The integration of population, health, and environment programming “enables us to create synergies that mean we are more effective at achieving both health and conservation goals,” said Dr. Vik Mohan
, director of sexual and reproductive health programming for Blue Ventures
, in an interview with ECSP at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning
After Blue Ventures established their first clinic in 2007 in the village of Andavadoaka, on Madagascar’s southwest coast, “we felt immense pressure to scale up our intervention,” said Mohan. “We started with one clinic in one village, and now we have a multi-site service covering all 40 villages that we partner with for our community-based conservation work,” he said.
According to data compiled by Blue Ventures, the average total fertility rate in the region is 6.7 children per woman. The London-based eco-tourism-turned health and environment NGO offers a variety of family planning services to meet local demand, including mobile outreach clinics and community-based distribution of contraceptives. They also partner with Marie Stopes International to offer long-acting and permanent methods of contraception for those that want it.
“This Model Can Be Taken to Scale”
By integrating conservation and reproductive health messaging and service delivery, “we are getting greater buy-in from the community because they all see the added value of the breadth of things that we offer them,” Mohan said. “Men who came to hear about fisheries management get to hear about family planning technologies, practically for the first time in their lives.”
The fishermen are able to see the links between food security and population growth through their own experience, he added. “We believe very passionately this model can be taken to scale,” Mohan said. “This is something that could be easily replicated in other regions. Definitely in other coastal regions, but almost certainly in other remote areas – perhaps areas of high biodiversity where there are existing projects, perhaps conservation projects – but where there is an unmet need for healthcare and family planning in particular.”
“My advice to other organizations, whether you are doing healthcare or whether you are doing conservation, is just think holistically,” said Mohan. “If you are a conservation organization that recognizes that there is an unmet healthcare need for the communities that you work with, then…don’t be afraid to ask those questions, and don’t be afraid to build capacity to meet the need, if you find one. Or, don’t be afraid to partner with health NGOs to enable that need to be met.”
For more on Blue Ventures’ integrated efforts, see also ECSP FOCUS Issue 23, “To Live With the Sea: Reproductive Health Care and Marine Conservation in Madagascar,” co-authored by Vik Mohan.