Tuungane: Creating a Healthy Future for People and the Natural Resources They Depend On

Photo by Catherine Manegold

In the Mahale region, women are often in charge of managing natural resources. So it is critical that they join men and young people in conservation activities. Poor health and poor access to services can no longer stand in their way.

Photo by Guilia Besana

About the state of the local health facility, one young man said, “There is a [surgical theater] in the health center, but it does not work. Operations are not done in there. This is costing lives of pregnant women in the village.”

“I am so happy to use family planning,” says Zainabu with her family in western Tanzania. “Today I am healthy. I want continued health for my children and grandchildren.”

We see a natural connection between reproductive health and a sustainable environment. Sexual and reproductive health can even mean the difference between life and death for a woman and her children. 

The Greater Mahale Ecosystem is home to more than 90 percent of Tanzania’s endangered chimpanzees and more than 300 species of fish. The human population in the Mahale Ecosystem is growing rapidly in conditions of extreme poverty and ill health.

This population, health, and environment project is an integrated rural development initiative that addresses reproductive health and natural resource management. Pathfinder works with partner organizations The Nature Conservancy and the Frankfurt Zoological Society to achieve the overarching goal of reducing threats to biodiversity conservation and natural resources degradation in the area, while simultaneously improving health of the communities by increasing sustainable livelihoods and increasing access to contraceptives, adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, maternal, neonatal, and child health, and primary healthcare services.

Initial measures to strengthen local governance, and the community development of action plans to conserve ecosystems, set the stage for the continued success of integrated activities. Some features of the project include:

  • Land and fisheries management
  • Health system strengthening
  • Reproductive health demand, supply, and services
  • Community conservation microfinance banks
  • The establishment of community forest reserves

Since the beginning of 2015, Tuungane has scaled up its efforts from six pilot villages to all 24 villages in the Greater Mahale Ecosystem area.

Project Impacts

The first stage of the project has led to an inspiring set of results—in reproductive, maternal, and child health, and for the natural resources on which these populations depend: 

  • After intense advocacy by the project, the District government posted seven new medical personnel in the area, six of whom are nurse-midwives. Previously a single staff person had to serve populations from 3,000 to more than 5,000.
  • After recruiting and training 66 community health workers in maternal, child, and reproductive health education and counseling, the project had 892 new family planning clients in the first several months of operation.
  • Four new beach management units have now been formed and received legal recognition, and more than 700 fishers have joined the groups. They are key players in project-led sanitation efforts: village leaders enthusiastically reported that there have been no cholera cases for the past two years in the six pilot villages.
  • 1,106 new latrines have been constructed by community members with their own resources as a result of sensitization activities led by community leaders.
  • 60 model households have been established in four villages (based on an approach that has been piloted by Pathfinder and its partners in the Uganda HoPE-LVB project). Two hundred model households will be established by project end. 

Video produced by Pathfinder partner organization The Nature Conservancy.

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