Sean Peoples is a multimedia producer and program associate for the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.
Through documentaries, interviews, and podcasts, Sean explores the intersection of conservation and health in the developing world. The short documentary, Healthy People, Healthy Environment: Integrated Development in Tanzania, was the recipient of a 2012 Silver Telly Award, and Scaling the Mountain: Protecting Forests for Families in Nepal won a 2013 Bronze Telly.
Prior to his position at the Wilson Center, he worked as associate director for Congressional Programs at the Population Resource Center. Sean has a BA from American University in political science with a focus on environmental policy issues.
›March 24, 2014 // By Sean Peoples
For years, the Chepang people have lived off the land in Nepal’s forested central foothills. Communities cleared trees to start small subsistence farms, harvested the surrounding area for firewood, and eventually moved on after the wood, soil, and water were depleted.
As our ferry slowly made its way across the Pangani River along the northern coast of Tanzania, I sat next to a woman whose child held her hand tightly. The boy and I exchanged smiles, but we mainly admired the view. The late morning sun was behind us as the royal blue river met the cloudless sky.
“I am now serving as an example to other women in the community because I am not having any more children. I have received training in sustainable agricultural practices, I’m generating income, and I’m educating others,” said Berhane Ferkade, an Ethiopian farmer, to Population Action International’s Roger-Mark De Souza earlier this year. The 39-year-old mother of 11 become one of the community’s model farmers after working with LEM Ethiopia – a local population, health, and environment (PHE) development organization.
›Severely eroded and deforested, Ethiopia’s land is increasingly turning to desert, due to the country’s high population growth, unsustainable land use, and lack of land ownership. Featuring footage from my trip to Ethiopia last year, this video looks at the efforts of two projects to combat these devastating trends by meeting the country’s complex challenges with integrated solutions.
Ethiopia’s population is estimated at 85 million. Since 1900, the country has grown by nearly 74 million people, and the United Nations predicts this rapid growth will continue, reaching nearly 120 million people by 2025.
“Family planning is very crucial” to sustainable development, said Gebrehiwot Hailu of the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), located in the northern region of Tigray. “If the family has more children… he can’t feed them properly, he can’t send the children to school, because there is a food gap in the household.” REST uses a watershed planning model jointly developed by the community, health workers, and government agencies.
Realizing there is no silver bullet to development, projects like REST integrate population, health, and environment (PHE) programs to engage these challenges from all angles.
The Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resource Association (EWNRA), located in Ethiopia’s Wichi watershed, uses a combination of techniques to restore the watershed, create alternative livelihoods, strengthen health systems, and improve reproductive health.
“Through this integrated watershed intervention, the wetland is regaining its natural situation,” Shewaye Deribe of EWNRA told me. “The communities with their own bylaws, with their own watershed committee, with their own organization… are protecting these remaining forest patches.”
Sources: Population Reference Bureau.
›April 6, 2010 // By Sean Peoples“It is not enough to say that Ethiopia is vulnerable,” says Joshua Busby, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Also necessary is “which parts of Ethiopia are vulnerable and why.” Busby is part of the Department of Defense-funded Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) project. Part of the Minerva Research Initiative, CCAPS is a multi-year, multi-institution effort to diagnose and assess the causal connections between climate change and security consequences.
In order to diagnose these relationships, CCAPS will use “geographic information systems to map sub-national vulnerability to climate change,” Busby says. Maps will not only include physical exposure to climate change, but also detailed social, household, and community level indicators and broader factors of politics, governance, and demography.
Although only in the first year of the project, Busby describes the initial achievements CCAPS has made in mapping specific vulnerability areas throughout western Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria. In the next few years, the CCAPS project will continue to map region-specific areas of vulnerability on the African continent and will provide policymakers with the tools to improve foreign assistance flows in areas of high vulnerability.
›April 1, 2010 // By Sean PeoplesPekka Haavisto, a Member of the Finnish Parliament, thinks an objective scientific investigation of rumored toxic waste in Somalia would be both doable and politically useful. Haavisto, the former Finnish minister of environment, visited the Woodrow Wilson Center last week and spoke with the Environmental Change and Security Program’s director Geoff Dabelko.
Dabelko wrote about Haavisto’s ideas for a Somalia environmental assessment after a conversation they had late last year in Helsinki:
Haavisto is an enthusiastic advocate for environmental missions that may improve the desperate conditions resulting from violent conflicts. “We should be talking with all the factions,” he told me, to investigate the toxic waste charges. Such a thorough and objective assessment could provide a rare and potentially valuable avenue for addressing underlying suspicions and grievances some Somalis hold against those whom they claim dump waste off shore and overfish their waters.It’s no surprise Haavisto focuses on using scientific environmental assessments in conflict settings. He is the former chairman of the UN Environment Programme’s Post-Conflict Assessment Unit (PCAU)—now called the Disasters and Conflicts Programme—the Geneva-based UNEP unit that assesses environmental threats, remediates hot spots, builds capacity, and supports peacebuilding around environmental issues in post-conflict settings. Haavisto presented UNEP’s work at the Wilson Center in a 2004 presentation. His colleagues, including UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, have subsequently launched more recent UNEP contributions at the Wilson Center. ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko serves on UNEP’s Expert Advisory Group on Environment, Conflict, and Peacebuilding.
›December 4, 2009 // By Sean Peoples“Incorporating environment, population, and health is a timely issue. Unless we focus on integrated approaches, our Ethiopian Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved,” says Negash Teklu, executive director of the Consortium for Integration of Population, Health, and Environment (CIPHE), in this short video.
I interviewed Teklu and three other members of CIPHE in Yirgalem, Ethiopia, where they spoke of the importance of PHE integration; why it is vital to involve the community in development projects; and practical steps for implementing integration at the grassroots level.
Everyone agrees that Ethiopia faces serious challenges. Much of the economy is based on agriculture, but drought is all too common, and the land is exacerbated by continual overuse. High rates of population growth coupled with limited resources and uncertain crop yields leaves many people vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. In addition, the country’s health system struggles to provide comprehensive care.
To combat these interconnected problems, the members of CIPHE truly believe that an integrated PHE approach that uses multi-sectoral interventions will best serve the needs of their fellow Ethiopians.
“If we follow the integrated PHE approach, economically we can be beneficial,” Mogues Worku of LEM Ethiopia told me. “We can share a lot of resources among the different sectoral organizations. At the same time with limited resources we can attain our goal by integrating the different sectoral offices and organizations, even at the grassroots level.”
This video will be the first of many on population, health, and environment problems and solutions in Ethiopia. Subscribe to our ECSP YouTube channel or the New Security Beat blog to see the latest videos.