Transforming the Health of Communities and Their Environments

Pathfinder International is pleased to announce the award of a new $3.5 million project in the Lake Victoria Basin of Uganda and Kenya that will provide underserved families and communities with knowledge and skills to improve their sexual and reproductive health, reduce poverty, and develop more sustainable practices for managing natural resources. Jointly funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with additional funding from USAID's Office of Population and Reproductive Health, the project will primarily focus on supporting women to choose when and how often they have children. When women cannot access maternal care or exercise their reproductive right to plan or space pregnancies, their lives are at risk, their families' wellbeing is in jeopardy, and their community and environment are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

"In these remote, resource dependent areas of the world, the interconnectedness between the health of people and the health of the environment is undeniable," Sono Aibe, Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at Pathfinder International, said. "When women are empowered to participate in the sustainable management of natural resources alongside men and youth, as well as have access to sexual and reproductive health care services, their lives will improve and so will the condition of the ecosystems that they depend on."

This change will have an impact not only on the local communities, but the larger ecosystem as well. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa, and the world's second largest freshwater lake by surface area. The Lake Victoria Basin spreads across five countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda.

"Currently, unsustainable and destructive fishing, agricultural and forestry practices, compounded by rapid population growth are driving declines in the ecosystem," said, Lucy Shillingi, Pathfinder's Country Representative for Uganda. "The positive news is that this project will design, test, and adapt scalable solutions that demonstrate the benefits of integrating reproductive health care with environmental and conservation activities. On a daily basis, the people living throughout the Lake Victoria Basin face multifaceted problems that require integrated solutions. Using a multi-sector approach, this project reflects the reality of how people live their lives holistically and not compartmentalized. Lessons learned from this new project will help us better develop and design projects for vulnerable communities in fragile ecosystems, while simultaneously advocating for increased government support for integrated programs throughout the Lake Victoria Basin."

The project will be implemented in partnership with the Ecological Christian Organization, Conservation through Public Health, and OSIENALA (Friends of Lake Victoria), with technical assistance provided by the BALANCED project, Population Reference Bureau, and ExpandNet. An event celebrating the launch of the project will be held at the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal on December 1, 2011.

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