Cambodia mother and child in Cardamom Mountains.
© Carol Boender
Why link health and conservation? Smaller and healthier families exert less pressure on natural resources in the long term. In the short term, it also reduces the vulnerability of families to ill health, and therefore poses less of an economic burden which prompts families to turn to illegal activities such as poaching and logging to pay for health care costs. Health care is among the greatest needs that communities, particularly isolated communities, face in rural areas, and is frequently cited as among the top three community priorities.
In response to this, CI with support from USAID, has worked on strategies to reduce and mitigate the effects of these threats to the environment. Under the Health Families, Healthy Forests project, CI Cambodia and CARE-Cambodia entered into a very successful partnership to deliver family planning, reproductive and general health services in the Thmar Bang district of Koh Kong province in southwestern Cambodia.
A number of key lessons learned may be gleaned from the four years of CI-CARE’s partnership in the Cardamom Mountains, including:
- Provision of quality health care services can serve as an important springboard for conservation activities. Particularly in areas such as Thmar Bang where such services previously were nonexistent, beneficiaries are quick to appreciate the tangible benefits that derive from the location of the health post in the area, and the outreach and support services provided to them and their families.
- The key to success of joint conservation and health care initiatives derives from the collaborative nature of project interventions and the good relationships established among stakeholders in the area. These efforts resulted in greater knowledge within the communities of the benefits of both conservation and quality health care services.
- The spectacular increase in health service utilization over the past year because of the appointment of a popular health post staff suggests that involving health care providers who already enjoy the trust of the communities is a key pathway to increasing the coverage of health services.
IN DEPTH: Health and Conservation in the Cardamoms: Lessons Learned from the CI-CARE Partnership. Conservation in the Cardamoms in Cambodia (PDF - 554 KB)