›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.
At last week’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco conference, De Souza, vice president of research and director of the Climate Program at Population Action International (PAI), told Berhane’s story at the “Three Great Ideas That Won’t Be On the Rio Agenda” panel, which focused on efforts like PHE that won’t be discussed at the upcoming sustainability conference.
“Globally, there are 250 million women across the world who say they would like to have access to reproductive health services and use family planning and they currently are not using these methods” – most of them in developing countries, said De Souza.
However, population remains a taboo subject for the UN and many others. As Rio+20 approaches, it is critical to get population on the agenda. “Population does matter for sustainable development: Family planning is easy to implement, it produces results in a short period of time, [and] it is really what women want,” said De Souza.
For women like Berhane, family planning is also a way to adapt to changes in the climate. A new documentary from PAI, Weathering Change, launched last week at the Wilson Center, focuses on three women in Ethiopia, Nepal, and Peru dealing with the impacts of climate change – from reduced agricultural productivity and household water access to increased migration. Family planning, said De Souza, should be part of the solution to increasing their resilience.
Be sure to read all of ECSP’s coverage from the first SXSW Eco and the “Three Great Ideas That Won’t Be On the Rio Agenda” panel.
›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.
›November 12, 2009 // By Sean Peoples
As evening fell upon Yirgalem, Ethiopia, more than 70 participants from a large cross-section of Ethiopia’s NGO community—as well as a few international participants like myself—gathered in a packed conference room in the Furra Institute for the second annual General Assembly of the Consortium for the Integration of Population, Health, and Environment (CIPHE).
“An integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) approach begins with an understanding of local population, health, and environment links,” said Population Reference Bureau’s Jason Bremner, setting the stage for an in-depth examination of Ethiopia’s innovative integrated community development projects.
Negash Teklu, executive director of CIPHE, described several projects that use PHE linkages to meet community needs on the ground: The Relief Society of Tigray, LEM Ethiopia, MELCA Mahiber, and the Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resources Association project in Metu.
Teklu explained that the “holistic and participatory community approach can bring real understanding between people and their environment, and between people and their health.”
Heather D’Agnes, technical advisor and PHE champion at USAID, led an enthusiastic discussion on PHE projects that ranged from conception to implementation, focusing on how the CIPHE members may better incorporate the PHE integrated model in their own projects.
Two short years ago, CIPHE began with a small but dedicated group of active members. Since then, the consortium has attracted more than 50 organizations.
This year’s conference aims to “demonstrate population, health, and environment (PHE) interventions as reliable, cost effective, and innovative responses to diverse community needs by presenting local, regional and international developments in the PHE field.” The informal networking after the formal presentations offered a great opportunity for the consortium’s members to share lessons on PHE integration from across the vast country.
Next up: the conference attendees will visit PHE intervention sites for some hands-on experience.
ECSP Program Associate Sean Peoples is reporting from the CIPHE conference in Ethiopia.
Photos: By Sean Peoples and Geoff Dabelko
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