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The impact on livelihoods of integrating Family Planning Services into Community-led conservation initiatives in Madagascar

Nantenaina Andriamalala

Madagascar Population Health Environment (PHE), Madagascar

The rural communities living in isolated and high biodiversity areas in which conservation organisations work often depend on healthy ecosystems for food security, water security, and livelihoods. Pressures from population growth impact healthy ecosystems, and can also impact the health of the communities, their ability to support their families, and reduce the possibility of the long-term sustainability of conservation actions. Almost 1 in 5 women across Madagascar report unmet family planning needs: levels are highest in rural areas. Isolated communities living in the island’s priority biodiversity conservation areas often lack access to family planning and health services. Their ability to engage in sustainable natural resource management and livelihood diversification is restricted by poor health and unmet family planning needs. Rapid coastal population growth related to unmet family planning needs and lack of alternatives for subsistence in Madagascar are resulting in the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. In response to these challenges, a holistic approach to community-based conservation and development that reflects the inextricable links between humans, their health, and the environment commonly named as PHE (Population – Health – Environment) has been developed. PHE is a holistic approach to sustainable development: so-called because of the way that it reflects the connections between people, their health, and the environment. Family planning and other health services are combined with community-based natural resource management and biodiversity conservation efforts through cross-sector partnerships between health and environmental organisations. All programs are underpinned by community education that engages men, women, youth, and children in both health and conservation topics. Family planning has been shown to enable communities to work more, earn more money, provide for their existing children, feed their families, and experience better health. More women are able to invest more time on conservation livelihood activities and are better able to provide financially for their existing children.

L'impact sur les moyens de subsistance de l'intégration des services de planification familiale dans les initiatives de conservation menées par la communauté à Madagascar

Nantenaina Andriamalala

Madagascar Population Health Environment (PHE), Madagascar

Les communautés rurales vivant dans des zones isolées et riches en biodiversité dans lesquelles les organisations de conservation travaillent dépendent souvent d’écosystèmes sains pour la sécurité alimentaire, la sécurité de l’eau et les moyens de subsistance. Les pressions de la croissance démographique ont un impact sur des écosystèmes sains et peuvent également avoir un impact sur la santé des communautés, leur capacité à subvenir aux besoins de leurs familles et réduire la possibilité de la durabilité à long terme des actions de conservation. Près de 1 femme sur 5 à Madagascar fait état de besoins non satisfaits en matière de planification familiale: les niveaux sont les plus élevés dans les zones rurales. Les communautés isolées vivant dans les zones prioritaires de conservation de la biodiversité de l’île n’ont souvent pas accès à la planification familiale et aux services de santé. Leur capacité à s’engager dans la gestion durable des ressources naturelles et la diversification des moyens de subsistance est limitée par une mauvaise santé et des besoins de planification familiale non satisfaits. La croissance rapide de la population côtière liée aux besoins de planification familiale non satisfaits et au manque d’alternatives de subsistance à Madagascar se traduit par une exploitation non durable des ressources naturelles. En réponse à ces défis, une approche holistique de la conservation et du développement à base communautaire qui reflète les liens inextricables entre les humains, leur santé et l’environnement communément appelé PHE (Population – Santé – Environnement) a été développée. L’EPS est une approche holistique du développement durable: ainsi appelée en raison de la façon dont elle reflète les liens entre les personnes, leur santé et l’environnement. La planification familiale et d’autres services de santé sont combinés avec la gestion communautaire des ressources naturelles et les efforts de conservation de la biodiversité par le biais de partenariats intersectoriels entre les organisations de santé et environnementales. Tous les programmes sont soutenus par une éducation communautaire qui fait participer les hommes, les femmes, les jeunes et les enfants aux thèmes de la santé et de la conservation. Il a été démontré que la planification familiale permet aux communautés de travailler davantage, de gagner plus d’argent, de subvenir aux besoins de leurs enfants actuels, de nourrir leur famille et de jouir d’une meilleure santé. De plus en plus de femmes sont en mesure d’investir plus de temps dans des activités de subsistance et sont mieux à même de subvenir aux besoins financiers de leurs enfants existants.


6 Responses

  1. Thank you for the presentation! It is interesting to connect family planning to conservation programs. There seem to be quite a lot of synergies. What are some of the practical challenges you experience to implement such a holistic approach?

    1. Thank you for your interest!
      Yes indeed, there are some challenges we face on implementation phase including a strong policy which establishes an enabling environment for the approach in the country. There are already policies focusing on environment and other policies for health, but there is no policy which present the links, so this one challenge we wish to overtake. There are still cultural barriers too, especially regarding family planning in some areas and the best ways to face those barriers are fundamental. And finally, in some place, some rural communities are living in very remote place (sometimes deep in the forest), and health service providers have difficulties to reach them sometimes. We are currently in a process of developing an innovation to reach the last mile communities with health partners.

  2. Thankyou for giving non-members access for observation. Some of your seminars I have shared on Facebook sites of the Global Ecovillage Network. I hope that in the future some members of GEN will be animated to participate with your conference. As with the conservation program in Madagascar, GEN coach ecovillage communities around the world to recognize how human communication, behavior and culture affect their surrounding ecosystems.

    1. Thank you for sharing and for your comments.
      That would be great to have them to be involved on our approach and within the Madagascar Population Health Environment (PHE) network ( too. We want to involve and reach more partners, so then we have large impacts of the holistic approach at community level. That would be interesting too to learn more about GEN activities. Thank you.

  3. Thank you Nantenaina.

    Does your ‘holistic approach’ also include adult education for example? Education is one of the key factors to inform families about family planning.

    Maybe more explanation on the Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) – Global Ecovillage Network activities would be interesting.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your question.
      Yes, activities in the field include adult education. During community mobilisation, on a joint mission between a health and environment staff, cross-sectors messages are shared. Community health workers or health service providers are providing health and family planning education and they can target women and men in villages. One interesting about joint mission is that men are more interested on natural resource management and women on health session, but during this session we mixed the session so that various messages on health and on resources management can target both of them.

      On CBNRM site, as a community based natural resource management, the aim is to ensure communities are able to manage themselves the areas, in a sustainable way. Supporting NGOs partners are providing governance training, building their capacity to give them that capacity and so communities leave their destructive habit or overexploitation of resources. In the meantime, supporting partners are giving access income alternatives (more conservative e.g. see cucumber and seaweed farming if its a marine context). On that process, existing tools are in place as in place as the Natural Resources Management Transfer policy for example.
      But the approach to manage a protected area could vary following the status and category following the UICN guidance.

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