Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Integrating Health and Family Planning Interventions into the Makira Forest Project

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The Wildlife Conservation Society, as an international conservation organization active in Madagascar since 1994, is committed to ensuring the conservation of Madagascar’s biodiversity through sound management practices based on solid research. The WCS Makira Forest Project, in collaboration with PSI Madagascar and CARE International, addresses this issue of biodiversity protection and resource conservation in the face of expanding rural human population pressure. This project demonstrates the importance of PHE in linking improved health and productivity with improved livelihoods and land stewardship.

Development Challenge
The species diversity and endemism levels of the Makira landscape are among the highest in the country and, as a result, some of the highest in the world. The Makira forests also serve as the principle resource base for a largely rural subsistence-based human population of greater than 150,000 individuals. Driven by subsistence need, these populations are putting continuous pressure on the forest resources primarily through slash-and-burn clearing of the forest for agriculture and unsustainable extraction of non-timber forest resources. Limited access to basic health services and lack of health, welfare and family planning outreach programs in these rural communities further exacerbate the situation; depressing human productivity, livelihoods and motivating continued unsustainable resource use. With an estimated annual growth rate of 3.2% and over half of the population represented by individuals 17 years of age or younger, the severity of these threats are expected to increase as land access lessens and resource demands climb.

Approach
The long term goal of the WCS Makira PHE program is to improve human health while reducing unsustainable human resource use pressures thereby enhancing community well-being and their ability to effectively steward the land. Specific objectives of the PHE project are, using the Makira Forestry Project as a platform to: 1) Establish community awareness of and needs for health and family planning information, products and services; 2) Link health and family planning education with access to PSI health and family planning products. 3) Increase use of improved health and family planning methods within the communities. In the long term, integration of a PHE component into a wider suite of development activities will reinforce the links between improved human health and productivity, improved livelihoods, improved land stewardship, and resource conservation.

Activities
The WCS Makira Forest Project, PSI, and CARE will integrate health and family planning interventions into an established community environmental development program in the communities bordering the Makira Protected Area. The interventions will couple health and family planning education in these communities with access to PSI health and family planning products. This will include PSI-lead training to build the health outreach capacity of the WCS and CARE teams. WCS and CARE staff will then collaborate to launch an environment, health, and family planning education program in the project sites while building a cadre of the CARE program community-based health outreach agents. These agents will be trained by PSI, and supported by WCS, to sell PSI health and family planning products. The Team will create integrated health and environment messages which will be disseminated in the Makira region on a variety of health topics using radio.

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