Strengthening partnership through South-North volunteering

My name is Youssouf. I’m from Andasibe, a village situated in eastern Madagascar, 140 km away from the capital Antananarivo.

I’m the vice president of a small non-governmental organisation called Mitsinjo. Mitsonjo works with local people around Andasibe. Our mission is to integrate biodiversity conservation with rural development. I work in our forest restoration project and I am responsible of the tree nursery. We grow tree seedlings in the nursery and plant them to the reforestation sites. Right now we have 20 000 tree seedling waiting to be planted, all representing endemic species to Madagascar.

Youssouf at the Manondroala tree nursery

Youssouf at the Manondroala tree nursery

I have a great job because while working I constantly learn more about nature. I am a botanist and para-ecologist. I work with researchers and students and get to learn new things every day.

I mostly like my job – except during heavy rain. Now that we have raincoats and rubber boots, the work is more comfortable. Continuity of the project is always a challenge. It’s not always easy to get funding and it takes a lot of effort. Unfortunately we cannot do the reforestation work without any funding so we just have to be active and tell people about our project.

The work we do is good for the environment and good for our community. Through our work we have been able to teach local people the importance of forests. Now people have become more aware of the forest and nature surrounding them. My job benefits the local people as well.

Learning about Finnish forests and ecological sanitation

I came to Finland for September 2014 to work as a volunteer for Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC). I got the opportunity to do this from Kepa, through their ETVO – southern volunteer program. I had a busy month with Titta, my colleague at FANC, the organiser and scheduler of my volunteer time.  The first week in Helsinki was difficult for me, because everything was written in Finnish and I did not know the roads and got easily lost. But after first week everything was fine.

Youssouf photographing mushrooms in Seitseminen National Park in southern Finland

Youssouf photographing mushrooms in Seitseminen National Park in southern Finland

During my volunteer period I presented my organisation and our reforestation project to different people. I helped my Finnish colleagues to plan their next trip to Madagascar. I got to meet a lot of people interested in Madagascar and what we do here. I also learned a lot. Important for me was to familiarise myself to Finnish nature. National park excursions were very informative. I visited Torronsuo bog, saw pristine forest in Seitseminen and went mushroom picking in Nuuksio. The forest and nature in Finland is very different from our forests here in Madagascar. They are easier to walk, and there is not as much species diversity.

I participated in a dry toilet workshop organised by the Global Dry Toilet Association of Finland (Huussi ry). The training was very useful and inspiring, because we are planning to do a dry toilet pilot in our project. With the things I learned from Huussi ry, we can start preparing our own dry toilet in Andasibe, where ecological sanitation solutions are really needed.

All in all the trip to Finland was very rewarding. I got to meet a lot of people, tell about the forest restoration work that we do and learned and experienced so much that it probably still takes a few weeks to process it all.

– Youssouf Martin, Association Mitsinjo

Help in writing the article was provided by the Finnish intern of Project Manondroala, Anna Ikonen. Misaotra betsaka, Anna!

See more photos from Youssouf’s visit to Finland on Manondroala Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Manondroala

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