“The health of our planet is inextricably linked to the health of people,” says Judy Oglethorpe, director of World Wildlife Federation’s
Community Conservation program in “The Human Face of Conservation” (WWF Focus, July/August, 2008). While the links between population, health, and environmental degradation are fairly well understood, environmental groups have largely neglected to incorporate family planning or health programs in their conservation efforts.
Several WWF initiatives are breaking this trend, spreading awareness of ecological issues by integrating health or livelihood strategies. In Mozambique, illegal industrial fishing was leading to conflict with local fishermen, who were left with smaller catches of smaller fish. The WWF program helped authorities crack down on illegal fishing and set aside “replenishment zones” for fish to spawn and grow. As a result, local fishermen “have seen dramatic increases in the size of individual fish and in their overall catch outside these zones – and in their earnings,” allowing them to feed their families.
WWF is also diversifying its focus by partnering with other organizations to bring family planning services to poor communities, including in the Khata corridor of Nepal. “It’s really difficult for women living in remote regions to have access to modern family planning and basic healthcare,” said Population, Health, and Environment senior program officer Cara Honzak. By providing basic family planning services, women in these communities are able to control the growth of their families. With this opportunity, it is easier for communities to support and manage themselves, and reduced population pressures on the environment help maintain their local forest ecosystems.
Programs such as these are popular and effective, because by considering both human and natural needs, both sides can be winners. Said the manager of an initiative in Namibia, “When communities can earn as much – or more – by conserving wild land as they can by burning and planting it, potential conflicts can be turned into win-win situations for both people and wildlife.”