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On Bussi Island, Family Planning & Conservation Go Hand-in-Hand

For each of her four young children—one boy and three girls—Max and her husband want an excellent education. For her island of Bussi, Max imagines lush forests hugging the land, as the climate cools. And for her neighbors, Max wants change.

She wishes to share the progress she has experienced firsthand. As a Village Health Team member and Model Household participant for the HoPE-LVB project, Max is doing just that.

“This is what I work for,” says Max, proudly ushering a group of visitors around her home. She makes her way to a separate cooking room on the side of her house, showing off her improved cookstove, made partly of mud. The project’s conservation staff taught Max how to construct her stove, and now she trains other women in the area to make them. “This stove needs less wood, prevents accidents for me and my children, and makes less smoke,” Max explains.

In her home and in her community, Max educates her neighbors on the importance of living a life in balance with your environment. She uses the training she has received from the project to share information about sustainability—as it relates to agriculture, fishery and beach management, and family planning. But Max’s service in no way ends there.

“To have a sustainable family means that the food available will be enough for your children, because it is also sustainable,” says Max. “It means that you protect your resources, so you have enough to eat…and sell.”

According to Max, one of the biggest challenges facing her community is unemployment. “So many men were relying on the lake for their livelihoods. Now fish are very scarce.”

Unemployment is a big problem for women, too. Because of her training, Max can see how the lack of jobs is connected to so many other issues women face.

“We used to dig and plant bananas, but the soil is becoming so exhausted.” Max sees this problem compounded by another—too many childbirths, too close together. “When a woman produces and produces, she becomes so exhausted. She can hardly do anything, never mind economic activities.”

Max is a passionate advocate for project’s efforts to diversify livelihoods—teaching men and women not to rely solely on the lake, but adopt sustainable agricultural practices as well. But what she is most proud of her work in family planning.

“Family planning touches every corner,” Max says. “It touches the environment. It touches livelihoods and health.”As a Village Health Team member, Max counsels women on contraception and distributes condoms and pills to her neighbors in their homes. “I move from home to home, teaching couples about family planning. If a woman needs additional help or another method, I refer her to the health facility.”

“Family planning touches every corner,” Max says. “It touches the environment. It touches livelihoods and health.”

That is why Max and her husband choose to use contraception. By deciding the number of children they wanted to have, they can better manage their resources. “We use less firewood. Fewer trees are cut. I am happy to be conserving the environment my little bit.”

But most importantly, family planning means Max can give her children brighter futures. “We decided to only give birth to the children we can educate.” When Max talks about her kids, two of whom are twins, she beams. “School is so expensive. So we plan. We dream for them to join the highest institutions of learning.”

Every girl deserves the same choice.

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