“All conservation efforts will be in vain if family planning issues aren’t addressed,” says Rebecca Hill
, project manager for the Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme at Blue Ventures
in a video highlighting their population, health, and environment (PHE) programming
While primarily a marine conservation group, Blue Ventures also recognizes the need for integrating population into their efforts. They began a family planning program in southwestern Madagascar
in 2008 as part of a “holistic approach to conservation.” The project aims to address the high unmet need for family planning, high fertility and maternal and infant mortality, and conserve the coastal environment. “We are directly saving lives,” Hill says.
Rapid population growth is creating an unsustainable strain on natural resources, as Matthew Erdman of Blue Ventures wrote in a previous post on The New Security Beat:
The average total fertility rate in Velondriake is 6.7 children per woman, according to our data. On average women are only 15 years old when they first conceive. To compound this problem, a majority of the population is under the age of 15 – at or approaching reproductive age. At the current growth rate, the local population will double in only 10 to 15 years. The local food sources, already heavily depleted, barely feed the current population, let alone twice that amount. Without enabling these coastal communities to stabilize their population growth, efforts to improve the state of marine resources and the community’s food security are considerably hindered.Hill describes the situation in the village when she joined the Blue Ventures in 2008 as “alarming,” with women “having up to 17 children despite not wanting children.” Many people in the town had never heard of condoms and had no idea how to use them, she said, and “they are desperate to have access to contraception.”
Today, the initial family planning program has been scaled up to the surrounding region and generated significant community involvement by peer educators teaching community members about sexual and reproductive health. It’s also become the first PHE project to receive support from the UNFPA within Madagascar.
There are currently 18 community-based distributors who give out two types of contraception in their villages. The fact that the community has so fully embraced the project shows that it can be replicated elsewhere, says Hill in the video. “Communities themselves have harnessed the ideas and consider that what we’re doing is vitally important.”
“Addressing family planning needs and issues is inextricably linked with conservation issues,” says Hill. “All conservation efforts will be in vain, if family planning issues are not addressed.”
Video Credit: Blue Ventures Family Planning Project from Alexander Goodman on Vimeo.