Staff Interview: Aimé Safidinjanahary

Name: Aimé Safidinjanahary (Notahina Noëldo Aimé Rica)

Age: 22

Job title: Nurse

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in paramedical at INSFP (Institute of Training of Paramedicals) in Toliara


Tell us about your professional experience.

During my studies, I completed an internship at the Emergencies of the Tanila Toliara University Hospital. I also worked as an intern at the CSB (Basic Health Centre) Ifaty for 8 months, before being recruited by Reef Doctor.


How long have you worked for Reef Doctor?

9 months.


How did you find out about the job?

While I was doing my internship at Ifaty’s CSB, the former project manager’s partner, Emma, who is a midwife, came to the CSB. We discussed the CSB and communities, children, target diseases and deliveries. Reef Doctor then decided to start a collaboration with the CSB and hired me to work at the CSB and lead awareness raising sessions.


What is it like to work for Reef Doctor?

I like it a lot because the position involves my field, health. It’s not easy but I try to adapt and solve the problems that arise. I really like working with the aim to change the behaviour of communities and I enjoy meeting staff, volunteers and interns from all over the world. I also like the collaboration and solidarity between Reef Doctor and the communities.

What is the best part about working at Reef Doctor?

Raising awareness, I am passionate about public health, and when you talk openly with people and get their attention and interest, you know your work will have an impact.


What are you most proud of in your Reef Doctor work?

The prohibition of open defecation, now subject to fines, and the installation of the signs reminding the community.

How does your family feel about working at RD?

They are very happy that I work at Reef Doctor because my skills have improved since I started working here. My language skills (in French and English) have also improved.


A typical day

There is no real typical day as I do something different every day. Each morning I go to the CSB where I care for the sick. On Tuesday afternoon I focus on communication for behavioural change as well as information and education, on subjects such as manners, hygiene (WASH) and health in Ifaty. Sometimes I organise meetings, sometimes I go to see people directly, and I also work on interpersonal communication, sometimes with door-to-door, home visits. On Wednesday afternoon, I raise awareness about family planning, every week in another village, with women as the target audience. On Thursday afternoon I stay at Reef Doctor to prepare the hygiene and health classes. On Friday afternoon, I give first aid courses to Bostata and Manjo, our boat captains. On Saturday morning, I run hygiene and health classes for the Reef Doctor Juniors as well as interested people over 14 years old.


Where do you see your career going in the future?

I still see myself working here for a few years and then I might go and work for other NGOs on health and hygiene awareness raising as well as malnutrition. I would also like to work abroad. My dream is to go to Canada!


What do you think are the most urgent health issues?

At the community health level, the problems are mainly monetary. If they do not have money, they cannot go to hospital. Poverty is the biggest health problem because if families are poor, health is hard to manage.

The diseases resulting from dirty hands are the most important: diarrhoea, abdominal pains, typhoid fever, cold, etc. Here in the Southwest, health problems are linked to lack of awareness and too much respect for tradition. For example, if health workers raise awareness in communities, traditions are sometimes too entrenched to change behaviour. Traditions like ‘do not use latrines because grandparents and ancestors did not use toilets’ are an obstacle to the improvement of the communities’ health.


How do you improve things?

In my opinion, the best solutions are awareness and communication for behavioural change. Behavioural change is very effective for improving health. A good technique to use is the scientific explanation of the causes of diseases and how one can avoid diseases.

Interview and pictures by RD Comms Officer Karin Moehler

Staff Interview: Roberto Komeno

Reef Doctor is enriched by the knowledge and experience of international staff members, volunteers and interns, through which it aims to empower Malagasy people in conservation and environmental management. The objective over time is to employ only Malagasy staff so that they can continue the vital preservation and management of own their natural resources and habitats long into the future. We present and detail lots of projects through this blog, but we don’t often present the people that are working to make Reef Doctor what it is. Below we interview an essential Malagasy member of the Reef Doctor team, Roberto!

Roberto is one of the core members of Reef Doctor as he is the Head of our Science Department. As such, he oversees all our science programmes, coordinates the science activities, writes reports, and participates in data collection and analysis. He is leading our main science activities: coral reef monitoring and reef restoration, which includes the artificial reef and the coral nursery and transplantation.


Name: Roberto Komeno

Age: 44

Job title: Head of Science Department

Qualifications: Masters in Applied Oceanography from the University of Toliara (IH.SM) and a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Antananarivo


Tell us a bit about your professional experience.

I previously worked for Reef Doctor as Science Officer for two years (2006-2008). After that, I worked as individual consultant on scientific marine activities. I mainly did coral reef monitoring as well as a couple of environmental impact assessments. I supervised several fishermen associations for the management of marine resources with the Projet de Soutien au Développement Rural (PSDR – Rural Development Support Program) from Androka to Morombe. I also supervised association of fishermen for the Projet d’Appui aux Communautés de Pêcheurs. During that period I worked with WWF and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as well as the University of Toliara. In March of this year, I came back to Reef Doctor after 11 years to work as Head of the Science Department.

