World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Successful Communities from Ridge to Reef

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Encircled by the populace of three developing nations (Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines), the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) is a plethora of marine biodiversity. The marine resources of the SSME are critical to commercial fisheries and the livelihoods of over 35 million coastal people. The coastal population density in this region is among the highest in the world. In 2005, WWF, the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Roxas District in Palawan, the Philippines, and Save the Children, acting on the priorities identified by a local participatory planning assessment, started working together to improve family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) while also integrating marine resource management and awareness into natural resource management planning. The overall goal is to ensure sustainable natural resources management in priority areas of the SSME by addressing environmental threats as well as underlying population issues.

Development Challenge
The SSME has large coastal populations, high population density, rapid population growth, porous borders, transmigration, and illegal fishing — all contributing to environmental degradation. Population is on track to double in SSME by 2035. The exponential growth of population, coupled with widespread poverty, increasing international market demand and rapid technological changes is fueling rapid depletion of natural resources in the SSME that market forces alone are incapable of repairing. All this is compounded by inefficiencies in governance and a lack of awareness and/or acceptance of some laws among local populations. These key root causes all contribute to illegal practices and corruption, and result in severe marine resource depletion and ecosystem degradation.

WWF (with capacity in environmental and natural resource management) has partnered with the LGU in Roxas to implement integrated population, health and environment (PHE) activities. Save the Children provides health and family planning expertise, and technical assistance in applying integrated PHE approaches and tools. Officials from Roxas and Project staff took part in exchange visits to other PHE projects in the Philippines to understand the important linkages between environmental stewardship, population growth, community health, and economic sustainability. In partnership with the LGU, the Project aims to build local capacity to provide access to high quality reproductive health in key areas where population growth has serious impacts on natural resources and biodiversity. The Project integrates environmental and resource management activities that help local populations find more sustainable solutions for local livelihoods, while institutionalizing PHE planning in LGU government processes.

The Project raises awareness of FP and RH options through its integrated PHE message. Community health volunteers and commodity distributors are identified, trained and become part of the FP/RH outreach and access structure that the project facilitates. Exchange visits are an important educational activity for these community workers. The Project strengthens health service infrastructure and supply lines for FP/RH commodities, coordinating with private sector and government entities and facilitating establishment of commodity outlets that are functioning businesses. Simultaneously, the Project builds local capacity in marine resource monitoring and planning. WWF has already introduced a new strain of seaweed to help improve seaweed farming, an alternative livelihood, and is promoting sustainable fishing practices, while helping to establish marine protected areas. These activities are implemented within a context of mainstreaming PHE planning and integrating PHE concepts and approaches into local behaviors and culture.

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