PSN member Blue Ventures has published new data from a project in Madagascar demonstrating the benefits of an integrated approach to improving public health, gender equality, food security and biodiversity conservation.
© David Gough/IRIN
The island of Madagascar is a global priority for conservation, with the ‘biodiversity hotspot' home to 5% of global biodiversity, which is threatened by habitat loss, rapid population growth and other pressures.
While population growth is high across Madagascar, the coastal population is growing particularly rapidly, and in the project area where communities previously had no or little access to family planning it is not uncommon for women to have ten or more children. Population growth was being identified by fishing communities as a root cause of resource degradation, by placing pressures on coastal resources and contributing to overfishing.
The project began in 2007 when, responding to the community-expressed need for reproductive health services, Blue Ventures began integrating reproductive health programmes with existing conservation initiatives by opening a family planning clinic. By 2010 service provision had been expanded to two further sites, serving all 24 villages in the marine conservation area.
Blue Ventures has found that responding to women’s reproductive needs is not only beneficial in its own-right, but is also a valuable way of engaging women and wider communities in conservation efforts, improving the effectiveness of the overall project.
Analysis of data collected over three years from the project shows population growth has slowed by one third in some areas, and the proportion of women using contraception has increased four-fold. Calculations show families have been able to prevent more than 355 unwanted pregnancies, and 88 unsafe abortions.
The data is set out in a research paper published this month in Oryx, the international journal of conservation, which clearly demonstrates the immediate, practical and long-lasting benefits of responding to the inextricable link between reproductive health and conservation.
Responding to publication of the research, Sir David Attenborough expressed his wholehearted congratulations, saying;
"Population growth is clearly one of the main drivers of all our environmental problems. Good family planning support must therefore be an essential part of all long-term solutions."
"It is wonderfully encouraging to see this truth being demonstrated so clearly and successfully. The project is surely a model for everyone working to conserve the natural life-support systems of our troubled planet."
Read more about the project and research on the Blue Ventures website.
Read the paper: Integrating family planning service provision into community-based marine conservation by Alasdair Harris, Vik Mohan, Maggie Flanagan and Rebecca Hill.