“Quality of life, human health, food security, and biodiversity are all connected,” said Elin Torell, research associate for the BALANCED Project and the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resource Center. Torell was joined by Patrick Kajubili from theTanzania Coastal Management Partnership, and Alice Macharia, director of the East Africa Program at the Jane Goodall Institute to discuss the importance of integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) initiatives that work to simultaneously improve health and livelihoods, manage natural resources, and conserve ecosystems in Tanzania.
Building Resilient Coastal Communities
The Coastal Resources Center’s work in Tanzania’s Saadani National Park provides an example of an integrated PHE approach that sustains the flows of environmental goods and services, maintains biological diversity, and empowers and improves the wellbeing of local residents, said Torell. Since 1996, the CRC has focused on protecting sea turtles, promoting energy-saving stoves, and tracking elephants, while at the same time improving livelihoods through savings and credit associations, eco-tourism, and beekeeping.
“Adding family planning makes a whole lot of sense,” said Torell. There is a high unmet need for family planning in Tanzania and the population is growing rapidly with an average number of 5.6 children per woman. Family planning not only helps families limit and space births but indirectly works to improve food security and human health, reduce demand for scarce natural resources, and empower women, she said.
“Integration is key,” concluded Torell: A coordinated and synergistic approach that meets the varied needs of local communities will be more effective and sustainable than if interventions were delivered independently.
Effective Integration in the Field
“Conceptual linking is not enough,” said Kajubili. “Integration also needs to happen at the organizational and field levels.”
On the ground, the Tanzania Coastal Management Partnership integrates family planning education and services into conservation work, said Kajubili. Peer educators deliver information about family planning, health, and coastal resources management; and community-based distributors deliver family planning services and supplies.
“Now people easily access reproductive health services,” said Kajubili. To date, the program has increased referrals to health centers, promoted contraceptive use, and reduced the distance that women need to travel to receive family planning services.
“Integration makes sense and cents,” said Kajubili. By combining resources, health and natural resource management organizations can potentially reach a broader population while sharing costs.
But “reinforcing the linkages between PHE of course takes time and education,” said Kajubili, highlighting a major challenge to implementing integrated approaches. “Advocacy is needed to overcome cultural and institutional barriers.”
“What About Our Needs?”
“Socio-economic development; family planning and AIDS education; sustainable forestry and agriculture practices; and water and sanitation all underpin and support sustainable natural resource management,” said Macharia.
The Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education Project (TACARE) led by the Jane Goodall Institute was initiated in 1994 to arrest the rapid degradation of land through tree planting and forest degradation, said Macharia. “But at some point, the communities raised the question: What about our own needs?” she said.
Community members prioritized the need for health services, education, clean water, and financial capital. But environmental degradation was not seen as a major issue, suggesting a need for a more integrated approach to TACARE’s conservation efforts.
“Integrated programs including population, health, and environment activities are cost-efficient and add value to conservation goals,” said Macharia. By responding to the needs of the community, the integrated approach adopted by TACARE has gained more credibility among local people, while a strong focus on building local capacity has helped to ensure sustainability of the program.
While there are many challenges to implementing and maintaining integrated PHE programs, “partnerships at the local, district, and national level are key to making this a success,” concluded Macharia.
Sources: Population Reference Bureau.
Drafted by Ramona Godbole and edited by Schuyler Null and Meaghan Parker