Population, Health, and Environment (PHE)

Max Nalongo is a mother of four. She’s also a family planner, a conservationist, and a leader in her village. And above all, Max is a dreamer with a vision for the future—a future she believes can be made possible through Pathfinder’s work in PHE.

PHE approaches improve access to reproductive health services while empowering communities to manage their resources in ways that conserve ecosystems and contribute to better health outcomes without sacrificing economic opportunity.

As a Model Household participant, Max educates her neighbors on the importance of sustainability and how it can be better achieved by diversifying livelihoods.

As a Village Health Team member, Max distributes contraception and counsels on family planning. Not only does family planning promote better resource conservation, but it also means a brighter future for Max's children and others like them.

Interested in what our Population, Health, and Environment work looks like in the field? Read more about our Health of People and the Environment in Lake Victoria Basin project.

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Across the world, the hope for sustainable and equitable development is being threatened by poor health and environmental degradation—particularly poor access to reproductive health care, needlessly destructive extraction of natural resources, and inadequate local governance structures. The resulting high rates of disease, maternal and child death and disability, irreparable harm to natural environments, pressure on food systems, and the loss of local livelihood undermine the quality of human life everywhere. The urgency and interconnectedness of these challenges require integrated solutions—such as the global development approach known as Population, Health, and Environment (PHE).

Pathfinder International’s Population, Health, and Environment approach seeks to improve access to reproductive health services while empowering communities to manage their natural resources. This must be done in ways that conserve critical ecosystems and contribute to better health outcomes without sacrificing economic opportunity. Experience with PHE programs in remote rural areas demonstrate that simultaneously addressing challenges to both reproductive health and the environment can have greater impact on improving reproductive health and natural resource management outcomes and be more cost-effective than approaching each separately.

Achieving these benefits depends on:

  • Community engagement in all aspects of program design, implementation, and assessment
  • Strong data collection for evidence-based interventions
  • Participatory activities that are relevant to addressing the current behaviors and beliefs of the local people
  • Ongoing coordination at the community level by the conservation and health groups to maximize the impact of PHE programs
  • Effective project management to ensure efficiency and timely problem-solving

In 2011, Pathfinder accepted the challenge to contribute to the next generation of Population, Health, and Environment programs by collaborating with conservation and development partners around Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria in East Africa. Working with these partners within a comprehensive PHE approach helps us broaden the reach of essential health services to the communities in remote locations.

Pathfinder believes that working on PHE programs through our Integrated Systems Strengthening approach will also allow us to develop and refine a robust model that promotes a rights-based approach to sustainable development. Expanding the current PHE conversation, Pathfinder and its partners are emphasizing gender equality, building community advocacy capacity, and strengthening local governance. In our work with our partners to strengthen health and community systems, we are designing scalable strategies from the start to ensure rapid dissemination of project success. In both lake regions, Pathfinder contributes project leadership, staffing, and technical expertise. The specific combination of interventions in each locale has been chosen based on local priorities and resources.

Related Projects

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

With the human population in the Greater Mahale Ecosystem growing rapidly, in conditions of extreme poverty and ill health, this project used a model of population, health, and environment to address reproductive health and natural resource management.


The HoPE project reduces threats to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem degradation in the Lake Victoria Basin while increasing access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health to improve maternal and child health in local communities.

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Strengthening Communities through Integrated Programming (SCIP)

SCIP is designed to increase quality of life at the household and community levels by improving health and nutritional status and advancing household economic viability.

Related Publications

December 2015

Without Fear or Boundary: Pathfinder International's 2015 Annual Report

Forging a new path is part of Pathfinder’s DNA. Last year, in 26 developing countries, we pushed through barriers to ensure millions of women, men, and young people are able to access critical sexual and reproductive health care and choose their own paths forward. Read more in our 2015 Annual Report.

June 2015

Sustaining Health, Rights, and the Environment in the Lake Victoria Basin

Reflecting on the added value of a population, health, and environment (PHE) approach, this technical brief discusses implementation experience stemming from phase one of the Health of People and Environment-Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LVB) project.

December 2014

Change Starts Here: Pathfinder International 2014 Annual Report

We believe change starts with expertly trained providers and pharmacies that never run out of supplies. It starts with open conversations among women, young people, men, religious leaders, mothers-in-law, policymakers, and others, joining to discuss their beliefs and remove barriers to their health and well-being. Our 2014 Annual Report shows a few highlights of how Pathfinder has served as a catalyst for change over the past year.

July 2014

HoPE LVB Model Households

Model households are a key aspect of the Health of People and Environment in the Lake Victoria Basin, an integrated Population, Health, and Environment project with sites in Kenya and Uganda.

July 2014

HoPe LVB Beach Management

A new approach to conservation in the basin is the Health of People and Environment in the Lake Victoria Basin project. It seeks to reduce threats to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem degradation while simultaneously increasing access to family planning and reproductive health services.

July 2014

HoPE LVB Gender Equality

In order to address the urgent, interconnected challenges in the Lake Victoria Basin—poor maternal and child health, a lack of access to contraception, dwindling fish supply, deforestation, and more—interventions must also work towards gender equality.

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Fishing and family planning – how the two are linked

Sometimes, delivering mixed messages is a good thing, as an integrated project in the Lake Tanganyika region has proved.

Tanzania: Sh24 Billion Project Aims to Boost Growth in Rangelands

People living across Tanzania's northern rangelands will benefit from a $12 million project aimed at improving livelihood, ecosystems, governance, and economic growth across.

Climate Change, Health, and Population Dynamics: A View from Tanzania

As people around the world celebrate the remarkable Paris Agreement to address climate change, there’s a genuine opportunity for countries to act on their financial pledges to help the world adapt to climate change – especially people in developing countries who are most vulnerable.

Twenty-four villages are now participating in the Tuungane Project (Kiswahili for “Let’s Unite), a partnership between TNC and Pathfinder International that holistically address reproductive health, the environment and livelihood needs of these communities in this region.

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