leaving Madagascar with a greater understanding of the complexities of achieving both conservation and sustainable management in resource dependant rural communities. I have also gained a very useful insight into the positive and more challenging aspects of running a small NGO with limited resources in a developing country.