How did you find out about the job?

Through “word of mouth”. What drove me was to go back working in the field I like the most, everything that has to do with the sea. I was eager to go back in the water.

What is it like to work for RD?

It’s hard work, but I like to take up challenges because managing several projects at a time is not always easy. We always need to run to meet deadlines!

What is the best part about working at RD?

What I love the most is being underwater because there is no tension, it’s relaxing. I also really like to analyse the data we have, as it’s the base of what we do. We obtain the data, but after we need to highlight those data by writing reports.

How does your family feel about you working at RD?

My family is happy for me and actually used to me working since forever in the water. It’s a bit difficult sometimes as my family is in Toliara and I cannot follow the education of my kids. But my kids love to come by at Reef Doctor and enjoy the sea for a weekend!

How do you feel about NGOs working in Madagascar?

I think it’s very important to have NGOs working here in Madagascar because it helps a lot institutions and local communities, for example at a training level for institutions and at the resource management level for local communities. I think that NGOs working on coral reefs should systematically send their reports to SeMer or to the Ministry so they have the data and can draft national reports.

Where do you see your career going in the future?

I see myself working here for a couple of years and then I might look for a job that requires less physical effort, as I’m getting old!

You recently came back from a Forum in Nosy Be, can you tell us about it?

It was a National Forum on Research, this time specially dedicated to marine biodiversity. It’s the occasion to get to know people working in the same field and make people aware of our work. I went there to represent Reef Doctor and present a poster on the Artificial Reef. It went really well and the Artificial Reef drew a lot of interest!

Interview by RD Comms Officer Karin Moehler

Photo credit: Lucy Fisher, Beth Dickens & Karin Moehler

sea cucumber pen

Staff Interview: Vijay Jivan

People from all around the world come to Madagascar to volunteer for Reef Doctor and other NGOs and to work alongside Malagasy people to help improve lives and assist in conservation projects. Reef Doctor benefits greatly from the skills, experience and enthusiasm of international staff and volunteers. However, the hope is that, in the future, Reef Doctor will be staffed almost entirely by Malagasy nationals and more specifically, people from the community of the Bay of Ranobe, in order to increase project sustainability. Indeed, many positions at Reef Doctor are currently held by Malagasy staff. We would like to introduce you to one of them here.

Vijay Jivan is an invaluable member of the Reef Doctor team. As a Community Aquaculture Technician & Socioeconomic Officer, he coordinates the installation of seaweed and sea cucumber aquaculture systems, monitors aquaculture productivity, organises community meetings and conducts poverty surveys. He also participates in turtle tagging for the Reef Doctor Fano project. He is actively contributing to conservation and sustainable development in Madagascar, and intends to continue this in the future. We hope you enjoy this short interview.


Name: Vijay Jivan

Age: 29

Job Title: Community Aquaculture Technician & Socioeconomic Officer

Qualifications: Masters 1 in Science specializing in Geology

How long have you been working for Reef Doctor?: 2 years

How did you find out about the job?:
At University. I had just finished my Masters 1 and part of my Masters 2. I saw an advertisement in the University of Toliara looking for a person to carry out socio- economic surveys. I sent in my CV because I felt I was ready for a new experience and more experience. It’s better to have a lot of experience than a lot of qualifications. Reef Doctor contacted me, and we set up an interview. I got the job and started work in May 2014.

What is it like working for Reef Doctor?:
It’s hard work……but I enjoy working with the community. I like working at Reef Doctor. I like that I get the opportunity to have different experiences like diving. I learned to swim and scuba dive at Reef Doctor. I also enjoy learning all the fish species in the bay.

What is the best part about working at Reef Doctor?:
I like teaching people and sharing my experience with them. Reef Doctor is good for the Bay of Ranobe. I like working with the community and sharing my knowledge and experience to build on their future.

How does your family feel about you working at Reef Doctor?:
All of my family likes it. My aunt and uncle want me to get my doctorate in the future.

How do you feel about NGOs working in Madagascar?:
I think NGOs do beneficial work in the community. Reef Doctor has good ideas. I think Reef Doctor is a gift from God for the community. It helps people survive. Reef Doctor brings change to the lives of people we work with. For example people here had nothing as fishermen. Now they earn money as farmers. The government is trying to deal with poverty and the Reef Doctor model is helping.

Where do you see your career going in the future?:
In the future I need to change many things based on my experience I have now. I need to keep improving my knowledge. I would like to show the government that we can work with NGOs and support them. I like working in the field, I see what it’s like. [In the future] I see myself in a government position [dealing with] policy and politics.

Interview by RD Comms Officer Ivana Rubino