Silvia Crespo

About Me...

I grew up in a rural area in the north of Spain in close contact with nature, in a family environment that encouraged my curiosity for science, nature, travel and foreign languages. As a child, I would spend hours watching nature and travel documentaries. I would imagine myself in an adventurous experience discovering lands of different cultures and people; the most beautiful and rare animals; breathtaking landscapes…
After finishing my bachelors degree in Environmental Studies, I wanted to experience what conservation in an environment where economic interests, traditional beliefs and the fight for survival, challenge any efforts to stop environmental degradation. WWF’s Explore Program gave me the perfect opportunity to experience how conservation can address the needs of local people, putting efforts on poverty alleviation and economic development as well as on protecting wildlife and ecosystems, making local people both partners and beneficiaries in conservation.

The experience

Throughout the three months internship I learned the challenges that people face day to day in the Vondrozo corridor, being completely dependent on their environment for the supply of natural resources. As a WWF volunteer, one of the biggest challenges I was confronted with, was to find myself as an example of what environmentally friendly behaviour is, from a society whose environment does not face degradation, deforestation, pollution, etc. One day, a man from one of the villages near the forest asked me: so, is Europe covered in forest then? I froze. I didn’t know what to say. After a few seconds of intense thinking while the man stared at my poker face, I said: no, most of the forest is gone in Europe. After a long conversation trying to explain why it was a mistake to let that happen, the man left not very satisfied with my answers. At that moment I knew that my task was not going to be easy. As I observed people’s livelihoods, several questions popped in my head. What lesson could I possibly teach to people whose means of transport is their own two feet?; who barely produce any inorganic waste and are constantly in a never-ending mission to collect empty water bottles for reuse?; whose electric devises are fixed and re-fixed when broken instead of it being replaced by a new one? Don’t we, in “developed countries” pollute more than any of the rest? And then I realised that it wasn’t meat to be a one way learning. I realised why WWF had sent us there, not to teach but to learn, and go back to our countries knowing that we could change our lifestyle if we wanted to, to a more sustainable one. I learned that I could live without television, or mobile phone, or fancy jeans and still be extremely happy, just like the Malgache. I still wonder if the Malagasy people, that I had the pleasure to meet during my stay, didn’t have a bigger impact on me that I had on them.
© WWF / Silvia Crespo
© WWF / Silvia Crespo

WWF Madagascar really opened my eyes to what I would like to do in my life

Watch my video!

Learning about the day to day challenges people face in the Vondrozo Forest Corridor, how their survival depends on the natural resources, and how WWF is working with the local communities to identify more sustainable practices.

Reverse culture shock

Although living in Madagascar for three months definitely involved getting used to a lot of new things, it’s only when I went back that I experienced the real shock. Not only I became aware of many things that I had always taken for granted, but I also saw the big influence that The experience had had on me. I would never see the world the same way...
  • Rubbish: How can people fill up their rubbish bins so quickly? Where do all those plastics come from? And most importantly, who will take my empty water bottles from now on?
  • Showers: It now seems like a waste to use more water than what fits in a single bucket, but I really missed hot showers!
  • Time: People back home actually use watches and everyone is on time!!! However, I miss being able to take things “mora mora” (“slowly, slowly”)
  • Greetings: I constantly feel like waving my hand and saying hello at the people I pass by in the street, it’s a habit I picked up as children said “bonjour” over and over again, waiting with eyes wide open for me to say “bonjour” back, to laugh with excitement and astonishment.
  • Fashion: After having seen people wearing t-shirts with huge holes in them, clothes have a different meaning to me now.
The thing I feel most grateful to have experienced is the day-to-day life in Madagascar, because that’s the beauty of living in a foreign country. To make an unknown place your home, even for just a short period of time; to build relationships with people, till they become friends, and then part of your family; to make their language your language and the whole experience, life.

I was so inspired by my experience in Madagascar I made many changes in my life. I started a masters in development studies to combine conservation & natural resource management, I did an internship in Morocco in water management, and now I'm in India for 5 months working on participatory forest management.