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Family Planning a 'Critical' Consideration for Tropical Biodiversity Conservation

25 May 2011, London. The critical role of family planning in tropical biodiversity conservation will be highlighted today at Population Footprints, a landmark global conference in London.

Blue Ventures' Medical Director, Dr Vik Mohan, will be presenting results of a pioneering integrated Population, Health and Environment (PHE) project. This community-based project uses a holistic approach to marine conservation, recognising the inter-relationship between reproductive health and rights, population growth, food security, and biodiversity conservation.

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The results of Blue Ventures’ integrated model are undeniably impressive. In just three years, the proportion of women using contraception (the CPR or contraceptive prevalence rate) in the remote region of Velondriake, southern Madagascar, has risen from around 8% to nearly 40%.

“Our experiences in Madagascar provide a compelling demonstration of the importance of public health considerations to biodiversity conservation”, said Dr Mohan, “as well as the potential for this integrated approach to be adopted in many of the world's remaining biodiversity hotspots."

Dr. Mohan continued, “Throughout many parts of the developing world, rural poverty is often driven in part by an unmet demand for reproductive health services, with severely adverse consequences for public health and ecological sustainability.

“We are witnessing that an integrated approach enables us to achieve health and conservation outcomes more effectively than if we were to tackle these issues in isolation.”

Blue Ventures has worked amongst traditional Vezo fishing communities in Madagascar for the last decade. These isolated communities live in extreme poverty, and depend entirely on healthy marine ecosystems for their survival.

The Vezo's fragile biodiversity-rich marine environment is facing grave threats from a range of forces, from climate change to unsustainable fishing pressure.

Blue Ventures has shown that meeting an unmet need for reproductive health care and offering family planning services can be a powerful conservation intervention. It is particularly effective when used alongside conventional environmental protection activities, such as protected area development and livelihood diversification programmes.

Prior to Blue Ventures' arrival in the isolated coastal commune of Befandefa, communities had negligible access to contraceptive services. Women had to walk up to 50km through desert sands to access even the most basic of services.

By diversifying its activities to address this unmet need within its partner communities, Blue Ventures' approach has been able to empower thousands of women. Often for the first time in their lives, women in these communities can now make their own reproductive health choices.

Over recent years this integrated approach to conservation and development has brought real benefits to women’s health, families and communities. It also addresses one of the most serious drivers of over-exploitation of the region's marine resources, that of population growth.

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Dr Mohan presenting Blue Venture's PHE results at Population Footprints

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Vik Mohan, please contact: vik[at]blueventures.org or +44 (0)20 7359 1287.

  • The Population Footprints conference runs from 25th-26th May. Dr Mohan will be joined by prestigious speakers including Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund; Mrs Jeannette Kagame, HE the First Lady of Rwanda; and Sir John Beddington, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government.
  • This conference follows a series of high-profile presentations by Blue Ventures. In recent weeks results of the organisation’s hugely successful PHE initiative have been presented to NGOs, policy makers and the general public at venues including the Woodrow Wilson Center (www.wilsoncenter.org), the African Biodiversity Collaborative Group (www.abcg.org), the University of Maryland Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Masters Program (www.umd.edu/cons), and Population Action International (www.pai.org).
  • To ensure active involvement from beyond the UK, the London conference is being streamed live online at www.populationfootprints.org. The event will be also available to download as a podcast.
  • Blue Ventures' PHE initiative is kindly supported by the MacArthur Foundation, UNFPA and USAID.
  • Blue Ventures has implemented programmes of applied, multidisciplinary marine conservation, education and research in Madagascar, Belize and Malaysia.
  • Blue Ventures partnered with dozens of remote fishing villages in Madagascar to create Velondriake (meaning “to live with the sea”), the largest community-managed marine protected area in the Indian Ocean - winner of the UNDP Equator Prize for biodiversity conservation and the WWF J. Paul Getty Award for conservation leadership.
  • Blue Ventures has provided intensive residential marine conservation training scholarships to over 50 graduate students from developing countries, plus fully-funded undergraduate and post-graduate study scholarships to under-privileged students, schools scholarships for hundreds of primary and secondary school students, and field-based training in applied marine conservation for over 1,000 international volunteers.