Integrating Population, Environment Crucial to Development

President Wolde-Giorgis Delivers Remarks; ECSP Conducts PHE, Security Simulation

Dec 07, 2007

"Population, Health, and Environment: Integrated Development for East Africa," a conference sponsored by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) and LEM Ethiopia and held November 14-16, 2007, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was attended by more than 200 development practitioners from around the world, including many from Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The conference, which the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) helped organize, attracted considerable media attention, including a front-page story in the Ethiopia Herald.

The conference, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Packard Foundation, featured remarks by Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, as well as Ethiopia's ministers of health, environment, and agriculture and rural development. President Wolde-Giorgis highlighted the negative environmental impacts of Ethiopia's rapid population growth, and noted that six million new seedlings have been planted in Ethiopia during the past six months in an attempt to reverse Ethiopia's deforestation.

ECSP's Geoff Dabelko and Gib Clarke worked with Shewaye Deribe of the Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resources Association to write and conduct a role-playing simulation designed to bring to life the connections between population growth, natural resource management and environmental health, and development priorities. Participants worked with a scenario involving competing interests and rising tensions among a range of internal and external stakeholders in the fictional nation of Arborlind. Four teams representing government, civil society, donors, and the private sector negotiated responses to the situation's short-term opportunities and long-term risks. Read Clarke's observations on the simulation here and listen to Dabelko's comments here.

Dabelko also chaired the conference's opening plenary, "Setting the Stage: Population, Health, and Environment in East Africa," which outlined PHE connections in the region, and Clarke moderated a break-out session, "PHE Dimensions of Conflict and Security," which focused on natural resource-related conflict in Kenya and Tanzania. Sahlu Haile of the Packard Foundation—who contributed an award-winning article on population, environment, and development in Ethiopia to ECSP Report 10—chaired several well-attended sessions on next steps for PHE in East Africa.

Conference participants had the opportunity to observe integrated programs in action on several site visits. A group of attendees—including Clarke—visited a program run by LEM Ethiopia, an environmental NGO ("lem" means "green" in Amharic), in collaboration with local government, youth groups, and citizens, that addresses issues as diverse as reforestation, access to clean water, agriculture, livelihoods, family planning, and HIV/AIDS. Dabelko also visited the Berga Wetlands, where the local community has partnered with the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society to protect the habitat of the endangered White-winged Flufftail and establish a school, health facility, and livelihoods program for the community. You can view a slide show of photographs of the site here or by clicking on the link in the "See Also" box to the right.

The conference saw the release of several new publications. Mogues Worku, the executive director of LEM Ethiopia, wrote for ECSP about the importance of integrated projects in Ethiopia in "The Missing Links: Poverty, Population, and the Environment in Ethiopia," which debuted at the conference. PRB also released three new policy briefs offering overviews of PHE initiatives in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Building on the success of the conference, PRB aims to establish a regional network of experts, decision-makers, journalists, and advocates interested in expanding the reach of integrated PHE programs and the benefits they provide.

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